Andouille royalty crowned

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 8, 2021

LAPLACE — This year’s Andouille Pageant didn’t take place on a stage lit by spotlights, but the contestants still shined brilliantly as they competed to serve as the next ambassadors of St. John the Baptist Parish.

Miss Andouille 2021 Amber Hope Theisges and Teen Andouille 2021 Rylee Madison Moore were crowned Saturday afternoon inside the St. John the Baptist Parish Government Complex. Over the next year, they will represent St. John Parish and the River Region as a whole at a variety of local and state-wide functions, including the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals Queen of Queens Pageant. While representing the culture of the region, the new Andouille Queens will also convene with representatives, senators and other elected officials throughout Louisiana.

Of course, the Miss and Teen Queens will also preside over the St. John Parish Andouille Festival, which is slated to make a highly anticipated return in 2022 following two years of cancellations for COVID-19 concerns.

Andouille Pageant Director Kristina Haydel served as Miss Andouille in 2009, and she understands the importance of the pageant as a beloved community tradition.

“Not having a festival due to the unfortunate circumstances our community is facing was devastating to those of us who have traditions to attend. However, having the opportunity to crown new royalty offered us a small glimmer of light to what we hope is a much brighter future for St. John Parish and our surrounding community,” Haydel said. “This year, we opened the eligibility to compete to all three River Parishes, and I think that also showed growth of our future as a festival. I look forward to seeing where our new royalty will take their crowns and the places they’ll bring the smokin’ good news that the Andouille Festival, St. John and surrounding areas will be back and better than ever.”

Expanding the Andouille Pageant to cover all three River Parishes meant the world to St. James Parish native Amber Hope Theisges. Being crowned Miss Andouille 2021 was a lifelong dream come true and an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her mother, former Miss Andouille Hope Borne.

Amber has previously reigned as Teen Miss Festival of the Bonfires and Teen Miss St. James.

Now 22 years old and a recent graduate of Northwestern State University, Amber strives to be a voice for others even when she’s not wearing a crown.

“I’m currently working at New Sarpy Elementary in St. Charles Parish as a reading interventionist. I struggled as a kid with ADHD, dyslexia and a speech impediment. I want to be a voice to show kids that the struggles you are facing right now are only going to help you grow into an amazing adult,” Amber said.

Amber is excited to represent a region that has captured the same spirit of resilience.

“(In the River Parishes), we are always there for each other, no matter the circumstances. After Hurricane Ida, everyone worked together to get the community back to where it needed to be now and to help it continue to grow in the future,” Amber said. “What I’m most excited for is to have a festival next year and be able to share it with the new queens. I think we’ll have an amazing time with us four getting to showcase something that we’re passionate about.”

Teen Andouille 2021 Rylee Madison Moore has the same passion for representing St. John the Baptist Parish and the River Region.

“I’m mainly looking forward to traveling around the state and representing our parish,” Rylee said. “I’ve always liked the Christmas Eve traditions and the Fourth of July traditions with all the fireworks with people going on the levee and coming together as a parish.”

Rylee is 16 years old and attends Riverside Academy in Reserve, where she is a four-year member of the varsity soccer team. She’s competed in pageants her entire life and previously reigned as Jr. Miss Fisherman in St. John Parish.

“This experience was very different because we usually have the interviews, the onstage portion and then the crowning. This time, we just did interviews. Either way, I still enjoy it, and I’m really excited to represent the parish for the next year,” Rylee said.