Festival on the Brazos Queen 2021

By Gretchen Eichenberg

Kate Elizabeth Youens

Kate Elizabeth Youens will be crowned Queen at the Festival on the Brazos Friday, April 23, 2021, alongside Queen Lella Sue McClane Brown and her royal court from 2020. Kate is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jason Thomas Youens. She is granddaughter of Sandy and John Riley Haldeman of Waco and Cookie and Vance Youens of Burnet County.

The kind-hearted, loyal and determined high school senior said she lives by these words from American author and poet Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

After the past year, “how we make people feel” has been at the forefront of  Kate’s thoughts. In a time where many people faced serious illness and communities grappled with social unrest, young people entered a period of  adjustment and also figuring out what is important to them.

“This year taught me how to be flexible and patient with changing life circumstances,” she said, “which I think is an important life skill to have  before going off to college.”

Kate’s hope is that the community and country can have an optimistic outlook, even on the devastating events that have taken place over the past year.

“I think it’s important to try and find the good in negative situations in order to keep a healthy mentality,” Kate said. “Even though it can be tough, I’ve found that when I try to have a positive outlook on situations, I’m happier and always find a solution for whatever the problem may be.”

In that spirit, Kate hopes to be a positive light throughout her reign as Queen of Festival on the Brazos, while cherishing every moment.

“This past year’s events have made me realize that I can’t take anything in my life for granted,” she said. “I have also had to learn to remind myself that God is in control and everything that happens is for a reason, no matter how bad it may seem.”

Love of learning

Kate is a senior at Waco High School where she is a member of National  Honor Society and the mock trial team. She has also enjoyed participating in varsity cheer, varsity soccer, and varsity golf her freshman and sophomore years of high school. She’s a Waco ISD Academic Achiever and an AP Scholar.

Her favorite subject, Kate said, is English.

“I have always just loved getting to read and discuss classic works of  literature with a group of students and a teacher in class. I also enjoy the writing that most English classes entail,” Kate said.

One of her best-loved teachers, Rick Lowe, she just got to know this year.

“Mr. Lowe welcomed me to his class with open arms and made being on the  mock trial team so much fun,” Kate said. “His passion for what he taught combined with his charisma made me look forward to his class every day.”

Another influential educator in Kate’s life is Dr. Scott McClanahan.

“Throughout my time in high school, Dr. McClanahan has provided me with not only tutoring for my AP class and testing,” she said, “but with a peace of  mind that gave me the confidence to reach my goals.”

This fall, Kate will attend the University of Texas in Austin, where she will study in the McCombs School of Business.

“While I like living at home in Waco and being with my family, I’m excited for the new level of independence that I will take on living in Austin,” she said. “I look forward to seeing what my future has in store for me there. I can’t wait to meet so many new people and make lifelong memories.”

Serving her community

Kate enjoys connecting with people, young and old. Ridgecrest Retirement  Center, where she and her mother volunteered through National Charity League, is a place where Kate said she felt a connection while serving.

“I remember meeting the sweetest lady who was 100 years old and listening  to her share some things about her family and past,” Kate said. “Being able to talk and spend time with the residents at Ridgecrest was a rewarding  feeling and has always stuck with me.”

She also has spent time volunteering with the Waco Challenger League, where she met and assisted the athletes who participated in Challenger League sports games.

“Not only did I have fun,” she said, “but I was inspired by the way that these kids did not let their disabilities hold them back from doing what they love.”

Kate said she believes it is important for young people to learn the significance of community service early in life so they can be a future leader and also set an example for others.

“Volunteering at an early age also teaches young people about the  importance of helping others and how to have a good work ethic,” she said.

She has also served the community through her involvement in Symphony  Belles, Teen Leadership Waco and as a Heart of Texas Sweetheart.

Kate is kindhearted and fiercely loyal, said her mother, Jamie.

“She is humble, determined, and has learned that you don’t have to be the best at something to make a difference in this world,” Jamie said. “We love her funny personality and creative mind. She is a beautiful young lady both  inside and out, and has a hard-earned wisdom that will serve her well.”

Work and fun

Outside of school, Kate said she loves hanging out and spending time with  her friends, going out on Lake Waco with her family and friends, spending time out on their family ranch in Clifton, and vacationing together.

“One of my family’s favorite places to vacation is Colorado,” she said. “Most of our summers and winter breaks are spent there, and we particularly enjoy Crested Butte. We also love vacationing anywhere along the 30A Florida coast.”

Kate has attended Camp Longhorn for the past 10 summers.

“I was a camper for nine years and this past summer was my first year to be a counselor,” she said. “I would not be the person I am today without having attended camp for all these years. Some of my best friendships have come from Camp Longhorn.”

A part-time job at Lane’s on Austin keeps Kate busy.

“It’s one of my favorite boutiques,” she said. “I wrap gifts and make deliveries. I love my job at Lane’s because of the awesome ladies I get to  work with. I also enjoy getting to catch up with the customers who come and shop at Lane’s. In addition to my job at Lane’s, I love to babysit for families in Waco.”

After graduation, Kate plans on returning to Camp Longhorn for her 11th summer and also take the annual trip with her family to Colorado with her parents, Jason and Jamie and brothers, John and Camp.

Kate has a black goldendoodle named Lucy and two cats named Lola and Bruiser.

Life in Waco

Growing up in Waco, Kate said she appreciates how close everything is to her home base.

“All of my favorite restaurants are within a three-mile radius of my house,” she said. “The small size and friendliness of those around me make for a constant feeling of comfort living in Waco.”

Favorite spots where you might run into Kate and her friends? Besides Lake Waco, she loves to frequent locally owned restaurants.

“Mamaka Bowls is my favorite place to go for breakfast,” she said. “Their smoothie bowls and iced coffee are amazing. Schmaltz’s Sandwich Shoppe has to be my favorite lunch spot. I also love studying with my friends at the  Common Grounds and Slow Rise out in Woodway. Moroso has delicious appetizers and pizza and it’s always a great idea for dinner.”

The queen’s gown is inspired by the look of crystal cut glass. The hope was to capture in the design the same beauty as a crystal-made object which catches and reflects light. The two-piece dress is made from pure white silk  then sections of the design on the bodice and skirt are covered in an overlay of white and silver 3D tulle of pearl-beaded and silver sequins clusters. The bodice’s feminine oval neckline and basque waist are accented with a clear crystal rhinestone Art Deco geometric design. The bodice’s petal-shaped  sleeves are also trimmed in double layered rhinestone chain. The “crystal” design covering the gown is outlined in double rows of silver rhinestone trim  and then 26 pearl and rhinestone diamond-shaped appliqués are used to accent each diamond-shaped design on the front of the skirt and the train, which extends to a length of 36 inches on the floor. The entire dress is then embellished in almost 1200 hand-placed Swarovski crystals. Designed by  Christi Young, the gown was fabricated by Susie Thennes in her Dallas atelier. Thennes has brought festival gown designs to life for more than two decades.

Making sure everyone feels included and has a great time are some of the reasons Kate said she is looking forward to the Festival weekend.

“The memories that will be made during this weekend are ones that will last a lifetime,” she said. “I’m excited for everyone on the court to meet and connect with each other before we all head off to college. Festival on the Brazos weekend will be the perfect chance for all of us to be able to network with others so that we know people as soon as we get to college.”

It’s a time she’ll most definitely take to heart.

“I’m also hopeful that everyone will form a new appreciation for the city of Waco and all of its history, beauty and traditions,” she said.

Jamie said Kate is up to the task.

“Being a part of the royal court is a huge honor that comes with  responsibility,” she said. “Kate is generous, friendly and loves meeting new people. Serving as an ambassador for Waco allows Kate the opportunity to  share our community’s hospitable nature with our out-of-town families while making new friends. If there’s one thing our family has learned, especially in the last year, it’s that everybody needs community.”

Festival on the Brazos will be a showcase of how much Wacoans care and enjoy all that Waco has to offer.

“I am very honored that I get to represent Waco as Queen of Festival on the Brazos,” Kate said. “Having been born here and lived here my entire life, I will always be able to call Waco home. I look forward to representing my city and welcoming others into it with open arms.”