The Voice of Peach

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 29, 2008

This year, Chilton County celebrated its 61st annual Peach Pageant. At the 61st mark, Al Headley of Clanton reached his 37th year of being the emcee for the pageant.

Headley started introducing the contestants at the Peach Pageant in 1972. At that time, the Jaycees were in charge of getting the pageant together. Being a member of the Jaycees, Headley had to help get the stage ready for the girls and help clean up after the event was over.

“We would be there sometimes until 1 or 2 in the morning just trying to get everything cleaned up,” he said.

In 1972, there was only one pageant, so the crew had a little bit less work to do then they do now. Over the years, things started growing, and the pageant has now become a four-night event.

Before he was called to his duty of introducing the girls at the pageant, Headley worked at a local radio station. He was with the station for almost 18 years and said that talking over the radio never prepared him for getting up in front of a crowd and talking like he had to do for the pageant.

“I was very reluctant to do the speaking for the pageant when Ken Messer came and asked me if I could come out and introduce the girls. I was very nervous,” he said. “Being up in front of that crowd and looking out at them while I was trying to say all of the girls’ names right was very challenging.”

Headley has been working with the pageant ever since his first time announcing the peach contestants. He has seen the pageant go from one night to four, and he has seen the pageant’s sponsor change from the Jaycees to the Clanton Lions Club.

After seeing the pageant grow, Headley said that Gwen and Richard Davis have worked hard at getting the pageant where it is and as organized and problem free as it has been over the past few years.

“They have really done a good job with everything. It still seems that no matter how smooth they make everything go, though, I still can’t help but to feel nervous when I am up there trying to pronounce all of the girls names. It’s something that I have to work hard at, and I even spend some time before looking over their names and getting ready to talk about each girl,” he said.

Out of his 37 years, there have only been two where Headley let someone else try out for the position; however, nobody has been able to fill his shoes and he plans to keep working in the position.

Headley is married to Bobbi Headley and has two daughters, Jennifer Childress and Julie Wilson, who both work and live in the county. For the past four years, Headley has gotten to spend time spoiling his one and only granddaughter. Along with emceeing for the pageant, Headley has spent the last 18 years working for Wadsworth Oil Company.

“Over the years, I have seen the pageant girls start out and do things with their lives. I have actually even seen some children of the first original contestants participate in the pageants. I really enjoy getting to see where the girls have gone and what they have done after getting to know them during the pageant. It’s one of my favorite things about my job,” he said.