Reigning Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival queen Kimberly Horne knew that Georgetown College stood a great chance of having a repeat winner when she learned in April that Megan McKay of Maysville had been chosen by the new student Activities Council to represent us.
Horne’s greatest concern was a possible “back-to-back” bias (this had only happened four times in the Pineville festival’s 79-year history…and not since 1993-94). “But, Megan possesses great confidence and always carries herself in a very graceful way,” said the senior from Paris. “I felt she would be the new queen after she presented her curtsey at the Cove at Pine Mountain State Park during the outdoor portion of the pageant. It honestly brought a tear to my eye.”
Indeed, that (May 23) evening, the special moment happened – Horne got to pass on the crown to her Kappa Delta sorority sister and watch as McKay was congratulated by Gov. Steve Beshear. “Megan really shined because she was eager to meet new people and truly take part in the experience,” said Horne, who lived in nearby Middlesboro as a youngster and knows how important KMLF is to southeastern Kentucky.
“You really feel the love and you can understand how the people come together – and how much this means to the community,” McKay said. “I’ve never been to anything like this where the people appreciate it so much when you are thankful to them for what they are doing.”
McKay and Horne both heard from a number of those townspeople and festival-goers that they had picked the ultimate winner from the photographs in the local newspaper. “(Some said)…but, when they met me in real life they definitely knew I’d be the winner,” McKay said. “That made me feel good because I wanted (the judges) to pick me for who and what I am.”
So, before the coronation ceremony, Megan McKay felt like she had already won something. “I told my mom that I’d met so many great people here that if they didn’t pick me I’d still come away with something special,” she recalled.
Jessica Shipp, office manager of the Pineville Sun, is one who “pre-judged” McKay as a potential winner from her photograph. “Megan literally bounced off the page with those eyes, her smile…she looked so vital,” said Shipp, who then met her “pick” in town early in the festival. “Sparkly, bubbly – she showed personality, people skills and charisma. You could tell she knew who she was and where she was going.”
Prudie Thomas, chairperson of the Arrangements Committee, also identified Megan McKay as a stand-out from the moment she saw the brunette beauty Wednesday night: “She, her mother, and escort Brad Pawsat were driving around Pineville while my committee was preparing for Thursday morning’s orientation. We saw her in the parking lot and invited her to come on in!
“The one defining moment for me was when we were having lunch at a local establishment called the Flocoe. Megan asked me to introduce her to the owners whose family is VERY rich in KMLF tradition. She graciously thanked them for the wonderful meal and handed them a hand written thank you note. I had never seen a young lady do that in my 11 years of working with queen candidates! I said to myself ‘this young lady is not only beautiful on the outside, but has the inner beauty of a queen’.”
A rising junior, 2009 KMLF Queen Megan knows that this experience – especially the networking and opportunity to use her considerable conversational skills – will pay dividends down the road. A Political Science major and Communications minor, and an Equine Scholar, she has her eye on law school in a couple of years.
For now – as the 2009 Miss Belle of the Bluegrass – Megan has her eyes on the Miss Kentucky Scholarship Pageant at the University of Kentucky’s Singletary Center, July 16-18. She’s trying to stay on top of the news by watching CNN and reading the Maysville Ledger-Independent, but her biggest challenge is perfecting her talent. She’s playing the Gershwin jazz standard “I Got Rhythm” on piano.
Megan is the daughter of Leo and Helen McKay of Maysville. Kimberly is the daughter of Bart and Pam Horne of Paris; their daughter Jaime, who will be a freshman at Georgetown this fall, is representing Kentucky in America’s Homecoming Queen National Pageant in Anaheim, CA, in late July.
Photos by Gary Ferguson-Pineville Sun