Editor’s note — The following is a farwell speech written by outgoing Fall Festival of Leaves Queen Madison Hanks.
“A crown worn on the head will last a year, but a crown worn on the heart will last a lifetime.” — Author unknown
A year ago I embarked on my journey as Miss Fall Festival of Leaves. The night I was crowned I maybe slept for two hours because I was so excited to get up, get ready and put my crown on again. I am very grateful that my mother always encouraged me to see my crown and sash not as a prize, but as an opportunity. An opportunity to represent Bainbridge, an opportunity to serve, and to grow into the best version of myself. Thank you to my family, friends and this festival for pushing and allowing me to lean into that person.
Thank you to my mom for always demonstrating kindness, wisdom and resilience. You encourage and strengthen me more than you will ever know. To my dad, thank you for always going the extra mile for me. Whether it was making a joke to cheer me up or sometimes traveling the extra mile quite literally, you will always have my heart. Thank you, Kala, Amanda, Vicky and Bobbi and every single person that works hard to make this pageant and festival what it is. Your investment in my life and our community will never go unnoticed.
This year I have traveled across our beautiful state and I loved every minute of it. It was an honor to travel to the other festivals. Going to the luncheons and meeting other royalty, making friends and witnessing the love that each person has for their small little towns was an eye-opening experience for me. My mom has always said,” It takes a village to raise a family.” I truly understand the meaning of that statement now. When I participated in the parades for these festivals that’s exactly what I saw — a community, a village of people that are all like one big family. I am so grateful for the opportunity I was entrusted with, for the countless friendships I have made, and lessons learned along the way.
To the next Miss Fall Festival of Leaves, you have been chosen for a reason. Represent this festival with pride, grace and poise. You have everything you need right inside of you and you have an entire community standing behind you. Don’t blink because it truly goes by just too fast.
As my time as Miss Fall Festival of Leaves comes to an end, I am filled with gratitude, joy and a bit of sadness. Although I only wore this crown for a year, the Fall Festival of Leaves will hold a special place in my heart forever.
Leaf Country USA, it truly has been an honor. Thank you.