2012 Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival Queen Jaime Horne (Photo courtesy of Joe Harris)

Jaime Horne, a rising Georgetown College senior from Paris, went into this past weekend’s 2012 Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival pageant in Pineville just for the experience and “to have fun.”

Who could know whether recent history – winners from Georgetown College in 2008 and ’09 – would help or hurt? Not to mention that the first was her older sister, Kimberly Horne, or the second was also a “sister,” Megan McKay – with both being present for support. Incidentally (or not?!), all three are Kappa Deltas and Jaime is the current Beta Lambda chapter president.

No matter. Saturday afternoon, at the coronation ceremony at scenic Pine Mountain State Park, there was GC’s Belle of the Blue – Jaime – at the tail end of the procession wearing the queen’s cape and unique crown of pearls. That’s the dramatic way the audience finds out at this grandest of traditions (since 1931). And, that’s the way her roommate Ashley Vallance of Russell and other sneak-peeking friends were among the first to know.

“Don’t even call it a pageant…there’s probably no place in the country that has this kind of tradition,” said Jaime, who’s grown up knowing of KMLF’s importance to the region. Her mother, Pam, graduated from Middlesboro High down the road; Pam’s parents, Al and Mary Sue Vicars (now also of Paris, KY), were originally from Harlan.

“My grand-parents were the first people who showed me how much this means,” Jaime remembered. “I didn’t think it could be any more special…but this one was magical.”

Among Jaime’s magical moments:

* Hearing the shouts of support when the large number of candidates (23 representing Kentucky colleges and universities) were paraded through Pineville in convertibles. “I don’t know how many times I heard – not my name, but –‘There goes my Georgetown girl!’,” she recalled with pride.

Jaime and escort Devin Rogers showed their Tiger Pride on the first day of KMLF!

* Seeing good friend and escort Devin Rogers ’12 presented with the coveted Cawood Smith Award, named for the late Harlan attorney who was known for wearing colorful sports coats at the event. Devin, a Communication & Media Studies major from Corbin, received $200 to purchase his own colorful jacket to wear to the 2013 KMLF. He’ll also be remembered for doing the backstroke in the reflecting pool (tradition holds the winner’s escort is thrown in)!  

“I wasn’t surprised at all that Jaime was chosen queen…she worked so hard all week,” said Devin, who began his job as director of social media for Lexington-based Premier Home Services Group on Tuesday. “She’s a beautiful person inside and out.”

* Getting to meet members of the Asher family (Asher Science Center) at the Pineville Community Hospital breakfast on Saturday morning. They attend every year.

*Being presented – by Ray Harm Jr. of Georgetown – with a print by the late, famous wildlife artist Ray Harm featuring cardinals on mountain laurel that was personalized just for her.

* Wearing a hat designed by Georgetown’s Polly Singer (whose business is in Lexington) at the breakfast and in the parade.

Jaime said that having her sister coach and encourage means a lot. “Kimberly is so kind and gracious to let me share things like Kappa Delta and Mountain Laurel,” said Jaime, who almost didn’t attend GC for fear she wouldn’t enjoy following in the footsteps. But, she’s happy that she did.

“What we’ve done is similar, but we’ve done so in different ways…so it’s unique for both of us,” said Jaime, who will be a Tiger cheerleader for a fourth year this fall (Kimberly cheered two years).

Kimberly, who just finished her second year of law school at University of Dayton, said, “I am so thankful I am able to share this unique tradition with my sister. I envision Jaime and myself as 90-year-old women continuing to support and take part in the Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival each year.”

Their overwhelmed mother couldn’t be happier that both  daughters have had these opportunities at Georgetown College. “We are so grateful that Jaime was able to represent Georgetown College and be part of a tradition that means so much to our family,” said Pam Horne, a 2nd-grade teacher at Cane Ridge Elementary in the Bourbon County Schools system. “Over the past five years though our experience with the festival, we have had the opportunity to rekindle old friendships and made new life-long friends. The people of Pineville and Bell County continue to demonstrate southern hospitality that is absolutely unmatched.”

Her husband, Bart, is obviously grateful for their daughters’ experience at GC as well. Witness his involvement as construction manager for the newest Georgetown College residence complex – like Rucker Village, a Jim Barlow project – that is going up now on Military Street across from Hinton Field.

Beyond making good use of the $3,000 winner’s check, what’s next for the former summer lifeguard? Jaime leaves this week for Columbia, SC, for a summer job that’s more relevant to her Psychology major – working as an activities director for Methodist-based Agape Senior Living. She said looks forward to assisting the physicians and nurses with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

After graduation next May, Jaime hopes to become a national Leadership Development Consultant for Kappa Delta like her good friend Shelby King ’12, who’s helping establish chapters around the country and aiding existing ones. In five years, she plans to be into her career after finishing a Masters in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

For more on the KMLF, see the story in the Middlesboro Daily News.