For one young Johnson County resident, summer is about to get a lot more hectic.

She’ll be up before dawn helping promote the first day of the Johnson County 4-H and Agricultural Fair. Every 4-H competition and livestock show will be her domain, helping to congratulate the winners and pass out ribbons.

When there are no competitions to attend, she’ll meet fairgoers, shake hands and serve as the ambassador for all of 4-H and the fair.

The Johnson County fair queen pageant is regularly a centerpiece of the annual event. Young women from across the county vie for the chance to represent their community while helping to make the fair one of the county’s signature events.

“They’re the face. They’re the ones that people will recognize and will represent what this year’s fair is about,” said Valli Shattuck, chairwoman of the fair queen pageant.

This year’s competition includes 15 young women. They come from all of the county high schools and represent a wide range of interests and specialties in 4-H.

But they also share some aspects.

The most important thing a fair queen contestant can have is excellent interactions with the public.

“The absolute must is to be open to the public. We want them to be knowledgeable of the fair, but the main thing is to put themselves out there and be ambassadors of the fair,” Shattuck said.

The pageant is regularly one of the best-attended events of the fair and is the unofficial start of a week of activities.

“It’s always been a big part of our county fair because it gives our girls a chance to get some experience in interviews and helps them gain confidence,” Shattuck said. “They can take that into their future, with job interviews and college interviews. It gives them a base on how to approach those things.”

“We want them to walk away with experiences and confidence to be able to do that,” Shattuck said.

Contestants need to learn how to prepare, speak with clarity and dress properly for an interview.

They learn public speaking and practice their speeches repeatedly. They serve as role models for the younger female 4-H’ers.

Those qualities lay the foundation for a good fair queen, Shattuck said.

“Once they’re crowned, they’re looked at by all ages as a leader on the fairgrounds,” she said.

In order to enter the fair queen pageant, competitors need to be part of 4-H or another such as a church group or Girl Scouts, fill out the necessary entry form and secure a sponsor.

The sponsor covers the $50 entry fee. Though parents can be an entrant’s sponsor, Shattuck said, organizers try to encourage the participants to look to local businesses and community leaders to help.

“We want them to reach out to other people, so that they get experience dealing with people that way as well,” she said.

Three workshops are conducted to prepare the competitors for the pageant, working on their speaking skills, poise and how the event will unfold.

They practice on-stage questions, work on making the confident walks and turns that they’ll be expected during the pageant, and get tips on their formal and professional wear.

“We go over all of that with them and check their outfits for them,” Shattuck said.

All of the work contestants put into the pageant is nothing compared to what the winner will be responsible for during fair week. The fair queen’s first order of business is to start publicity for the fair at 7 a.m. the day after the pageant.

She and her court are expected to pass out ribbons at all of the livestock events, and when they’re not busy with that, the representatives are walking the midway, appearing at grandstand events and stopping in the exhibit halls.

“Anywhere they’re needed, that’s where they are,” Shattuck said. “They have very long days, from early in the morning to late at night.”

After the fair is over, the queen’s responsibility doesn’t end. She will participate in community events, such as reading to children at the local libraries, helping with area fundraisers and judging talent shows. She also will be Johnson County’s entrant in the Indiana State Fair queen contest.

Fair queen bios

Kourtni Strahla

Hometown: Greenwood

Age: 18

School: Senior at Greenwood Community High School

Grandparents: Rick and Ronda Strahla

Allison Lyon-Murphy

Hometown: Greenwood

Age: 18

School: Freshman at IUPUI

Parents: Scott and Vickie Lyon

Samantha Morris

Hometown: Franklin

Age: 18

School: Freshman at Purdue University

Parents: Bruce and Lori Morris

Sami Jo Hart

Hometown: Greenwood

Age: 18

School: Freshman at University of Southern Indiana

Parents: Mike and Keri Hart

Julia Smith

Hometown: Bargersville

Age: 18

School: Freshman at IUPUI

Parents: Debra and Jamie Smith

Annie Richardson

Hometown: Bargersville

Age: 17

School: Senior at Roncalli High School

Parents: Amy and Rob Richardson

Allison Rice

Hometown: Franklin

Age: 19

School: Sophomore at DePauw University

Parents: Julie and Glenn Rice

Katie Giddens

Hometown: Franklin

Age: 18

School: Freshman at Weber State University

Parents: Scott and Beth Giddens

Jaclyn Campbell

Hometown: Franklin

Age: 18

School: Freshman at University of Florida

Parents: Jeff and Janet Campbell

Michaela Smith

Hometown: Trafalgar

Age: 18

School: Freshman at Missouri Valley College

Parents: Mark and Shelly Smith

Katie Ott

Hometown: Franklin

Age: 17

School: Senior at Franklin Community High School

Parents: Brad and Kristi Ott

Madison Duke

Hometown: Greenwood

Age: 20

School: Sophomore at IUPUI

Parents: Lance and Melissa Duke

Bre Belden

Hometown: Morgantown

Age: 19

School: Sophomore at Missouri Valley College

Parents: Rhonda and Joe Belden

Kaylee McCracken

Hometown: Greenwood

Age: 18

School: Freshman at Purdue University

Parents: Rick and Susan Stephens

Allyssa Giddens

Hometown: Whiteland

Age: 18

School: Senior at Whiteland Community High School

Parents: Patrick and Jennifer Giddens

If you go

What: Miss Johnson County Queen Contest

When: 7 p.m. July 19

Where: Indoor Arena of the Johnson County fairgrounds in Franklin

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.