76th Rice Festival queen reigns

CROWLEY - With the bright and breezy and numerous visiting queens looking on, the 76th International Rice Festival crowned a new queen.

Mayor Greg Jones and Deborah Nutt-Whiting served as emcees as the 76th International Rice Festival crowned a visibly excited and shocked Sarah Jane Mouton as their queen.

Sarah Jane Mouton, daughter of Mona and Marc Mouton, is representing the Louisiana Cattle Festival. She is a student at Louisiana State University. Sarah’s favorite subjects are marketing and advertising. She is the president of Alpha Lambda Delta, executive director of Up ‘til Dawn and captain of the LSU Relay for Life team. Sarah’s hobbies include bargain shopping, dodgeball, volleyball and webmastering.

As part of her new duties and responsibilities as queen, Sarah will be the ambassador of the International Rice Festival and she will oversee next year’s festival. She also was awarded almost $2,300 in scholarships.

Sarah was one of five contestants vying for the crown Saturday morning. She wore a white halter dress with an elegantly beaded top and graceful and flowing bottom half.

As the sun shined and the fall breeze began to filter in on the Cajun Country Rice Sound Stage, more and more people gathered around to cheer on the contestants. Throughout the pageant signs and shirts with numbers of all the contestants and cheers of their names and numbers could be seen and heard.

As the judges began to deliberate, the International Rice Festival Dance Troupe, known also as the “Ricettes,” provided entertainment, dancing to “Bust It” and “Americana.”

During the pageant, each contestant was asked a question by the emcees. The interview serves as a way for the contestants to showcase their personality and allow the judges and crowd to get to know them better. In her interview, Sarah spoke about “doing what you love,” which in Sarah’s case that’s her work with St. Jude and how it has taught her so much already.

“I was blessed to find out this year what I love to do,” she said. “I’ve learned so much, like how it takes $1.8 million dollars to run a hospital for just one day.”

Joining Sarah as contestants were, Mary Kristen Matte, daughter of Mendy and Keith Matte, representing the city of Rayne; Caitlin Simone Clayton, daughter of Gwen and Joey Foreman and Joseph Clayton, is representing the city of Crowley, and is sponsored by the Crowley Professional Women’s Club; Emma Kathryn Jumper, daughter of Pam and Tommy Jumper, representing the Arkansas Rice Festival; and Harlea Holmes, daughter of Kim and Billy Holmes, representing McNeese State University’s Chi Omega Fraternity.

Before the queen was crowned, however, the 75th International Rice Festival queen, Macy Leblanc, addressed the crowd and thanked everyone who helped over the year, including her family and presented those she thanked with a small gift, a painting that mirrored the 76th International Rice Festival’s pin.

The crowd looked on as the emcees announced, first, Miss Congeniality, as chosen by the contestants, to Caitlin, then it was finally time to name the queen and her court.

Named fourth runner-up was Harlea. Third runner-up was Mary and second runner-up was Emma. Caitlin was named first runner-up.

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