THOMASVILLE — Kate Porter was crowned the Thomasville Rose Queen Saturday night at the Municipal Auditorium, and won a $1,250 scholarship as well as a $100 scholarship for winning the Fitness Preliminary award. 

Miss Porter, daughter of Mrs. Jami and Mr. Joe Porter, is a student at Brookwood School and member of the track and field team, Spanish Honors Society, Interact Club and a leader of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She has danced at South Georgia Ballet since she was 3 years old and has been a senior company member since her freshman year. 

In 2017, Porter was a Governor’s Honors Program semi-finalist for dance. 

“She is such a bright, exceptional young lady who does not shy away from hard work,” said the Junior Service League’s and Rose Queen Pageant coordinator Mariam Mirabzadeh. 

The Thomasville Rose Queen Pageant, presented by the Junior Service League of Thomasville, is open to young ladies who are rising high school juniors, and seniors who attend school in Thomas County. Being the Thomasville Rose Queen means more than just wearing a crown — it’s a sisterhood and the Rose Queen becomes a part of Thomasville’s rich history and a role model for the community. 

This year’s pageant featured 12 contestants, each with outstanding credentials. 

“We have all been wowed with this group of young women,” Mirabzadeh said. “Each of these contestants are excellent role models and have impressed all of us with their maturity and commitment to the pageant and to Thomasville, and their kindness and love of one another.” 

The competition included an opening number, a fitness routine, choreographed by Fit Fab Life owner Stephanie Rice, an interview portion, an essay, and an evening gown competition. The top five finalists competed in the on-stage question portion. Then, category winners were announced, followed by the crowning of the new queen. 

First runner-up was Emmy Hayes, daughter of Mrs. Bonnie and Mr. Danny Hayes. She is a student at Thomasville High School Scholars Academy. She was awarded a $1,000 scholarship. 

Second runner-up was Railey Richardson, daughter of Mrs. Paula and Dr. Albert Richardson and a Thomas County Central High School student. She was awarded a $750 scholarship. 

Third runner-up was Aleks Arwood, daughter of Mrs. Michele and Mr. Bill Arwood and a student at Brookwood School. She was awarded a $500 scholarship. 

Fourth runner-up was Caroline Elkins, daughter of Mrs. Paige and Mr. Bill Elkins and a Brookwood School student. She received a $250 scholarship. 

Each year the Pageant also features preliminary winners. Porter was the preliminary fitness winner, Elkins was the preliminary evening gown winner and Arwood was the preliminary essay winner.

The Jr. Service League Rose Queen Pageant hosts a People’s Choice Award, chosen by the audience and a Miss Congeniality Award chosen by the Rose Queen Pageant Contestants. This year’s People’s Choice was Molly Novak, daughter of Mrs. Renee and Dr. Joseph Novak of Thomasville High School Scholars Academy. She was awarded a $250 scholarship. Elkins won the Miss Congeniality Award and a $50 scholarship.

Mistress of ceremonies, Mrs. Karla Heath-Sands of WALB-TV, hosted this year’s Pageant and Rose Queen 2018 Mary Cathryn Dixon delivered a farewell speech as she reflected on her year as Thomasville’s Rose Queen. 

The audience had the pleasure of enjoying an array of talent provided by singers, dancers and instrumentalists. The senior company of South Georgia Ballet performed two dance routines. The 2017 Rose Queen Sophi Sampson performed in the opening and danced a tap routine. Dana and Lilly King sang a duet of Lilly’s original song by “My Kind of Perfect.” Sebastian James of Thomasville Music and Drama Troupe sang and Ben Dozier opened the show with the National Anthem on violin as the Thomasville Police Department’s Honor Guard, led by John Meredith, presented the American flag. 

This year’s panel of judges was from diverse backgrounds, with broad experiences. 

Darell Williams has been involved in all aspects of pageants for 30 years throughout the southern United States and is an approved Miss America judge. Darrell is the Director of the Miss Georgia South Pageant and assists with Miss Georgia USA and Miss Georgia Teen USA. 

Meredith Pope is mother, writer, local and national youth mentor, athlete and communications consultant and former Miss Georgia Teen USA as well as Miss Georgia USA and is the reigning Mrs. Georgia International. 

Staff Sgt. Luke E. Murphy is a retired soldier who served two tours of duty with the 101st Airborne Division and received the Purple Heart after being severely wounded and spending a year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He is a published author and advocates for wounded veterans. 

Jennifer Powell is a business owner, ambassador for the Boys and Girls Club, board member of Girls on the Run and former Ms. Florida Continental, and Mrs. United States Continental. She is a national Strongman competitor and National Powerlifting Competitor. 

Emma Fennelly is the 2012 Thomasville Rose Queen. She graduated from Thomasville High School, and attended the University of Georgia where she graduated cum laude with a degree in social work. While at UGA, she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma and involved with UGA HEROs, which supports at-risk youth in the Athens/Atlanta area. She is currently finishing her final year of law school, while interning at Watson Spence in Albany. 

Providing accurate and fast tabulations of the judge’s scores were: Donnie Powell, director of real estate, Flowers Foods and Darryl Davidson, real estate and leasing analyst for Flowers Foods. 

The new Rose Queen and her Court will reign over all of the 99th Annual Rose Show and Festival’s activities. Having the Rose Queen appear at festival events is always a highlight. The float carrying the Rose Queen and her court in the Rose Parade is very much anticipated and a crowd favorite. 

Fore more information regarding the Rose Queen Pageant, please visit or email

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