2016 Miss Jambalaya reflects back on her year

Brandie Richardson

From the nation's capital to the bayou, this home town pageant queen has traveled it all during her reign as the 2016 Miss Gonzales Jambalaya Queen. Though it's been a great year, it is coming to a close, as in just a few short days Holly Stelly will hand over her title to the next queen during the annual Jambalaya Festival. 

I caught up with Stelly to reflect on the past year and find out what's in store for her. I hear wedding bells are in the near future!

What have you learned throughout your reign?

I have gained a lot of confidence, being able to go out and speak to strangers and tell them about my hometown and festival. I have also grown to realize that taking on the title as Miss Gonzales Jambalaya is amazing and such a great opportunity, but it is a lot of work. You go every weekend to a festival, to a pageant or to a ball and your giving up time that you normally spend with family and friends to go out and be an ambassador for the Gonzales Jambalaya Festival. It has helped me grow to realize that I need time management and becoming a better person. It was a great experience! 

What is one of your most memorable moments you have had?

The Jambalaya Festival Association sent me to D.C. for a Mardi Gras Ball, it was the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians, and that was absolutely amazing! I went with some of my other festival queens that I traveled with all year and we got to go and live the life in D.C. where they have a big Mardi Gras parade, ball and they feed you all kinds of good food. It was amazing!

In your last days as Miss Jambalaya, what will you be doing?

I have been doing numerous interviews here and there and have been preparing with the [JFA] board. I have been making all the ingredients in bags and going to meetings leading up to the festival. I will be out there helping set up and meeting with the new contestants for the pageant. Right now I am making sure all my scrapbooks are finished with all my pictures throughout the year and trying not to cry everyday!

How does it feel to give up this title?

It is bittersweet. It's really sad because the Jambalaya Festival Association board has become my family, they have taken me under their wing and taken really good care of me and showed me the ropes on what goes into having this and doing this because we are a non-profit organization. I was able to give back to my community by just representing them. It's been a very long year. There was 53 Saturdays in 2016 and I went to over 55 events. I am getting a little tired but I wouldn't trade it. It is an amazing experience and I hope that the next girl can have as much fun as I did! 

What is your advice the the 2017 Miss Jambalaya?

The best thing I can tell her is that when the crown is placed on her head she is from that point on, until she gives it up, a role model. Even when the crown is not on your head people still recognize you out in public. Be on your toes, be kind, go out shake hands, don't be afraid to meet people and don't be afraid to walk up to them and approach them, even if you don't know them. Get to know them. Take every moment you are given with this title and enjoy it. Get to know the festival board, let them become your family. It goes by so fast.

What's next for you?

I am getting married on January 5, so I have seven months to plan a wedding! It's been a crazy year.