KMLF queen, princess candidates announced

Published 12:52 pm Thursday, May 17, 2018

You can support our local princess and queen candidates during the 87th Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival slated May 24-26. The Princess Coronation will be Friday at 8:30 p.m. at the old Pineville High School gymnasium, located on Laurel Street.

This year’s local princess candidates are Mackenzie Grace King , representing Harlan High School; and Allison Nicole Cook, Harlan County High School.

Each year, area high schools are invited to send a princess representative to the festival. The candidates are introduced at the official opening of the festival, are treated to a reception and dinner and then vie for the crown. It has become one of the highlights of the festival.

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Saturday will begin with the Gala Parade at 10 a.m. in downtown Pineville. The crowning of the 2018 Kentucky Mountain Laurel queen will be held at the Laurel Cove Amphitheater (Pine Mountain State Resort Park) at 2 p.m.

This year’s local queen candidate from Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College is Kaitlyn McKensi Johnson.

Colleges and universities across the Commonwealth are invited to send a representative to the festival each Memorial Day weekend. It is left to the school’s discretion as to how a candidate is selected. Private homes in Pineville open their doors to host candidates and escorts for the weekend and all meals are supplied by the festival organization. There are picnics, receptions, dances, a parade, the coronation, a grand ball and a culminating breakfast to honor the new queen who wears a crown made of live mountain laurel blooms and carries a hand-made bouquet, a tradition many years old.

The reigning princess is Abigail Ann McCowan, and the reigning queen is Hayley Frances Leach.

In addition to the Princess and Queen Coronations, the festival features quality crafts and concessions, a 5K run, carnival, fireworks display and the opening night concert at Bell County High School featuring American Idol winner Scotty McCreary.

The Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival is one of Kentucky’s oldest festivals, finding its start in 1931, when Mrs. Annie Walker Burns established the festival as a way to honor her famous ancestor, Dr. Thomas Walker, a pioneer explore. Since that time, the devotion and hospitality of so many, along with the resonant history of the festival, have enabled this beautiful event to thrive for 80 years.

To reserve tickets or receive more information, visit