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Festival Queen contestant gives hope & support to cancer victims

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Allison Payne and Mason Welsh

The selection of the Urbanna Oyster Festival Queen is a long-standing tradition that dates back to 1960, the year before Urbanna Days became the Urbanna Oyster Festival. The first Festival Queen was crowned on a flatbed trailer on the day of the festival.

The tradition of crowning a Festival Queen and Little Miss Spat began in 1966.

As the Oyster Festival evolved over the years, so has the selection process for the Queen and Little Miss Spat. It originally was a type of beauty pageant, but is now a scholarship competition for the Queen contestants. The judging is based on a community service project, grade point average, a judges’ interview, a written response to a random question, and overall participation.

The Queen competition starts early in the summer and extends until the crowning takes place on Friday of the Oyster Festival.

The crowning of the Queen at the upcoming 55th Urbanna Oyster Festival will take place on Friday, November 2, at 4 p.m. at Taber Park on Rappahannock Avenue. The Urbanna Oyster Festival Queen Scholarship Competition awards scholarships to the top three Queen finishers.

The Oyster Festival will be held Friday and Saturday, November 2-3.

Queen profiles

Each week for the past five weeks the Southside Sentinel has profiled one of this year’s five Queen contestants and their Little Miss Spat contestants. They include:  Rachel Crews and Skylar Andersen; Allison Payne and Mason Welsh; Kelly Revere and Bailey Fairheart; Brooke Rowe and McKinsey Walker; and Jordan Walton and Chelsey Holmes. Each Queen contestant wrote a press release on her project and background.

As in the past, Queen contestants must be a high school senior and a resident of Middlesex County. Each Queen contestant selects a girl in the first grade to compete as her Little Miss Spat. (A “spat” is a baby oyster.) The Little Miss Spat finalists are selected independently of the Queen and are judged based on their participation at an ice cream social, a judges’ interview, overall participation, and written response to a question, which they also illustrate.

The judges are not residents of Middlesex County.

Allison Payne
Oyster Festival Queen contestant Allison Payne and her Little Miss Spat contestant Mason Welsh teamed up to do their part in the fight against cancer. Each have lost loved ones to this terrible disease and believe that every contribution, no matter how large or small, plays an important part in saving lives.

Payne wrote a children’s book titled “Hope—a story of love and support.” The book outlines Payne’s experience with her own grandmother’s battle with ovarian cancer. “This was a very difficult time for me and my entire family,” she said. “My brother, cousins and I struggled with not understanding about this sickness, so I wanted to help children cope and explain what they can do when someone they love has cancer.” Welsh helped to illustrate the book.

Payne and Welsh visited local church groups and the Middlesex YMCA summer camp to share their story and shared books throughout the county. “Hope” is currently displayed in both the Urbanna and Deltaville libraries and is in the library at MCV Hospital. Payne also delivered books to Riverside Walter Reed Cancer Center and Rappahannock General Hospital Cancer Center for families beginning their own battle.

While being mentored by jewelry artist Peper Heunemann of Pieces of Peper, Payne also designed a piece of sterling silver jewelry she called “A Piece of Hope.” Each is a handcrafted original by Payne. “Making each one was a delicate process, much like each person’s own unique battle with cancer,” she said. “I wear mine close to my heart in memory of my own Mamaw. This pendant reminds me of the never-ending circle of love and support we all have for those battling this devastating disease.”

Each pendant is designed as a symbol of hope for those fighting, and also a way to honor the memories of those who have lost their lives. Payne’s dream was to somehow touch the lives of cancer patients and their families. Payne noted, “It is an amazing feeling to know that my dream is becoming a reality.”

Payne and Welsh donated $4,000 to the Middlesex Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society.

During her career at Middlesex High School, Payne has been an active member of the Future Business Leaders of America, Student Government Association and Key Club. She has been president of her class for three consecutive years and is president of the National Honor Society. Payne has been on the MHS yearbook staff for three years and is currently the executive editor.

Payne has played volleyball, basketball and swam with South Eastern Virginia Aquatics. She has been swimming with the Urbanna Barracudas for 12 years where she also volunteers as a kickboard coach and helps swimmers perfect their strokes.

She is a member of Urbanna United Methodist Church.

Payne was the Co-Honorary Grand Marshal of the 2011 Urbanna Oyster Festival.

After graduation, Payne plans to pursue a career in elementary education or business and marketing.

Payne is the daughter of Wendy and Anthony Payne, and the granddaughter of Bobby and Kay Burch, Jonsey and Shirley Payne, and Wendell Mitchem and the late Deborah Mitchem. She has one brother, Avary.

Mason Welsh, Payne’s Little Miss Spat contestant, is a first-grader at Middlesex Elementary School. She is the daughter of Rita Haynes and Charlie Welsh, and the granddaughter of Jim and Fran Goforth, Richard and Deborah Haynes, Wayne and Liz Rainier, and Rick Welsh.

Mason enjoys going to school, playing with her friends and horseback riding.

posted 10.17.2012

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