Leah Andersen was named Dogwood Queen for 2017 and crowned by Dogwood Parade Grand Marshal Chris Keaton. Her bouquet was presented by Vinton Mayor Brad Grose at a ceremony held at the Vinton War Memorial at noon on April 29. The queen and the nine members of her court were honored at a luncheon in the ballroom after the crowning.
Andersen is a senior at William Byrd High School. She is the daughter of Craig and Nicole Andersen.
Andersen is the president of the SCA, secretary of the FBLA and FCA, co-president of the Math Pound tutoring group, and a mentor in the freshman mentor program. She is also actively involved in the Leo, Prevention, and Reindeer clubs, and a Beta Club member.
She has played on the William Byrd volleyball team since seventh grade and on the lacrosse team since her freshman year, serving as captain this year. In addition, she is an active member of her youth group and participates in the Sticks Ministry. She interns in a kindergarten class twice a week through the Teachers for Tomorrow class. She is considering a career in business or as a nurse practitioner.
Dogwood Festival President Joey Nicely explained during the luncheon that the 10 members of the Dogwood Court are traditionally nominated by the faculty and guidance counselors at William Byrd.
On the morning of the crowning ceremony and Dogwood Parade, the candidates for queen each have a private interview with a panel of judges who then select the queen.
Other members of the Dogwood Court this year were Molly Carpenter, Reagan Castleman, Reece Hodges, Lauren Newcomb, Alexis Shail, Jessica Stanley, Katherine Stanley, Jenna Wickham, and Lexi Williams.
Hodges said that she has been attending the Dogwood Festival and Parade since she was five months old. William Byrd Principal Tammy Newcomb was selected by the William Byrd faculty to serve as a Dogwood Hostess in 1986 when she was a Byrd student.
Nicely credited Susan Teass, who represents the Queen and Court Committee on the Vinton Dogwood Festival Board of Directors, and Nita Echols with organizing and facilitating the selection process and the War Memorial reception. He thanked the Town of Vinton for funding the event as well.
Mayor Brad Grose noted in remarks at the luncheon that while there have been many changes in Vinton in recent months, “some things don’t change,” including the tradition of the Dogwood Court and the Dogwood Festival.
Each of the 10 members of the Dogwood Court received a Dogwood petal pendant, designed especially for the occasion.
Nicely introduced the Dogwood Parade Grand Marshal Chris Keaton at the luncheon. Keaton is a music publisher, producer, and performer (and Vinton native). Keaton was once a member a member of the Band of Oz band and was inducted with the band into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.
Nicely noted that Keaton served as president of the Dogwood Festival some 24 years ago and, in fact, recruited Nicely to work with the festival.
Photographs of the Dogwood Queen and Court are posted on The Vinton Messenger Facebook page.