Mountain Laurel Festival Queen And Student Mentor
When Lindsey Wilson College senior Gabby Pyles entered the 2018 Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival in May, she said she had no clue what she was “getting in to.”
“I didn’t know how to do a curtsey so I watched all these videos online to try to figure out how,” Pyles laughed about preparing for the event. “The girls in the videos were very elaborate, doing all this stuff with their arms. I knew I could not do that, that’s not me. So about 20 minutes before I was to do my curtsey, I asked my host to show me how to do a simple, short curtsey and that was good enough for me.”
The curtsey might have been simple, but it was good enough to get the judges’ attention. Pyles became only the second LWC representative to be crowned Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival queen. The other LWC queen was Devon Adams ’02 Jett in 2001.
Pyles was chosen as queen from 20 candidates who represented Kentucky colleges and universities. Her escort was human services and counseling senior Sam Kiger of Elizabethtown, Ky.
“It was all just a completely new experience for me because I’ve never done a pageant or anything like that before,” said Pyles.
In its 88th year in Pineville, Ky., Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival is Kentucky’s second longest-running festival (the Kentucky Derby Festival is the longest). Pageant activities and festival events take place over a four-day period, beginning with a Thursday-night concert and an introduction of the pageant contestants. The festival’s highlight is the coronation of the queen on Saturday afternoon at Pine Mountain State Park, Kentucky’s oldest state park. Candidates are judged on appearance, personality, manners, poise and cooperativeness.
“It is such a big deal there, the whole downtown of Pineville (Ky.) is involved,” said Pyles. “Everyone comes out and supports it.”
Pyles made an early impression on her hosts by mentioning one particular skill.
“On Thursday night I was told that I needed to introduce myself on stage,” said Pyles. “They didn’t really give specific instructions, just the basics and maybe a fun fact about myself. So I told the audience that my fun fact was that ‘I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in one minute and 11 seconds.’ Needless to say I spent the rest of the weekend solving Rubik’s Cube for all these kids around the festival.”
Pyles said that one of her favorite things about the Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival was the opportunity to meet people and share her faith.
“I like how we just had so many opportunities to talk to people and make friends and relationships,” she said. “I’m such a people person, I really enjoyed that. All I really had to do was be myself and have fun and let Jesus talk and work through me. I loved having the opportunity to share about the Lord so much.”
She also said that she made friendships that she hopes will last a lifetime.
“I met so many awesome girls and I’m already talking to a couple of them about planning a get-together,” she said.
A week after her coronation, Pyles left for the Dominican Republic for a five-and-a-half week internship with Go Ministries of Louisville, Ky.
“I visited the Dominican Republic for one week last summer with a Lindsey Wilson mission team,” she said. “This year I was there longer. I was assigned to a new team each week, and I accompanied them to their service sites and activities.”
Pyles is a member of a variety of clubs and organizations on campus, including LWC Singers, Bonner Scholars, Student Ambassadors and Peer Mentors. She is the founder and captain of the campus chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. And just this past fall, the LWC student body selected Pyles as the 2018-19 Homecoming queen.
Pyles said she especially enjoys serving as a mentor to younger LWC students.
“I love working with freshmen, it’s always been one of my favorite things,” she said. “Freshmen are still searching for their purpose, and it’s cool to be a Peer Mentor and get to be a positive voice in their life.”