By Debbie Adams
While the 65th annual Vinton Dogwood Festival was cancelled this year due to COVID-19, the tradition of crowning a Dogwood Queen continued. After the festival was cancelled, the Dogwood Festival Committee made plans to crown the queen and recognize the Dogwood Court at the annual Vinton Fourth of July Celebration. Unfortunately, that event was cancelled as well.
In the end, the queen was crowned by Vinton Vice Mayor Keith Liles on the steps of the Vinton War Memorial on the morning of July 4, surrounded by family and friends.
The 2020 Vinton Dogwood Festival Queen is Olivia Robertson.
Members of the court–all members of the Class of 2020 at William Byrd High School–are Kayla Witt, Kelly O’Connor, Sloane Morton, RoAnna Hylton, Eden Harrilla, Maddie Glover, Caroline Faulkner, Maegan Burnette, and Kaleigh Stover.
Prior to the crowning ceremony, the young women were honored with a reception in the ballroom at the War Memorial, along with their families, wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
Although the young women could not ride on the traditional Dogwood Court float through the streets of Vinton in the Dogwood Festival Parade, they were honored with a mini-parade after the crowning and reception.
Their convertibles were led by Vinton Police Chief Tom Foster with flashing lights and sirens, moving at a parade pace, down Washington Avenue, through the downtown area, and back up Washington Avenue to the War Memorial, escorted by Deputy Police Chief Captain Fabricio Drumond.
Recognition of the Dogwood Court, the reception, and crowning of the queen are facilitated each year by Susan Teass and Nita Echols, Queen’s Court/Reception Coordinators.
Each year, 10 young women who are seniors at William Byrd High School are nominated by the faculty for the Dogwood Court and then interviewed by a panel of judges who choose the queen on the morning of the Dogwood Festival Parade.
This year members of the Dogwood Court were interviewed by a panel of judges at Teass’s home on June 27. The name of the Queen was kept secret until the ceremony at the War Memorial on July 4.
Vinton Vice Mayor Keith Liles welcomed the Dogwood Court and their families to the event, describing the Dogwood Festival as “the longest running festival in our region and next year, the longest running festival in the state.”
“We are truly blessed to be able to stand here today during these trying times we are encountering,” Liles said.
“The ladies in front of you have worked very hard to get where they are today and we wanted to be able to acknowledge them on the front lawn of the Vinton War Memorial,” said Liles. “They have been outstanding leaders and they all set a great example for our community.”
A quartet of Thrasher UMC Minister of Music Josh O’Dell, Kat McLean, Michelle Richardson, and Alex Lyons performed the national anthem. Kaidence Stores, who will be a sixth grader at William Byrd Middle School, led the Pledge of Allegiance before the crowning. Each member of the court received the traditional Dogwood necklace.
Maegan Burnette is the daughter of Mary Rowland and Mark Burnette. Her high school activities included Competition and Sideline Cheerleading (captain), the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Student Service Association, and DECA. Maegan plans to attend Radford University in the fall to study nursing, with the goal of becoming a nurse practitioner.
Caroline Faulkner is the daughter of Jennifer and Daniel Faulkner. She was a valedictorian, a member of the William Byrd Lady Terriers soccer team (freshman through senior years), a member of the yearbook staff for all four years of high school, serving as editor in her junior and senior years. She was treasurer of the Red Cross Club which she co-founded, a member of the Chick-Fil-A Leadership Academy, the Leo Club, and the Prevention Club. Caroline plans to study for her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at Longwood University.
Madeleine Glover is the daughter of Karenna and Jack Glover. She was a valedictorian, president of the Student Council Association, played varsity tennis, was a member of the Leo and Red Cross Club (secretary), the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Math Pound, the International Club, the BETA Club, the Student Advisory Club, and the Chick-Fil-A Leadership Academy. She served as a Team Terrier mentor for students at W. E. Cundiff Elementary. Madeleine plans to attend the College of William Mary in the fall to pursue a career as a Neonatal Physician Assistant.
Eden Harrilla is the daughter of Sharon and Joe Harrilla. She was a valedictorian, member of Student Council, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Leo Club, the International Club, the Red Cross Club, and the Reindeer Club, the BETA Club and the Chick-Fil-A Leadership Academy. Eden was a member of the 2019 Homecoming Court. She also played tennis and was a member of the indoor track team.She plans to earn her Bachelor of Arts degree in International Business with a minor in Spanish at James Madison University to pursue a career in Marketing Management.
RoAnna Hylton is the daughter of Lynne Hylton. She played on the Varsity Lacrosse team throughout all four years of high school and served as captain her junior and senior seasons. She was a member of the William Byrd Marching Terriers Color Guard for four years and captain her senior year. She was elected Senior Class President and was a co-host/anchor for Terrier TV in grades 10-12. RoAnna was a member of the Red Cross Club, the International Club, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Club. She was chosen as a member of the 2019 Homecoming Court. She plans to attend Roanoke College to major in Health and Exercise Science.
Sloane Morton is the daughter of Tricia Gates and Brad Morton. She participated in Track and Field and was a member of the History Club. Sloane was chosen for the 2019 Homecoming Court. She plans to attend Bridgewater College to earn her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and minor in art or criminal justice.
Kelly O’Connor is the daughter of Mary and Steve O’Connor. She was a valedictorian, captain of the Varsity Soccer team, played Valley AFC travel soccer, and participated in Indoor track. She served as Vice President of the Leo Club, and was a member of Student Voice and the BETA Club, a Student Council Association officer, a member of Help Save the Next Girl, the Math Pound, the FCA, Deca Club and Chick-Fil-A Leadership Academy.
Kelly plans to attend James Madison University as a student in the Honors Program where she will study Business with a focus on Finance.
Olivia Grace Robertson is the daughter of Matt and Denise Robertson. She was a valedictorian, captain of the varsity sideline cheerleading squad at William Byrd (team captain during her junior and senior years). She received the “Most Coachable” and “Golden Megaphone” awards. She was also a member of the competition cheerleading team that placed first in region and second in state in 2017.
Robertson was a member of the BETA Club, the Symphonic Band, the Prevention Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Leo Club, Help Save the Next Girl, Red Cross, Byrd Buddies, and Student Voice (PBIS) organizations. She was selected for the Team Terrier Mentor Program working with students at W.E. Cundiff to develop future leaders. Olivia plans to attend Virginia Tech in the fall to earn her Master’s Degree in Childhood Pre-education.
Kaleigh Stover is the daughter of Lisa and Dwayne Stover. She was a valedictorian, a member of the Lacrosse team, the Red Cross Club, the FCCLA, the Leo Club, and the Academic Team. She will be attending Virginia Tech where she plans to major in psychology.
Kayla Witt is the daughter of Barry and Sandi Witt. She was a valedictorian, a member of the Lady Terrier Soccer team, the BETA Club, the Red Cross Club, the International Club, the Reindeer Club, and an officer in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She served as head of the Prom Committee. Kayla plans to attend Virginia Western Community College and major in elementary education. She participated in a teacher internship at Mount Pleasant Elementary which “was a wonderful experience which made the teaching profession a clear choice for me.”