FCHS senior Beyla Walker wins 2018 Miss Florida Seafood Festival title; FCHS junior Kalahn Kent runner-up

After sweeping the interview, and poise and appearance segments of the competition, Franklin County High School senior Beyla Walker was crowned the 2018 Miss Florida Seafood Festival at the Saturday night pageant in the high school auditorium. 

The daughter of Harolyn and David Walker, of Apalachicola, Walker will reign over the upcoming Florida Seafood Festival Nov. 2 and 3. 

"I’ve been to seafood festival my whole life, and just to be up there and hear my name called was definitely a dream," said Walker. "It was a night I’ll never forget." 

Franklin County High School junior Kalahn Kent, daughter of Kristen Kent, of Apalachicola, finished as runner-up, after winning the casual wear portion and finishing second in talent, with a dance routine to the song "O Come to the Altar" by Elevation Worship. 

Franklin County High School junior Destiny Fludd, daughter of Lashanda and Gerald Rheaume, of Apalachicola, won the talent portion, as she performed a dance routine to the song "Natural" by Imagine Dragons." She also finished as runner-up in poise and appearance. 

Port St. Joe High School senior Hailey Gay, daughter of Danny and Crystal Gay, of Apalachicola, finished second in the interview segment, and second in casual wear, and was named Miss Congeniality by the vote of all six contestants. 

Also participating were Franklin County High School juniors Krista Fuller, daughter of Kendra and John Fuller, of Apalachicola, and Takiah Ford, daughter of Tomeika Ford and Kelvin Martin, of Apalachicola. 

Despite a stage lighting glitch that delayed the start of the pageant, emcees Royce Rolstad, from Forgotten Coast TV, and 2017 Miss Florida Seafood Brooke Martina, moved the evening along briskly and happily. 

The six contestants strode gracefully across the stage from their opening routine to the song "Champion" to the evening’s close, their movements choreographed by 2008 Miss Florida Seafood Sara Ward. 

"We went over it until every girl was comfortable with it," said Walker. "She made sure we were having fun and being ourselves. 

"I enjoyed every bit of it," said the newly crowned queen. "And I made a new friend, Hailey Gay. We stayed hours at the school practicing routines. It was great; we were all having fun." 

With pageant coordinator Tress Dameron and 2012 Miss Florida Seafood Christina Collins behind the scenes, the evening proceeded through the contestant introductions, which led to each of the girls answering one of 12 possible questions provided them in practice, and posed them by John Solomon, the festival president. Each was dressed in casual wear, giving the judges an opportunity to judge them on how they handled their speaking role, as well as their outfits. 

Judging once again this year was Shawn Yao, a forensic unit supervisor for the Tallahassee Police Department who has long served in that capacity for the pageant, as well as Ginger Bowden Madden, a distinguished assistant state attorney in Okaloosa County who happens to be the daughter of famed Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden. Joining them this year was Kelsey Peck, a news anchor for WMBB Channel 13 in Panama City. 

After Rolstad introduced the judges, Martina outlined how the judges had given each of the contestants a 10-minute interview earlier in the day, the results of which was a big part of the pageant scoring. 

In the talent portion, Fuller opened with a cheer routine, followed by Fludd’s winning dance and Ket’s runner-up performance. Ford read a motivational poem, followed by Gay performing a speech on her ambition, entitled "Algebra Teacher."

Walker than sang the song "Colors of the Wind," from the soundtrack to the animated feature film "Pocahontas." "I thought ‘What’s going to be a good song for the whole crowd that has a good message?’" she said. 

Following the talent, Martina and Rolstad plugged the sale of festival t-shirts. These shirts, ranging in size from small to 3X, are available for $10 each at all Centennial Bank locations. 

After the judges arrived at their decision, the climactic moment arrived, with Martina taking her final bow, thanking her family, and especially her older brother Brent, who was her King Retsyo, for their support all year long. 

The new queen, who is an honors student and senior class president, glowed as her name was called. 

"The Seafood Festival is a time where our community, along with the tourists, come together to celebrate our rich history in seafood and everything our county has to offer," she said afterwards. "To be a ‘queen’ is to be a woman of excellence and that’s what I strive to be."

Walker, who is eyeing attending Florida A & M University, her mother’s alma mater, to study mass communications, was sponsored by Mount Up Consulting, an education consulting business run by retired Franklin County teacher Elinor Mount Simmons. In her comments, she said she most admires her class sponsor, Jennifer Edwards, "because her capacity to love is unmatched and she is a woman of grace and true poise." 

She said she doesn’t have a name yet to recommend for King Retsyo, but that she know her mom’s family goers back generations in the seafood industry here. 

Walker’s great-grandmother, Essie Mae Giddens, was a crab picker, and her grandfather Bobby Banks, was an oyster shucker and then a fisherman. 

"To be able to represent the community as Miss Florida Seafood is an honor that I hold dear to my heart," she said.