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New peach queens look toward 2010

Peach queens may get the glamour and constant attention, but it comes with hard work. The recent pageant winners just finished their first run of duties together at the Chilton County Peach Festival. Starting next week, they’ll be at it again.

Next on tap for the new queens is a visit to Montgomery to meet Gov. Bob Riley on July 9. The next day, they will stay in the capital and visit the farmer’s market. They will meet with Amy Rhodes soon to cover logistics of their trip together.

Miss Peach winner and Jemison resident Jessica Swindle is pleased with the number of interactions the four have shared since all being crowned.

“We’ve formed a bond,” Swindle said. “We’ve exchanged numbers. We’re all looking forward to spending time with each other throughout the year.”

Young Miss Peach winner Leah Easterling, 11, shares that same positive attitude about her new companions.

“I’m very happy with my fellow queens,” she said. “They act like real sisters to me.”

Her favorite part of last week’s peach festival was the parade, where she not only threw handfuls of candy out to spectators but also indulged in a few pieces on her own.

As for the year that lies ahead, she’s excited about the numerous appearances and full calendar that waits.

“I’m looking forward to taking pictures, being in parades and going to meet the governor,” she said.

Her mother, Amy, said the experience will benefit Leah in getting used to speaking in public and meeting new people.

“We’ve had a great time,” she said. “We’ve been on a high all week.”

Swindle enjoyed spending time with her fellow queens and also mingling with any other Chilton County residents she came across.

“I had fun talking to people at the Peach Jam,” she said. “That was a good time meeting people, taking pictures and just socializing with everybody.”

Swindle now carries the title of being the first-ever African-American Miss Peach winner, which she says is a great honor.

Junior Miss Peach winner Kaitlin Ray said she is excited about getting to know her fellow Peach Queens and that she still enjoys strong bonds with her 2006 Peach sisters, when she was Little Miss Peach. She continues to enjoy the moment of last week’s win.

“I’m still in total shock,” she said. “This was not expected.”

While she carries those bonds with her previous peach queen colleagues, she can’t wait to strike friendships with the new girls.

“I’m mainly just looking forward to getting to know my peach sisters and meeting different people,” Ray said. “Also representing Chilton County and its peach farmers.”

Kaitlin’s mother, Kim Ray, said the experience of watching her child win four years ago did not prepare her for hearing the name called in 2010.

“I was totally overwhelmed,” she said. “I never imagined she would win a second time.”

Experience does help in knowing what to expect from the upcoming year as peach queen. Kaitlin’s mother said the girls should expect a lot of hard work in representing the county. But she insists the fun of it all outweighs any stress it might bring.

“They have the privilege of meeting the governor and spending time with him,” she said. “We’re looking forward to riding in a parade with the governor.”

Sharing that keenness with the other girls is Little Miss Peach winner Gracie Owens, who said the meeting is at the top of her list of what she most wants to do as queen.

Owens is the daughter of James and Charlotte Owens.

Swindle is the daughter of Dwight and Madeline Swindle.

Easterling is the daughter of Keith and Amy Easterling.

Ray is the daughter of Tim and Kay Ray.