Hawkinsville's Harness Festival will be held April 1-2 but the annual Miss Harness Festival Pageant was held Feb. 27 to choose the young women who will serve as ambassadors for the festival.
Gillian Pritchett was crowned Miss Harness Festival Queen 2016. Pritchett is a senior at Warner Robins High School where she takes honors and AP classes. She is a member of the FCA, Beta Club and the International Thespians Society, participating in drama productions at the school. She is a first chair clarinet of the school's concert band.
Outside of school, she is the Middle Georgia teen representative for Mothers Against Drunk Driving and a volunteer at Second Baptist Church. She is graduating with honors and plans on attending Wesleyan College and majoring in early childhood education.
Several other young women and girls were crowned that day as well.
Kandice Lumpkin, of Hawkinsville, was crowned Junior Miss Harness Festival Queen. Nadia Sloan, Hawkinsville, was crowned Young Miss Harness Festival Queen. Lexi Belle Hardy, of Hawkinsville, was crowned Petite Miss Harness Festival Queen. Olivia Rozell, of Bonaire, won Little Miss Harness Festival Queen. Lilee Emma Giddens, of Chester, won Teeny Miss Harness Festival. Millie McKenzie, of Perry, was crowned Tiny Miss Harness Festival Queen. And Cali Grace Williamson, of Perry, was chosen as Toddler Miss Harness Festival Queen.
Colleen Tyner and Amy Griffin, both of Hawkinsville, were chosen as the People's Choice Award Queens.
"Hawkinsville is like my second home," said Pritchett. "My grandfather was the pastor at Broad Street Baptist Church for 25 years and I have spent a lot of time in Hawkinsville. It is where I have met some of my closest friends. It is an honor to hold this title and represent Hawkinsville. It is going to be an exciting and fun year with the Harness Festival and Hawkinsville community. I love to put on dresses but I am just as comfortable in jeans and boots and I love to lend a helping hand wherever I can. I know that I will get to do a lot for the community with the Harness Festival."
The Harness Festival pageant is sponsored by Lisa's Chics which was established in memory of Lisa Hatcher Neal, of Hawkinsville. Neal was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and died June 28, 2011. Fundraisers were held during Neal's illness to help with her medical expenses.
Before she died, Neal asked the group of women to continue to help others. Lisa's Chics -- a group of about 10 women -- has continued to raise money and help people in the community in Neal's memory.
According to Bobbie Clemons, a member of Lisa's Chics, the main goal of the organization is to donate monetary gifts to those battling cancer and other health issues or those needing a helping friend. Fundraisers range from bake sales, selling Christmas ornaments and the proceeds from the Miss Harness Festival pageant.
Along with being the official ambassadors of the Harness Festival -- with duties the entire weekend and parade appearances and interviews with the media including television appearances -- the Harness queens are involved in the volunteer projects of Lisa's Chics.
These projects include co-hosting canned food drives to benefit The Hope Center food bank, delivering snacks and visiting patients at the Dan Maddock cancer treatment center in Hawkinsville and the Serenity Adult Day Center. The queens are registered as team members for the Pulaski County Relay for Life. During the holidays, they will be collecting toys and delivering them to patients at the Children's Hospital in Macon.
For more information about the Harness Festival, visit www.hawkins ville-pulaski.org.