2012 Fair Queen Holly Salzbrenner (far left) poses atop the fair float with the 2013 Fair Candidates (from L to R) Brooke Stahlberg, Mackenzie Dietiker, Lillie Beringer, Makenzie Toenjes, and Mindy Salzbrenner. (Photo by Emily Burds)
By Emily Burds, Express Intern
With anticipation in the air, the five Queen finalists for the 2013 Great Jones County Fair gathered in the back room of the Eagles Club lounge Sunday night, July 7, to prepare for an evening of pageantry fun.
This would be the 14th pageant in the fair’s history along with one of the smallest groups of finalists. The pageant itself is a four-part process consisting of a private interview with the judges, a round of rapid-fire questions in formal wear onstage, a costume contest, and an evening gown portion.
The girls went through a workshop and practice to prepare for the pageant, which all the finalists said was a large help in preparing them for the event.
When looking at the evening’s line-up of events, one may wonder how these were chosen to be a part of this fair’s pageant. Marcia Kray, a program director, competed in the Mrs. Iowa competition as a young woman and took what she learned from that experience, carrying it over to this pageant.
“The judges this evening asked why we do a costume contest,” Kray explained to the finalists backstage. “This portion really gives you a chance to talk about something other than yourselves while showing creativity and showmanship. It’s just a great way to show your fun side.” Kray gathered her experience in the costume contest during her time at the Mrs. Iowa pageant where she won the costume contest during her time competing.
As the women sat to wait their turn for their interviews, they talked of the fair and their reasons for being in the pageant.
“I saw the queens at the fair when I was younger and they seemed like good role models so from there, I wanted to be one,” Mindy Salzbrenner explained.
Lillie Beringer looked to her involvement in the rest of the fair saying, “I was involved in everything else. This just seemed like the next step.”
During the interviews, the finalists were asked questions about things such as why they should be Queen, why people should come to the fair, about Iowa’s agriculture and community and even about their favorite things at the fair. Asking the questions this year were judges Abrah Meyer, 2012 Iowa State Fair Queen, Lisa Bay a public relations professional from Cedar Rapids, and Lee Johnson, a farmer and former member of the Jackson County Fair Board, where he resides.
The judges got to see a variety of talent from the ladies as well as get a glimpse into their personalities, which was noted as the most important aspect of the pageant.
“Just be yourself,” Holly Salzbrenner, reigning Fair Queen told the finalists. “Just have a conversation with the judges. Use your voice and your tone to show your personality.” Salzbrenner’s partner-in-crime, Becca Dirks, the 2012 GJCF Princess, added, “They only get like five minutes to know you, so just be yourself and make it count.”
Kray reminded the girls that even if they don’t get the title this year, there is always next year, and the next, as the girls can compete until they are 21.
As the night proceeded, the familiar faces of the Fair Board as well as Fair Manager John Harms, and even a few former queens made appearances. Family members were asked to cheer for their favorite candidate and each girl showed off their bright smile, spunk and new pageant poses in an effort to catch the attention of the judges, who appeared to be having just as much fun.
As Kray said the final thank you’s and the girls filed off the stage, relief shown on their faces as director Linda Kahler met them saying, “That’s it girls. Now we wait.”
And we do, as the results will not be announced until coronation Tuesday, July 16, where the finalists and their families will be onstage at the fairgrounds awaiting the announcement.
All the young women agreed that above all, they wanted to have fun and meet new people while promoting the fair, which was clear they did as all the ladies joked backstage, snapping pictures with each other and fixing outfits and makeup for others. The ladies hope that their journey will inspire others to want to participate in the queen program for future years. In the words of finalist Brooke Stahlberg, “If I can do it, you can do it.”