Late last month, a group of energetic young women gathered at the Youth and Ag Building at the Grant County Fairgrounds with a goal - to represent the annual county fair as part of the Fairest of the Fair program.
Kami Schuler, a native of Platteville, was selected to be the 2015 Fairest. “I am excited to be able to promote the Grant County Fair,” Schuler stated. “I want to make connections, network and see what we can do for the fair.”
She was in 4-H for 13 years in which she held many club officer positions and involved with dairy and horse judging, and Out of State Exchange. She competed in the Wisconsin High School Rodeo for four years, and was the Wisconsin Guernsey Princess in 2011 and the National Guernsey Queen in 2012. She received the Outstanding Dairy Exhibitor Award at the Grant County Fair, 4-H Dairy Excellence Award and the James W. Crowley State 4-H Leadership Award. She was also the Platteville Dairy Days Queen in 2008. A member of the UW-Platteville Pioneer Dairy Club and involved with dairy judging, she studied abroad for two weeks in Romania with the School of Agriculture.
Schuler said one of her goals is to get more youth involved in the 4-H program. “ I think we really need to get youth more involved in 4-H,” noting how much of a year-long program it is.
Joining Schuler will be Kendra Jentz, who was selected as Junior Fairest of the Fair. “This is one of our great family traditions around here,” Jentz said of the fair, and being in the fairest program is something that has appealed to her for quite some time. “I have been following this program - the Fairest of the Fair - since I was very little, and I just been wanting to do this since I joined 4-H.”
The daughter of Tom and Julie Jentz of Bloomington, Kendra attends River Ridge Middle School. She is a 4-H member of the Blake’s Prairie Bombers, and has participated in beef, sheep, photography, flowers and arts and crafts projects. She volunteers for Operation Military Kids, church festivals and bible camps.
Competing against Schuler was Becka Craugh, who was the 4-H Queen at last year’s fair. Craugh, a native of Platteville, stated that one of her platforms if she had been chosen was to make sure that young adults knew there was many activities for them at the fair, and that it was not just for younger children.
Competing along side Jentz for Junior Fairest were Ruth Goldwasser, Fennimore, and Riley Quick, Bloomington. Goldwasser wanted to expand on family offerings at the fair, and make sure that healthy kid-friend food and beverage items were available on the grounds. Quick talked about her love for animals and hoped to show those aspects of the fair.
Amy Olson, Grant County Fair Manager, said that the Fairest program offers youth a very unique opportunity to get the experience of public speaking, and to learn to be comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. Olson, who saw her daughter serve as Junior Fairest, felt the experience really helped her daughter grow.
“Being involved in that it gave her a lot of confidence,” Olson said in 2013, noting it made her daughter go up to people and talk about subjects, something younger people may not always be comfortable to do. “I have seen her grow, she is a lot more outgoing,” Olson said.
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. A local effort to rename the position fair ambassador failed a few years ago, which local members of the fair board thought would better represent the post, which involves marketing, public relations, and youth development.
County Board Chairperson Robert Keeney noted the importance of the program, and how much the fair impacted the life of not only himself, but his family. “Its just fun being out with the community,” Keeney of the roles of the fairest, which includes attending many community functions across the county this summer.
Outgoing Fairest of the Fair, Caitlyn Bode, told the candidates how much the post has meant to her for the past year. “What I didn’t expect was what I would learn about myself,” Bode said. “You will learn the most when you least expect it.”
Bode was the first ever Junior Fairest when the position was created in 2010, and said that the opportunities, along with participating in 4H taught her about leadership, and will guide her as she goes into education.
Outgoing Junior Fairest of the Fair, Andraya Ertheum, also shared her experiences about the past year, stating “I always have a great time at the fair.”