When plans for the Lincoln County Apple Queen Pageant were started last fall and even into January and February, no one had any idea the extent that the COVID-19 pandemic would impact just about every annual event held in Lincoln County.
“Once we realized the impact of the pandemic, we had to figure out how to do things differently,” organizer Cheryl Burgess said. “We talked with the moms and the girls and everyone wanted to move forward knowing we’d have to make adjustments. Everyone was totally on board.”
The pageant will be shown virtually this year this Saturday, Aug. 8. There’s a large group of young women competing, and all 21 girls are making wearing face masks fashionable. Burgess had special masks made for the girls from fabric printed with apples.
“When the Citizen’s Center said they were closed through September, that was another bump in the road,” she said. “We started to look for another location and Erika (Miller) kept pushing me to do a livestream. That’s totally out of my comfort zone. I don’t have a clue as to how all that works.”
As it turned out, a man that Burgess goes to church with works for a company that specializes in livestreaming. After he explained the process to her, she realized it could be done. For the first time in its 40 plus year history, the Lincoln County Apple Queen Pageant will be livestreamed.
The entire process has been cleared through the Lincoln County Health Department, according to Burgess.
“As long as we are recording for entertain purposes, we can do it in a space such as the cultural center,” she said. “We checked with a judge on the mandate and we’re okay.”
Contestants are coming from all four Lincoln County Schools with one from Long Shoals Wesleyan Academy and another homeschooled. There are also several girls who are returning from previous pageants.
Tiffany Alvarado is a class of 2021 senior at Lincolnton High School. She plans to attend East Carolina University or Coastal Carolina University to study psychology.
“When I was younger, I always loved the apple festival and seeing all the different queens,” she said. “They all have such unique stories and are so empowering. I’ve always wanted to do it, but it’s way out of my comfort zone. My parents really pushed for me to do it this year.”
The reigning Apple Queen has always been an inspiration for girls throughout the county. Many young women enter the pageant, not because it’s a beauty pageant, but because of the confidence-building aspects of it and, perhaps more importantly, because they were influenced by a previous winner.
“The other girls are wonderful, and they all deserve to take home the crown,” said Alvarado who admits to being shy. “Getting to know them over the summer has been such a great experience for me. It’s been a chance for me to come out of my shell and doing something new for myself.”
Alexia Chapman will be a senior this year at East Lincoln High School. She plans to attend either Davidson College or the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill to study biochemistry and astrophysics.
“I knew Kayla Jackson (the 2019 Apple Queen), who went to East Lincoln,” she said. “I saw all the posts about entering this year and it looked like so much fun. I talked to Kayla and she got me to decide to enter and I’m really glad I did. I’ve seen my confidence grow a lot and I’ve made friends with the girls from other schools.”
Growing up, Chapman said that she was a tomboy and never thought she’d enter a pageant but said that anyone could do it.
“It’s more than just outer beauty which I think growing up I might have seen it as,” she said.
A rising senior at North Lincoln High School, Georgia Dellinger hopes to attend Stanford to study chemical oceanography or ocean sciences to study the impacts of climate change on oceans to help save coral reefs. As a woman going into the STEM field, she wanted to help support other women who are going into male-dominated fields.
“I feel like the pageant would give me a greater platform to help others and get my message out there,” she said. “My favorite Apple Queen was Maddie Woodie and I had a personal experience with her growing up. She was one of the most supportive people that I know.”
Woodie grew up in Dellinger’s neighborhood and was her babysitter when she was younger. At the time, she was running track which sparked an interest in Dellinger.
“I ended up running track for a few years, but I had to stop due to injuries,” she said. “It was nice to share that experience with someone.”
Emily Dellinger is a rising senior attending West Lincoln High School. She plans to attend Appalachian State University to study criminal justice. Dellinger has been a part of the pageant apprentice program for the past two years.
“I was never really a pageant girl so the experience as an apprentice helped me to come out of my shell and make new friends,” she said. “Last year I was awarded the apprentice award for my leadership.”
Dellinger’s first experience with the apple pageant was in 2016. She personally knew the winner, Keely Stempien and was struck by her confidence and beauty.
“I had seen her strength and maturity throughout her life when facing hard times,” Dellinger said. “I think she’s an inspiration to all girls and is one of the reasons why I entered this year.”
Jade Marlow is a graduate of Long Shoals Wesleyan Academy. She plans to continue to attend Gaston College to begin her studies to become a vet tech or marine biologist.
“The pageant was brought to my attention a year ago,” she said. “I decided to try it this year since I graduated and don’t have any more high school. All the girls have been so helpful.”
Marlow was so impressed by watching the pageants in years past.
All 21 contestants and their apprentices include:
Contestant 1 - Scarlett Berryhill
A 2016 Lincoln County homeschool graduate, Scarlett is competing this year for her 2nd time. She plans to attend CVCC and begin studying nursing.
Parents: Shawn & Amanda Berryhill
Apprentice: Madilynn Burgin, LHS
Contestant 2 - Anna Digh
Class of 2021 senior at North Lincoln High School. Anna plans to attend East Carolina to study business.
Parent: Rob & Hope Digh
Apprentice: Jocelyn Ruiz, Lincoln Charter School
Contestant 3 - Savanna Brooks
Class of 2021 senior at West Lincoln High School. Savanna plans to attend Lenoir Rhyne University to study to become a physician’s assistant.
Parent: Melody Brooks
Apprentice: Sam Cox, NLHS
Contestant 4 - Grace Parnell
Class of 2021 senior at North Lincoln High School. Grace plans to attend the University of Florida to begin studies towards becoming a dentist.
Parents: Kelly Koonse
Apprentice: Gracelynn Schronce, WLMS
Contestant 5 - Mary Field
Class of 2019 graduate of North Lincoln High School entering her sophomore year at UNCC. Mary is studying to become an elementary teacher.
Parent: Bryan and Carol Field
Apprentice: Chloe Soorus, NLHS
Contestant 6 - Laura Brown
Class of 2021 senior at West Lincoln High School. Laura plans to attend Ole Miss University to study to become a dental hygienist.
Parent: Brent & Trina Brown
Apprentice: Jordyn Powers, LHS
Contestant 7 - Alexia Chapman
Class of 2021 senior at East Lincoln High School. Alexia plans to attend UNC Chapel Hill to study biochemistry and biomedical science.
Parent: Sandy Parks
Apprentice: Taylor Turner, WLMS and Ashley Fisher, LHS
Contestant 8 - Leah Matney
Class of 2021 senior at West Lincoln High School. Leah plans to study photography in college.
Parents: Tim & Lori Matney
Apprentice: Ava Godfrey, WLMS
Contestant 9 - Haylee Kinman
Class of 2021 senior at West Lincoln High School. Haylee plans to attend UNC Wilmington to study business and marketing.
Parents: Deana Lail
Apprentice: Kalee Randall, WLMS
Contestant 10 - Emily Dellinger
Class of 2021 senior at West Lincoln High School. Emily plans to attend ASU to study criminal justice.
Parents: Gary & Amber Dellinger
Apprentice: Sydney Field, NLHS
Contestant 11 - Hadleigh Curles
Class of 2021 senior at North Lincoln High School. Hadleigh plans to attend NC State University and study veterinarian medicine.
Parents: Terry & Kim Curles
Apprentice: Maddie Plonk, Lincoln Charter School
Contestant 12 - Gwyn Reep
Class of 2021 senior at West Lincoln High School. Gwyn plans to attend Wake Forest University and study political science.
Parents: Robert & Jennifer Reep
Apprentice: Kayla Wehunt, WLHS
Contestant 13 - Tiffany Alvarado
Class of 2021 senior at Lincolnton High School. Tiffany plans to attend East Carolina University to study psychology.
Parents: Felix & Josefa Alvarado
Apprentices: Kayden Cook, Lincoln Charter School and Kiley Welch, Lincoln Charter School
Contestant 14 - Jade Marlow
Class of 2021 senior at Long Shoals Wesleyan Academy. Jade plans to Gaston College to begin her studies to become a vet tech.
Parents: Tim Marlow & Tonya Wyatt
Apprentice: Mikayla Rainwater, ELHS
Contestant 15 - Torie Taylor
Class of 2020 graduate of West Lincoln High School. Torie plans to attend Gaston College to begin her studies to become a paramedic.
Parents: Billy & Kristi Taylor
Apprentice: Isabella Brown, NLHS
Contestant 16 - Georgia Dellinger
Class of 2021 senior at North Lincoln High School. Georgia plans to attend Stanford to study chemical oceanography.
Parents: George & Stephanie Dellinger
Apprentice: Grace Houser, WLMS
Contestant 17 - Ava Parnell
Class of 2021 senior at North Lincoln High School. Ava plans to attend the Naval Academy and study physical therapy/sports medicine.
Parents: Kelly Koonse
Apprentices: Emma Carpenter, WLMS and Carolina Richardson, LHS
Contestant 18 - Halee Reinhardt
Class of 2021 senior at West Lincoln High School. Halee plans to attend NC State University to study civil engineering.
Parents: Tyler & Brandi Reinhardt
Apprentice: Sidney Black, NLHS
Contestant 19 - Addie Milburn
Class of 2021 senior at North Lincoln High School. Addie plans to attend UNC Chapel Hill to study business.
Parents: Sam & Jenny Milburn
Apprentice: Quinlynn Avery, WLMS
Contestant 20 - Melanie Mora
Class of 2021 senior at West LIncoln High School. Melanie plans to attend Gaston College to begin her studies in nursing.
Parents: Jose & Leonila Mora
Apprentice: Lauren Padgett, WLHS
Contestant 21 - Ashlynn Eurey
Class of 2021 senior at West Lincoln High School. Ashlynn plans to attend NC State University to study animal science.
Parents: Nathan & Amy Eurey
Apprentice: Kylee Andrews, NLMS
To purchase tickets using Venmo, which are $25 through @lincolntonbpw. Be sure to include your Facebook name as it appears in the comment section. After paying, search “Lincoln County Apple Queen Pageant Livestream” in Facebook Groups and request access. Payment is also available through PayPal – visit the Apple Pageant Facebook page for the link. The pageant is Saturday Aug. 8. Livestream will open at 6:15 p.m. with pageant starting promptly at 6:30 p.m. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.