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Reigning Queen Hannah Isaacs Recalls Favorite Moments at Colorful Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival

By Jamie H. Vaught


Reigning queen Hannah Isaacs (pictured) of the 2014 Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival will be returning to Pineville for the Memorial Day weekend, participating in various activities at the 2015 KMLF.

Currently a student at Somerset Community College (SCC), Isaacs is looking forward to the annual festival.

"I am very excited to return to Pineville," she said recently. "I feel like Pineville is filled with family and when I go back I get to see everyone I love again."

Even before Isaacs became the queen, she also participated at the 2013 KMLF as a princess candidate when she was a senior at Pulaski County High School. (Taylor Blake Grigsby of Middlesboro High was chosen the princess that year.)

"This is how I knew I wanted to come back and be a part of the festival again," she said. "I fell in love with the people of Pineville."

When she was selected the KMLF queen last spring in becoming the first community college student to win the crown, Isaacs had to face a plenty of competition, going against outstanding and beautiful coeds from the state of Kentucky, including the ones from four-year institutions.

"When I was competing for the queen crown last year, I didn’t compare myself to the other girls," said Isaacs, who will be beginning her second year in the physical therapist assistant program at SCC. "Every candidate had a unique story and some of us still keep up with each other. I felt that I had a fair chance just like everyone else."

Isaacs' escort last year was Taylor Gover of Somerset.

"Taylor was the best escort I could’ve asked for," she said. "He kept me laughing the whole weekend, especially when he swam his victory lap in the pond to My Old Kentucky Home."

Isaacs said her favorite activities at the KMLF last season was the Queen's Breakfast at the Pine Mountain State Park and the Gala Parade in downtown Pineville.

"I loved being able to mingle with everyone and wearing a derby hat," she said. "That matched my personality perfectly."

After she gives up her crown to the new 2015 KMLF queen, Isaacs will have another milestone in her life.

"I am getting married soon," she said. "Our big day is June 13th."

Her future husband is Tucker McAlpin, who ironically was purchasing their "soon-to-be" home at auction the same day as the Queen's Coronation last year. Interestingly, he was the escort for Carrie Allison Norris of Pulaski County High in 2011 when she was crowned princess of the festival, according to Isaacs.

"He was lucky enough to purchase the farm and home on the same day I was crowned queen," recalled Isaacs. "It was a great and very blessed day for both of us last year. A day that can never be forgotten."

And Isaacs will be continuing her college education.

"I have one more year there and I will graduate as a Physical Therapist Assistant," she commented. "This time next year I will be preparing for my board exam."

Some of the other popular 2015 KMLF attractions include concert and entertainment (country singer Craig Wayne Boyd) on Thursday, May 21, the Princess Coronation and fireworks (Friday, May 22) and Gala Parade and Queen's Coronation (Saturday, May 23). See complete schedule and other details at KMLF's official Web site on Many photos of 2014 KMLF also can be found on, a growing Kentucky online magazine.

Every year colleges and universities from the state of Kentucky send representatives to the state-wide pageant at KMLF. And the first KMLF queen was Betty Baxter, who represented Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College (now Eastern Kentucky University) in 1931. University of Kentucky currently has the record for most wins by a school and the last one was the 2013 winner Madison McCowan.

The Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival is among Kentucky’s oldest festivals, beginning in 1931. It was established by Mrs. Annie Walker Burns as a means of honoring her well-known ancestor, Dr. Thomas Walker.


Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor of online magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle. He can be reached via e-mail at

Photos by Jamie H. Vaught

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