GREENFIELD – Chadsey Matlock remembers the first time she saw her.
Matlock was 6 years old at the time, standing in the middle of downtown Greenfield, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the annual Riley Festival. Through the crowd, she spotted a glitzy crown atop a young woman’s head, a fancy dress falling down to the pavement.
She knew then and there. One day, someday, she’d be the Riley Festival Queen, too.
Sunday night Matlock’s long-held dream came true. The 18-year-old was crowded the 2017 Riley Festival Queen at the conclusion of a Sunday night pageant that proved to be full of firsts.
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She and the five members of her court — which for the first time includes a member with Down syndrome –- will serve as ambassadors of the annual Riley Festival, conducted Oct. 5 to 8 in Greenfield. The pageant serves as the kickoff to the event each year.
In a change from past pageants, the festival’s Little Miss and Little Mister Riley were also crowded during Sunday’s event. Summer Brockman, 5, and Shane Stugis, 6, will join the queen and her court at various events throughout the festival, including on the royal float in the annual parade.
Matlock, a freshman at Purdue University and graduate of Eastern Hancock High School, will go on to represent Hancock County at a state competition later this year. But for now, she’s basking in her sense of achievement.
When her name was called, Matlock’s jaw dropped and immediately her eyes welled with tears as the crowd erupted in applause.
She’s donned the sashes of similar honors, she said; she was a member of the 2016 Hancock County 4-H Fair queen’s court and was crowned the 2017 Indiana’s Miss United States Agriculture earlier this year. But the Riley Festival title was the one Matlock wanted most of all, the one she’s been chasing the longest, she said.
She’ll wear the designation with pride. And she can’t wait to walk in the middle of downtown, surrounded by the hustle and bustle — but this time, she’ll be the one with the crown.
Fourteen girls participated in Sunday night’s pageant, hoping to be named the festival’s monarch. Parents, relatives and friends gathered in the auditorium at Greenfield-Central High School Sunday to watch the contestants take the stage, answer questions, model evening-wear and career-themed outfits and reveal fun facts about themselves.
At the end of the night, Haidyn Goodwin, a 17-year-old Greenfield-Central High School student, was crowned the pageant’s princess, the runner-up who is chosen to stand at the queen’s side throughout the festival.
Delanie Melton, Lauren Black and Madison Kindred, each 17, will fill out the queen’s court.
Melton is a senior at Eastern Hancock High School. Kindred and Black are seniors at New Palestine High School.
Black joins the queen’s court as the pageant’s first contestant with special needs. Black has Down syndrome, and she said she hopes her time on the court serves as an example to everyone that those with special needs always have a place alongside their peers, showcasing their talents and unique attributes.
Kindred was also crowned Miss Congeniality, a title voted on by pageant contestants to honor the most friendly and outgoing among them.
Ellie Roberts, a 19-year-old student at IUPUI, was given a special award for her personal-choice outfit, a pageant tradition that allows participants to showcase their interests. She walked the stage wearing scrubs, a stethoscope draped around her neck and told the crowd of her dream to one day work at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
The young women who came out to participate in this year’s pageant showed camaraderie, making the experience enjoyable for everyone, said Anita Turner, the president of the Riley Festival board. They come for all over the county, some not knowing anyone in the crowd. But by the end, they truly cared for each other and forged what hopefully turns out be lasting friendships, she said.
“This year’s contestants were an amazing bunch; probably one of the better groups we’ve worked with,” Turner said. “We’re very proud of all of them.”