CLEARFIELD – Eleven young women will contend for the crown at the 28th annual Clearfield County Fair Queen competition. All of the contestants, but one, were in attendance for a banquet Sunday evening at the Expo II Building at the fairgrounds.
Reigning Fair Queen Abby Jamison of Luthersburg will crown the new queen Sunday, July 31. The fair queen competition will get under way at 4 p.m. at the grandstand stage at the 156th Clearfield County Fair.
Last year’s second runner-up, Emily Andrulonis of Treasure Lake; third runner-up, Cassandra “Cassie” Folmar of Luthersburg; and fourth runner-up Rachel Duke of Clearfield will all return to the competition.
Cassie Folmar is also the younger sister of 2014 Fair Queen Chelsea Folmar. Chelsea Folmar will be on-stage for the competition as a co-host with Master of Ceremonies Bob E. Day.
Other 2016 contestants include: Reilly Brown of Houtzdale; Jayna Vicary, who was not present due to a prior commitment; Madison Havrilesko of DuBois; Diane Thompson of Clearfield; Haylee Stuckey of Clearfield; Christen Wisor of Mineral Springs; Ronni Berlin of DuBois; and Hali Murray of DuBois.
Rachel Carr Davidson, fair queen committee member, provided an overview of the fair queen competition. It closely resembles the Pennsylvania State Fair Competition, at which the newly-crowned queen will represent the Clearfield County Fair.
According to her, contestants have already completed the first segment of the competition, a personal essay on what the fair means to their community. The day-of the competition, they will appear for a personal interview with the panel of judges.
Judges will ask contestants about topics related to the fair and agriculture as well as the contents of their personal biography, she said. Judges will also get to observe the contestants in a social setting at a reception, which also occurs at the state competition.
And then on-stage, contestants will compete in a timed three- to five-minute speech on why people should come to their fair and an evening gown/personal introduction. Once judges select a Top 5, those contestants will advance to answer an impromptu question.
The guest of honor at the banquet was Zach Gihorski of the Department of Agriculture and who is also the Pennsylvania fair coordinator. He spoke on the importance of agriculture and fairs and for fair queens to be ambassadors for both.
According to him, Pennsylvania is “unique in the fair world.” It has 67 counties and of those, 61 counties have a fair. In fact, he said some counties – namely Lancaster County – have seven fairs, which makes Pennsylvania the home of 109 fairs.
“It speaks to the value and tradition of Pennsylvania agriculture,” said Gihorski. He noted Pennsylvania is also the home of the oldest fair in America – York County – which has been around 250 years and the longest consecutive running fair – Jacktown in Greene County – at 150 years.
“When you start talking 100, 150 years, it means the women of the fairs stepped up during World War 1, World War II and Vietnam, and said ‘we are having a fair no matter what. It speaks to the quality of the people associated with your fairs here.”
So far as being young ambassadors, he told the fair queen contestants that all of the people at the banquet were there for them. “We believe in you. We believe you are the future of agriculture and that it’s your responsibility to be a voice,” he said.
He called attention to a unique fact related to agriculture in Clearfield County. Since 2007 there has been an increase in the number of farms and in farmland. He said, “That’s not the trend. Being the voice of agriculture in this county, the agricultural hub …. That’s a luxury other counties don’t have.”
Gihorski closed with this message to the fair queen contestants. “It’s the people in life who finished last but then figure out how to become first who change this world.” He encouraged them to figure out how to not just be first in the fair queen program, but also in their academics, careers and life.
Later in the program, Jamison, “a soon-to-be has been,” shared she wouldn’t change a thing about her reign as queen. She told the fair queen contestants that they would embark on a journey on which they’d gain the incredible support of the Fair Queen Committee and Fair & Park Board.
She encouraged them to learn about agriculture, Pennsylvania’s No. 1 industry, and to become an advocate for it. “I fell in love and you will, too,” she said. “Remember, life begins at the end of your comfort zone. I am so glad I did it. This has opened so many doors for me to do things I would have never dreamed of.”