GREENFIELD — One of Rylie Gendron’s favorite childhood memories is attending the annual Riley Festival with her family.
She giggled slightly as she recalled those days — how she and her siblings would dash up and down the streets to visit each of the vendors and how her parents would let each of the children pick out one item as a gift.
The queen’s sash now draped around her neck might be her favorite souvenir so far.
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Gendron, a Mt. Vernon High School graduate, will be the queen of the 2016 festival with which she shares a name. The 18-year-old McCordsville native was chosen to be the chief ambassador of the annual event at a pageant Sunday night.
At its conclusion, Gendron was handed the top crown. Seventeen-year-old Eastern Hancock High School student Olivia Scott, as the first runner-up, is this year’s princess. Amalia Moss, Emily Jones and Madison Wise were named to the queen’s court. Katelyn Bowman was chosen by her fellow contestants as Miss Congeniality.
Gendron and her five-member queen’s court will attend various events during the festival, conducted in downtown Greenfield from Oct. 6 to 9.
The pageant serves as the kick-off to the festival each year.
Parents, relatives and friends gathered in the auditorium at Greenfield-Central High School Sunday to watch 11 contestants take the stage, answering questions and revealing a few fun facts about themselves.
Each contestant models an evening gown and also a personal-choice outfit, a pageant tradition that allows participants to showcase their interests.
Moss was honored with a special reward for her outfit. She crossed the stage dressed as a witch and carrying a large plastic caldron.
Moss said the costume displayed her love for theater arts. She hopes to one day become an actress, she said.
This year’s festival theme is James Whitcomb Riley’s poem, “Indiana.” It pays homage to the state’s bicentennial celebration, with various nods to state and county history planned throughout the event, said Kylie Stewart, the 2014 Riley Festival queen, who served as emcee of Sunday’s pageant.
Organizers honored the pageant’s history Sunday evening, displaying pictures of each of the festival’s queens dating back to the 1970s.
Now, Gendron can count herself among this long line of local monarchs.
Gendron, who is studying theater at Ball State University, said the royal duty she’s most excited to complete is the service project, which each candidate is required to outline as part of her application.
Gendron plans to host a county-wide talent show in which residents of all ages will be able to show off their unique gifts. All funds collected from admission fees will be donated to two Greenfield theater programs Gendron has participated in, KidsPlay and Crazy Lake Acting Co.
The 2016 pageant was Gendron’s first time participating in the queen contest, said her mother, Angie Gendron. For years, the family had encouraged Rylie to take a shot at the title, but they always seemed to miss the application deadline, Angie Gendron said with a laugh.
“I’m so excited she’ll have this experience,” she said.