Earlier this month, a longstanding tradition continued in celebrating Grant County’s agricultural underpinnings and the next generation that will continue the tradition.
Charisse Orth was crowned the Grant County Fairest of the Fair, and Andrea McDermott was crowned the Junior Fairest of the Fair.
“I remember being excited about it being summer and fair time,” said Orth about her memories of the fair growing up. “This is my turn to give back to the fair.”
A Fennimore native and a senior at UW–Platteville studying Agri-Marketing, Orth is the daughter of Jim and Rhonda Hughey and lives with her husband Derek outside of Stitzer. Orth has been active in the 4–H and FFA programs for many years, and is involved with the Grant County Farm Bureau and Wisconsin Jersey Breeders Association. She is a Global Youth Service Day co-chair, Fennimore FFA Alumni, a 4-H Shooting Sports Leader, and a Stitzer Park Volunteer,
Being Fairest of the Fair appears to be a family thing. Orth’s sister-in-law, Susan, was the county and state Fairest of the Fair. Orth said she plans on getting tips from Susan for the state competition this winter.
Before then, Orth is hoping to help the county fair any way she can. “I am very excited to participate, to gain excitement and grow,” she said.
“I am more excited than I am nervous,” said McDermott about winning the competition for the right to promote the countywide fair this summer, as well as oversee duties during the week-long event in August.
A participant in the fair since she was in first grade — making arts and crafts projects — McDermott said the fair has allowed her to learn many things in the ensuing years. The eighth-grader from Platteville said she learned a number of lessons participating in animal science, the dog project, as well as photography.
The daughter of Jodi and Jay McDermott was the runner-up last year. She said more important to her than winning the competition was to just be able to participate in promoting and participating in the annual fair.
“Winning is not as important as to just have fun,” she said.
Grant County Fair Manager Amy Olson said the Fairest program offers youth a unique opportunity to get the experience of public speaking, and to learn to be comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. Olson saw her daughter serve as Junior Fairest, and she felt the experience really helped her daughter grow.
“Being involved in that, it gave her a lot of confidence,” said Olson, adding it made her daughter go up to people and talk about subjects, something younger people may not always be comfortable with doing. “I have seen her grow, she is a lot more outgoing.”
Despite the success local participants have had in the state Fairest competition — two have served in the top role in recent years — the Fairest of the Fair program has had to deal with a misnomer that it its some sort of beauty/talent competition. Some members of the County Fair Board tried to change the position title to “fair ambassador,” which they thought would better represent the post, which involves marketing, public relations, and youth development.
Orth was the only contestant in the competition this year.
Olson said the Fairest candidates also play an important role in the annual event. McDermott and Orth will go to each of the ongoing summer events, promoting the fair wherever they go. In addition, they work a full week at the fair, handing out trophies, working with sponsors, acting as emcees during a number of events, even helping sell items during the fair.
“They help me out a lot,” said Olson.
For at least one of them, it is an experience she relishes.
“I am really excited to go to the fair every single day,” said McDermott.