Ashton Arnett was crowned the 2017 Junior Fair Queen at the Champaign County Fair on Sunday, a year after finishing runner-up to Kylie Detwiler.
Overcome by emotion at the podium, Arnett was barely able to stammer out a heartfelt “thank you” in a stunned acceptance. After she had a chance to collect herself, Arnett was able to articulate why the honor was so important to her.
“Every year at the fair, I’d be sitting in my box seat and I’d be waiting for Sunday to come so I could see all the girls in their pretty dresses,” she said. “I dreamed of being the fair queen. I’m so glad it finally happened and it means the world to me. I’m so excited.”
First runner-up was Kayleigh Metz, a year after finishing as second runner-up. Second runner-up was Lauran Barthauer. There were 10 candidates this year, with an essay centered around the topic “How has your involvement in the Champaign County Fair better prepared you for the future?”
The daughter of Tiffany and Greg, Arnett is active in 4-H and is a senior at Graham High School. She has held multiple administrative positions within her 4-H club and has been recognized for both her academic and athletic achievement while at Graham.
Her special interests include 4-H, running, swimming, choir, musical theater and learning new things.
“In my leisure time I enjoy going on outdoor runs and swimming. I am also an avid seamstress and enjoy being with my 4-H market lambs in the barn. When I’m in school, I enjoy attending school functions and working with the National Honor Society,” Arnett said in her application.
In the coming year, the new queen will travel the state and represent the county at other fairs.
Queen Ashton Arnett’s application essay
“Throughout the seventeen years of my life I am proud to say I have never missed our county fair. The fair has not only became a special place to myself and my family but it has taught me many valuable life lessons. Although I may not remember my first few years at the Champaign County Fair that has not stopped it from impacting my life. I started my adventures at the fair as a spectator, and have grown into the exhibitor I am at the moment and the supporter I will soon be in a few short years. I have been lucky enough to help in the ring as a Jr. Sheep Council member, take tickets for the Jr. Fair Board, and present my projects to those who attend the fair whether it be on the style revue stage or in the sheep arena. It is no question that there have been many things I’ve picked up from the fair that will prepare me for my future.
Before I was old enough to show myself I often got to help my cousins prepare their animals, and as each year passed I grew more excited and determined to one day be in that same ring as my family members before me. However these years weren’t for nothing they taught me patience, that in no time it would be my turn. I had already began to build friendships with the other kids, we all were waiting for our turns and I was glad to be able to soon share the fun with them. The fair was a melting pot, it was not just the kids from my small rural school district, they were from all over the county. It was all over the grounds where I learned the importance of friendship and where I would build bonds to last me forever.
Third grade finally arrived and I was eligible to participate in the fair myself and I was more than ecstatic. I have been able to take many different projects but sheep and sewing have remained my favorites. The yearly style show held on the Saturday of the fair taught me to have confidence in my own skin and to be myself. However it was the show barn where I have learned the most. Taking livestock to the fair not only taught me the importance of hard work, responsibility, and determination it also taught me gratitude. Gratitude towards the winners for working so hard and to those who may not have won but still came up to shake your hand. It has never ceased to bring me joy to see the smile on a fellow exhibitor with your hand extended to congratulate them. I also was very grateful towards my family and fellow club members for helping me prepare and cheering me on ringside. However, showing market animals at the fair also means choosing one to put through the sale at the end of the week. One of the harder decisions I have to make as I have spent so much time working with and growing to love these animals. Getting rid of them is always difficult. While this is just a minor loss that I have to go through it really has put me into perspective of what happens in the real world.
Another thing that I feel has helped prepare me for the future is being a member of the Jr. Fair Board. This year will mark my second year on the board and I am continuously learning important skills. Putting on a fair is not only about making sure everything runs smoothly it is also about pleasing those who attend it. While watering the show ring and selling tickets are part of the job, my responsibilities stretch far beyond that. As a board member I am a guide assisting fair goers in the direction they want to go, and also a role model to all the younger kids. Being a member of the Jr. Fair Board has given me important leadership skills that I will use in the future and also has dramatically increased my respect for all those who help make the fair what it is. I have also been very lucky to meet many people at the fair who I would not even have to hesitate to ask for help in the future whether it be recommendation letter or just life advice. Getting to know so many wonderful people who enjoy the fair just as much as I do will help me so much in the future.
There are a lifetime of important lessons to be learned at the Champaign County Fair and I know that I will continue to take them in. Words cannot express how eternally grateful I am that I have been able to attend the fair and learn these skills to help me in the future. If I were to go into extreme detail how much these lessons have helped me this essay would take hours to read. I am happy to say that it is not just life lessons that I have learned at the fair it is lifelong memories and stories that I will continue to share for the rest of my life. The fair has given me so much from friendships to leadership skills and I am truly thankful. As I could not think of a better place to grow and to prepare for my future than the Champaign County Fair. There is no doubt in my mind that these skills will help me to become successful and for that I extend my deepest thank you’s to all those who have helped me and help to make the fair what it is so that others, too, can obtain what I have throughout the years.”
Others honored at ceremony
Other awards presented at Sunday’s event included:
4-H Girl of the Year: Emily Wilson
4-H Boy of the Year: J.P. Kent
4-H Advisor of the Year: Mary Rose
FFA Girl of the Year: Mallory Caudill
FFA Boy of the Year: Trace Smail
Mark Sommers Memorial Award recipients Garrett Stickley and Summer Doty.
See more on these awards in the Tuesday edition of the Daily Citizen.