In 1988, Shannon Smith Wolfe was crowned Queen Ceres XLVII of the 47th Buckwheat Festival. 34 years later, her daughter Autumn Wolfe has continued the legacy as Queen Ceres LXXXI in this year’s 81st Buckwheat Festival.
Wolfe’s family has lived in Preston County for nine generations and has been involved in the Buckwheat Festival since the very beginning. With her crowning as Queen Ceres LXXXI, Wolfe has left her mark on something that is both part of her ancestry and the culture of every Preston County resident.
“It’s my heritage. My mom definitely inspired me to run. They have never had mother-daughter Queens in all 81 years until me and my mom. So it was really fun to be the first,” Wolfe said. “I’ve also really loved connecting with former court members because it’s like this golden string that ties us all together. Even if you barely know the person, it’s like you’ve known each other your whole life.”
For her promotional speech during the competition, Wolfe sewed a monarch butterfly into the train of her dress and clipped a monarch butterfly barrette into her hair — a symbol that she associates with her grandfather who passed away last August.
“Monarch butterflies were everywhere, on me all day, whether it be jewelry or something on my clothing,” said Wolfe. “I put a lot of significance behind everything I did.”
The Buckwheat Festival has been a routine throughout Wolfe’s life, whether it be showing livestock for the past seven years, playing in band performances, enjoying the carnival rides, or serving buckwheat cakes during festival time — which takes the (buckwheat) cake as one of her favorite Buckwheat Festival memories.
“It’s everything to me, it’s like a holiday,” said Wolfe. “You come back to school and it’s the first break, it’s like a reward for making it through the first month and a half. I’ve always really liked it.”
Through her experiences as Queen Ceres LXXXI, Wolfe has had opportunities to form lifelong connections with the rest of the Buckwheat Festival Royalty Court, inspire and connect with her community, and learn things she will carry with her long after her reign as Queen Ceres has concluded.
One of the greatest lessons of this experience has been witnessing the Buckwheat Festival’s extraordinary impact on not only Preston County natives but also folks throughout the state and beyond.
“I have really liked talking to people in the community and seeing how much the Buckwheat Festival affects people who aren’t even in Preston County,” said Wolfe. “It’s not just a festival that sticks around here. People who have grown up here and moved away come back just for the festival. It’s not just us, it’s important to everyone.”
As a senior at Preston High School, Wolfe is part of the school’s marching and jazz bands, and the National Honor Society, as well as 4-H and the Preston County Livestock Association. She is first in the state for the HOSA – Future Health Professionals Medical Law & Ethics competitive event.