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81st Buckwheat Festival’s Second Maid of Honor and Escort reflect on past memories of the festival

The 81st Buckwheat Festival Royalty Court features Second Maid of Honor Marli Phillips and her escort, Evan Keech.

Phillips ran for the Buckwheat Festival Royalty Court after past involvement with the court as a Junior Princess in 2018 and various family members, including her parents, grandmother and aunt, all taking part in the Buckwheat Court when they were young.

“It really hit me when I was a Junior Princess. I got to be part of the court and it really sparked more of interest, like I really wanted to try out for that,” said Phillips. “I’ve enjoyed seeing the process from when I was little, looking up like, ‘Oh, I want to do that,’ to being here now and actually doing it.”

In representing Preston County as part of the court, Phillips has seen this very same spark resonate through attendees of the various fairs and parades the court has taken part in.

“You really don’t see the impact the Buckwheat Festival has on people,” said Phillips. “Everybody around the state knows our fair. [At parades] you smile and wave to people, you see all the little kids and they enjoy seeing you, and then hopefully you see them again in September at the fair.”

With this look into the festival’s behind-the-scenes, it becomes clear just how many different people contribute to the festival and how this results in a festival with something for everyone to look forward to and enjoy. Fair food, livestock shows, amusement rides, handcrafted art, music, and more come together to create a nostalgic and cheerful festival that friends, family and neighbors enjoy together.

“It’s big family reunion, that’s the easiest way to explain it,” said Phillips. “Everyone is there to enjoy the fair, you’re all there for the same reason.”

After years of showing livestock at the festival and attending with friends and family, the Buckwheat Festival has been an event for Phillips to look forward to each year.

“There’s always a schedule, there’s always something to do. It’s something I’ve always done, it’s like my yearly routine,” said Phillips. “You get your animals ready all year and then each day is something different that you can be part of.”

Phillips is also a Preston High School senior where she is part of the National Honor Society, the National Technical Society and Future Farmers of America (FFA), as well as 4-H.

Keech served as a train bearer for King Buckwheat ten years ago, leaving him with good memories that inspired him to run for the Buckwheat Festival Royalty Court. Family members who previously served on the court also encouraged him to participate. The Buckwheat Festival itself has always represented fun times spent on amusement rides, eating festival food, and watching parades with friends and family, 

Serving on the court has created even more good memories, especially of good times spent with the rest of the Buckwheat Festival Royalty Court and the coordinators of the group’s duties.

“My favorite part about the events was the opportunity to spend time getting to know the other members of the Buckwheat Festival court, the General Chairman, the Assistant Chairman, and their families,” said Keech.

During his time serving on the Buckwheat Festival Royalty Court, Keech has had opportunities to learn from his peers and mentors, strengthening values that will remain essential through future education, occupations and everyday life.

“Being part of the Buckwheat Festival court has taught me to always have a smile on my face and make every effort to put a smile on the faces of others,” said Keech. “It has also taught me to not be afraid to try something new and to always take the opportunity to enjoy ice cream with friends.”

Keech is a Preston High School senior where he is a member of the National Honor Society and National Technical Honor Society.