Callahan Reflects on Past Year at International Rice Festival Queen


Kathryn Shea Duncan

Victoria Marie Callahan has traveled over 10,000 miles and attended more than 80 events as the 82nd International Rice Festival Queen.

Shelby Benoit, Assistant Feature Editor

Victoria Marie Callahan, a 2016 Crowley High graduate, has had a year that only 81 other women have had the honor of experiencing.

Her memorable year as the 82nd International Rice Festival Queen will come to an end this morning when her predecessor is crowned.

Callahan had the opportunity to travel over 10,000 miles and attend over 80 events, including the USA Rice Outlook Conference in San Diego, CA., the 71st Mystic Krewe of Louisianians Mardi Gras Ball in Washington, D.C., and the 120th USA Rice Millers Association Convention in Kona, HI.  “I’ve spent my year as a queen being an advocate for not only the rice industry but also for any allied business within,” she stated. “This festival is filled with the most spirited people and it has been such an honor to represent something so close to my heart.”

Callahan explained the bond that is formed among pageant queens.  “We spend just about every weekend for an entire year with each other attending different events,” she said.

Gabrielle Elise Hebert, the 2018 Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival queen, is one of the friends Callahan has made.   “I would describe Victoria as poised, respectful, passionate, and beautiful on the inside and out.”

The two met when they were both attended the Rayne Frog Festival as visiting queens. “We stood in line next to each other, and I told her that her eyes were beautiful, and we began talking,” explained Hebert.  “She told me that she planned to compete for the International Rice Festival title, and I wished her good luck. Victoria truly cares about the International Rice Festival.”

Hebert and Callahan never competed for the same title, but they do have a similar history in pageantry.  “We both started our journey to our dream title by representing our home cities before we ran for our hometown festivals,” stated Hebert.

The two also traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Mystic Krewe de Louisiana Mardi Gras Ball.  ”Those are where our best memories were spent together We were able to represent our titles on a national level and experience this once in a lifetime opportunity together,” mentioned Hebert.

They also spend time together away from pageant-related events.  “Victoria and I like to go catch lunch together in Crowley because I attend LSUE and often pass that way,” Hebert stated.

Besides Hebert, Callahan also became friends with Orange Queen Blair Jones, 21, who is from Plaquemine Parish.

The two met when Jones was a visiting queen last year at the International Rice Festival, and she watched Callahan capture the crown. 

Jones said many lovely things about Callahan. “Victoria is the most kind-hearted woman I have ever met.  “She always puts others’ feelings and needs above her own. She never fails to put a smile on your face, and her love for the rice industry and the farmers never ceases to amaze me,” stated Jones. 

Callahan also met and became good friends with Fallyn Olivia Gonsoulin, 19, who is from New Iberia.

Although the two met three years ago when Gonsoulin was the 2016 Teen Frog Festival Queen, the two didn’t become close until Callahan became the 82nd International Rice Festival Queen and Gonsoulin won the 46th Miss Frog Festival Queen.

“Victoria is such a genuine, kind and down to earth person who goes above and beyond with everything she does,” stated Gonsoulin.

Callahan and Gousoulin have made many memories together. “One of my favorite memories with Victoria is when I had not seen her in a while.  We were still acquaintances at the time, and she ran into me and gave me a giant hug and asked how I’d been and whatnot,” stated Gousoulin. “She just made me feel so welcome and cared for!”

Shontize Brown was the one who sparked her interest in pageants. “She taught me poise, grace, and confidence,” stated Callahan. 

Brown has helped her with every pageant Callahan has competed in.  “She has supported me in all of my decisions. Shontize helped me find my inner confidence and helped me to be comfortable with speaking in front of large crowds,” stated Callahan.

Callahan explained how her mom reacted when she began competing. “My mom was just nervous because I had never been in that atmosphere before,” said Callahan.  “I have made so many incredible memories and I’m thankful for my family supporting it as much as they did. My family has always been my biggest supporters.”

The first pageant the 21-year-old Callahan entered was for Junior Miss Crowley when she was 12 years old, and she came out the first runner up. She then won Teen Miss Crowley in 2014 and Miss Crowley in 2017.

Callahan enjoyed her reign as Miss Crowley.  “I was able to see new things and learn more about the history and culture that thrives in our city.  Downtown Parkerson has historical buildings that play important prominent roles in the everyday life of Crowley,” stated Callahan.  “I learned that each building has an incredible story and an interesting background.

“I loved my year as Miss Crowley because I was able to really connect with the community and help out as much as I could,” Callahan stated.  

She recalled when she volunteered with the Crowley Rotary Club in the Rise Against Hunger Campaign.  “At this event, we packaged over 10,000 meals for people in foreign countries that were suffering and living in poverty,” stated Callahan.

“Another cool thing I was able to do was to travel to Bridge City, Louisiana where I went on a pontoon tour and fed alligators marshmallows!”

Callahan, who admitted she has bittersweet feelings about giving up her crown, has had a year not many women get to experience.  “I have made tons of life long friendships and memories along the way that will stick with me forever,” she said. “I will always hold on to this festival and all that it offers.”