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PHOTO BY MARÍA CAMP Chloe Erin Brown will reign as queen of this year’s Watermelon Festival, following the festival pageant Saturday.

All hail the queen

By María Camp for the FCT

The annual Franklin County Watermelon Festival Beauty Pageant took place at the Russellville High School auditorium July 22 and produced this year’s Watermelon Queen.

Chloe Erin Brown, a 2015 graduate of Phil Campbell High School, was declared the 2017 Watermelon Festival queen.

“I’ve been in pageants my whole life. It is an honor to have this opportunity to represent my county, and I know I will represent it well,” Brown said.

As queen, Brown will receive a $500 scholarship, and she will be responsible for awarding prizes and cutting the first watermelon at the opening ceremony of the 2017 Watermelon Festival.

Through participating in pageants, Brown said, girls “learn to be more confident and how to present yourself in front of an audience,” she said. “The best part is the lasting friendships you form along the way.”

The annual Franklin County Watermelon Festival Beauty Pageant is hosted by the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. Executive Director Cassie Medley said this year’s competition had 66 contestants across nine categories. This marks her sixth year working with the pageant.

“This competition gives local girls an excellent opportunity to be on stage and build their confidence, to learn to have poise and how to act in general. It’s a good building block for their futures. A lot of them will go on to compete for scholarships in this and other pageants as they get older,” Medley said.

Age divisions included 0-11 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3-4 years, 5-6 years, 10-13 years, 14-17 years and 18-21 years. Awards for each age division included Queen, 1st runner up, 2nd runner up, Most Photogenic, Prettiest Dress, Prettiest Smile and Prettiest Hair. Each participant received a 2017 pageant T-shirt and a participation medal. The queen in each division received a crown.

Queens will be presented at the Watermelon Festival Opening Ceremony Aug. 18 and at the Roxy Theatre Aug. 19.

For Brown, other royal responsibilities will include riding in the Russellville Christmas Parade and crowning the new queen at the 2018 Watermelon Pageant.

This year marks Brown’s fifth time to be part of the Watermelon Pageant, and she has won her division three times.

“I grew up in Franklin County, and I have always looked forward to the Watermelon Festival and all of its related activities,” Brown said. “I hope that I will be a good ambassador in spreading the word about all the wonderful things Franklin County has to offer. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to serve in this capacity.”

She will be attending Northwest-Shoals Community College in the fall and plans to major in social work, earn a master’s degree and become a licensed clinical social worker.

Ann Marie Hall was the emcee for this year’s pageant. She is a graduate of Russellville High School and has participated in Miss RHS and Miss UNA.

The 2017 Watermelon Festival will be held Aug. 18-19. In 2016 the Southeast Tourism Society named the festival a Top 20 Event.