Editor’s Note — Following is the message 2019-20 Fall Festival of Leaves Queen Phoebe Cockrell offered at the festival’s annual queen pageant Thursday night:
Good evening everyone, as you all may know my name is Phoebe Cockrell and I am your 2019 and 2020 Bainbridge Miss Fall Festival of Leaves. These past two years amid a pandemic have been a rollercoaster ride for everyone to say the least, but despite the hardships, trials and tribulations, we’ve overcame together.
Being crowned Miss Fall Festival in 2019, I expected many things out of my reign such as developing lasting friendships, traveling the great state of Ohio and getting to represent our beautiful town and amazing festival, but the last thing I expected was to hold my crown for two years. Shortly after being crowned, I attended two festivals before the countrywide lock down. With the uncertainty of what was going to happen not only with my family, community and senior year, but also with my title, I felt saddened much as all of us did with the threat of never seeing normalcy again.
After seeing festival after festival cancelled due to the fear of the pandemic and health department regulations, thus causing my travels to be cut short in 2020, it came without question that the 53rd annual Fall Festival of Leaves would be canceled. This was heartbreaking not only for festival committee members, festival sponsors, upcoming contestants and me, but the community as a whole. With the absence of the 2020 festival along with many other devastating events this virus caused it created a state, country and worldwide depression among all of us that I’m sure none of us are a stranger to.
Due to the cancelation of the 2020 Fall Festival, I was asked if I was interested in continuing my reign and with no hesitations and despite the uncertainty of what was to come, I said yes. This pandemic had taken many things away from everyone, but I wasn’t going to let it take away the opportunity I was presented, and I thank myself for that decision every day.
Being a queen isn’t easy. It comes with many responsibilities, duties and expectations. But my reign has given me valuable life lessons, lasting relationships and above all determination to overcome the uncertain. In total, I have traveled to 15 festivals around the state of Ohio representing Bainbridge, a total mileage of 1,978, and with every one of those miles came a different friendship, different lesson and a change in me. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to witness first-hand just how strong communities just like ours are. The impact of seeing that strength under a microscope will carry with me for the rest of my life. Not only did I see strength within communities, I saw it within families including mine.
On the morning of Dec. 28, 2020, I lost my grandfather to COVID-19, and regardless of this tragedy presented to my family, I witnessed my family come together and formulate a strength and love that I never have experienced before. I have learned that the essence of the human spirit to overcome uncertainty is resilient and in the face of adversity if you’re surrounded by people who love and support you, you will prevail.
Having said that, I would like to take the time and give a special thank you to all my many sponsors who supported me through my reign, along with the festival committees and pageant director Kala Prose and helpers Vicki Mettler and Bobbi Blanton. All your hard work and dedication to the pageant and the festival does not go unnoticed. Thank you for allowing me and being so helpful in the process of fulfilling my reign despite all the crazy and hectic circumstances. Thank you to my judges for the 2019 pageant who presented me this opportunity. Thank you to my family who has loved and supported me throughout this entire journey, and lastly thank you to the village of Bainbridge for allowing me to represent our beautiful festival.
This community is strong and having witnessed that, I am so honored and proud to say I have had the opportunity to represent Bainbridge throughout the last two years. Although I am saddened to say my goodbyes and close this chapter, I am overjoyed to take part in crowning and sending another queen on this life changing adventure.
Lastly, I will leave you with a quote from Brandon A. Trean: “It is how we embrace the uncertainty in our lives that leads to the great transformations of our souls.”
Thank you, and for one of the last times my name is Phoebe Cockrell, and I am your 2019 and 2020 Miss Fall Festival of leaves quarantined queen.