Second Queen to be crowned Indiana Derby Night
On Saturday, July 15, Indiana Grand Racing & Casino will officially crown the second Indiana Derby Queen as a part of A Royal Derby featuring the 23rd running of the Grade III $500,000 Indiana Derby.
On Thursday, June 29, ten contestants gathered at Indiana Grand’s Race Course Clubhouse to compete in the Indiana Derby Queen Preliminary Pageant, and five finalists were selected by a panel of judges to make up the 2017 Indiana Derby Court. Inaugural Indiana Derby Queen Gracie Lyons, from Elkhart, presented each member of the 2017 Indiana Derby Court with an Indiana Derby Court sash and bouquet of flowers.
The finalists were chosen with an emphasis on speaking ability, poise and personality, as well as their performance in swimsuit and evening gown portions of the pageant. The selected contestants will make personal appearances during the Indiana Derby festivities on Friday, July 14 at the Royal Derby Feast Fest and Saturday, July 15 at A Royal Derby. The finalists, who are all Indiana residents, are:
- Laura Elliott of New Palestine
- Elizabeth Lecher of Lebanon
- Kambria Moncrief of Muncie
- Gretchen Reece of North Vernon
- Imani Woodson of Indianapolis
The 2017 Indiana Derby Queen will be crowned on Saturday, July 15 at 8 p.m. as a part of the festivities surrounding the 23rd Running of the Grade III $500,000 Indiana Derby – Indiana’s richest horse race. The winning contestant will receive $5,000 and serve as a representative for the Indiana Derby throughout the state of Indiana. Additionally, the first runner up will be awarded $2,500 and the second runner up will receive $1,000. The people’s choice winner will receive $500.
The preliminary event was hosted by Nancy Ury-Holthus, Indiana Grand’s on-air racing personality, and well-known Indianapolis TV and radio broadcaster Paul Poteet. The Derby Queen preliminary pageant panel of judges consisted of Shelby County Chamber Executive Director Julie Metz, Indiana State Representative Sean Eberhart, Mrs. Indiana 2016 Zarah Skelton, Ms. Indiana Plus America Gloria Turner, and pageant expert Barb Waechter.
“As a judge participating in the second annual Indiana Grand Derby Queen Pageant, I was impressed by the young ladies participating in this event. They were poised, well-spoken, and full of personality and determination,” said Julie Metz, Shelby County Chamber’s executive director. “All of these contestants would represent Indiana Grand Racing and Casino and the community well. Their drive and aspirations are an inspiration. Best wishes to each of these contestants. I have no doubt they have successful futures waiting for them.”
Elliott, a first time pageant participant, stated she was surprised and grateful to be selected.
“Being a part of this court means I have the chance to connect with the community and the individuals involved with the Indiana Derby. I am able to learn more about the traditions of the Indiana Derby, as well as Indiana Grand Racing & Casino. This was my first pageant experience and I have gained not only friendships and connections, but confidence and strength,” said Elliott. “The thing I most look forward to would be the opportunity for personal growth, and to develop my communication skills. Being given the ability to speak with individuals from all over about the Derby, and connect with community members is an experience I will cherish.”
Lecher gained her position on the court with a strong love of the racing industry. Lecher grew up watching horse racing and is excited to be chosen as a semi-finalist.
“I’m honored to stand beside the other four amazing women and be a part of the 2017 Indiana Derby Court. For me, it’s an opportunity to help represent an industry that I have grown up in and have been a part of my whole life. The equine industry is full of amazing organizations with numerous possibilities and I can’t wait to help represent the Indiana Derby and Indiana Grand,” said Lecher. “All of my life I have loved watching racing, but nothing compares to Derby Day and being on the Indiana Derby Queen Court!”
Finalist Moncrief took her spot on the court exhibiting a strong sense of community. Moncrief expressed she is happy to be a part of the Derby Queen Court alongside the four other semi-finalists.
“I am looking forward to taking part in the Indiana Derby activities for the first time in my life. I’ve always wanted to, but it wasn’t something that my family was able to do in the past,” said Moncrief. “I am ecstatic to be in the atmosphere and bring my own flair to it. I am ready to mingle and meet new people, while spreading the platform that I would be working with if I were to be chosen as the 2017 Indiana Derby Queen. I can’t wait to see what the Derby is all about. But, I most look forward to spending more time with the rest of the court!”
Reece was selected as a semi-finalist by preparing for the competition with a display of confidence. Reece is a life-long Indiana resident with a background in the horse racing industry.
“Never in my life have I found something that pushes you the way pageant preparation will. It takes mental toughness, intense character development, and quite simply confidence of the highest degree. I have the potential to speak on a larger scale about why this particular pageant is capable of doing amazing things for the young women of Indiana if they’re willing to work for the chance,” said Reece. “As a member of the 2017 Indiana Derby Court I plan to take advantage of meeting every individual who supports the Derby, as well as the pageant. It’s so important to realize where these opportunities originate and graciously thank those individuals for their hard work and generosity. It’s easy to take things like this pageant for granted, but behind the curtain someone is always working hard to provide more opportunities for young women like myself.”
Woodson’s road to the pageant started with a desire for personal growth and an opportunity to be a role model. Woodson is a college student who is dedicated to helping others and advancing her future possibilities.
“For the last four years I’ve made it a priority that I find a way to grow as a person, while at the same time help others and be a role model. Participating in the 2017 Indiana Derby Pageant was just another way of doing so. Making it to the court gives me that opportunity and takes me one step closer to earning scholarships for school,” stated Woodson. “I am looking forward to going to the events and meeting so many people. I can speak to other women, both young and old, and remind them that there is no one else like them, and they can do anything they put their mind to.”
“Our finalists have inspired us with their poise and personality, and we’re excited to learn who will be named the 2017 Indiana Derby Queen and represent the Indiana Derby throughout the state. On behalf of the entire Indiana Grand team, we wish each of our finalists the very best of luck,” said Jahnae Erpenbach, Indiana Grand’s senior vice president and general manager of gaming.