Sweet Corn Festival Queen wins first pageant
“I’m really a shy person,” she said. “I thought, ‘Maybe this will get me out in front of people.’” Indeed, it has. As queen, Keyes represents the Sweet Corn Festival at dozens of other festivals statewide, such as the Coal Festival in Wellston or the Jackson County Apple Festival. “It’s definitely been crazy,” she said.
Keyes, a 17-year-old Millersport High School senior, said it’s been roughly 15 years since a Millersport student won the contest. “It’s an honor, really,” she said. Keyes said she’s still a little in disbelief that she won against 16 other contestants. She describes herself as liking “sports and rugged stuff,” and entered the contest more or less on a whim.
Keyes said a panel of four judges interviewed her before the actual pageant and she just answered their questions the best she could. “There’s no right or wrong answer when you talk about yourself,” she said.
Since winning, Keyes has no problem sticking to the strict code of conduct expected of Sweet Corn Festival queens, whether wearing the tiara or not. “It all makes sense,” she said. “I don’t find it restrictive at all.”
Finding time to attend all the local festivals is a bit of a challenge for Keyes, who according to the Sweet Corn Festival website, is active in the Quiz Team, German Club, Art Club, Varsity Club, Volleyball, Basketball, Softball, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Wood Ensemble, Pep Band, Illumination Show Choir, Concert Choir and National Honor Society.
She has served as class secretary the past three years, been a Top Scholar, an Academic Letterman, on the honor roll and Student of the Month. Keyes enjoys volunteering for food drives, toy drives, blood drives and teaching children water safety techniques.
Keyes enjoys visiting other festivals where, she said, her expenses are paid and she’s meeting good people. “I love the networking,” said Keyes. She said all the festival queens get along with each other very well during festivals. “The girls are so nice,” she said. “There are really good friendships and you meet them at the next festival.”
Keyes said her mother, Lisa, not only helps coordinate her busy schedule, but also the entire Sweet Corn Festival court: first runner-up Kristin Allman and second runner-up Eilis Kelly. Lisa Keyes is responsible for everyone’s arrangements, registrations and reservations whether for her daughter or the runners up and their families. Even if her daughter isn’t attending, Lisa Keyes said everything goes through her. “For me, the part that requires getting used to the most is the coordination of everything. All invitations come in and then it’s my job to find out who can go, relay all vital information, coordinate travel plans, meeting times, complete all forms and any requested parade announcing info, and make sure all registrations and reservations are returned on time,” she said.
Keyes said it took about a week or so to create an efficient and effective system for all three families. “There are approximately 15 more festivals before the end of the year so the girls are continuing to get several invites weekly, then it will start up again in early spring,” she said. “It’s not an issue now at all, but I must admit the first week had me a bit overwhelmed.”
But, it’s not all work. “With friends with convertibles who are so kind to let us borrow them for the day, I get to drive all over Ohio in style!” said Keyes. “Clearly, none of this was on our radar, but so far it’s been an enjoyable family experience that we previously had no idea even existed.”
Lisa Keyes said despite all the work, being Sweet Corn Festival Queen is a valuable experience for her daughter. “If for no other reason than the fun of it all,” she said. “The confidence building and betterment at public speaking will be of great benefit to her in the future. That alone makes the entire endeavor worthwhile.”
Briana Keyes agrees. “It’s going to be a big adventure,” she said.