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Field of 4-H fair queen hopefuls prepare for pageant competition

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In life, it’s always good to have a coach in your corner. It’s also true when you are trying to become the next fair queen.

Indiana State Fair Queen Alyssa Garnett recently gave some advice to the 17 young women who are competing for the title of Bartholomew County 4-H Fair Queen.

She visited with local contestants June 17 at the county fairgrounds to offer tips on how to approach the competition.

Part of that is helping the contestants embrace who they are, Garnett said.

“My favorite part about educating the (potential) fair queens would definitely be trying to get them to become more outgoing and let them know that they are a queen in someone’s eyes, whether or not they win,” Garnett said.

Garnett’s visit to Bartholomew County is part of a tour where she is meeting county pageant contestants around the state. The Bartholomew County Fair Queen competition will be at 7 p.m. Sunday at Columbus North High School auditorium.

The state fair queen’s tips are something local assistant queen committee member Annie Romine said will help local contestants a great deal.

“She was very down to earth, and I think the girls can appreciate that,” Romine said. “My hope for them is that now they’re not as intimidated about the whole process because she was herself, and hopefully they will be themselves.”

As Garnett explained to the contestants, it’s not just about the appearance or the outfit in this competition — professionalism, poise and on-the-spot thinking is evaluated.

Garnett coached the contestants about how to handle the four-minute, private interview in front of a panel of judges, how to prepare for the on-stage question and how they will be judged when modeling professional wear and evening gowns.

Bartholomew queen candidate Abby Hunnicutt said she was most worried about the interview because that’s what the judges base their decisions most heavily on, she said.

“I know one year they said she (the pageant winner) had it won after the interview before she even stepped on stage,” Hunnicutt said.

Eye contact and smiling are always a good way to start the interview, Garnett advised.

The state fair queen performed two impromptu mock interviews in front of the local contestants, one good and one bad, to show the contestants what an interview should — and shouldn’t — look like.

The contestants laughed at the “bad” interview, watching Garnett playing with her hair, staring at the floor, and giving one word and outlandish answers to pretend questions.

In the “good” interview, however, Garnett showed off her manners and professionalism by giving detailed and well-thought-out answers to each question and never breaking eye contact with the judges.

“I learned (from Garnett) that first impressions really do make a difference and that you should always carry yourself in a way that you would want anyone to remember you,” county fair queen contestant Mallory Myers said.

The interview is what “makes it or breaks it,” said candidate Kayla Sharp.

“I’m getting more prepared for my interview this year. They gave us a packet of questions to look over and me and my mom sit down every night and I have her ask me the questions and I answer them back to her,” Sharp said.

In pre-pageant activities, the contestants have been rehearsing a choreographed dance number they will perform and have bonded as they have gotten to know each other.

“When I first thought of the pageant I thought of the movie ‘Miss Congeniality’ where everybody gets all (dolled) up and has to watch their weight,” fair queen hopeful Kaytlin Huffman said. “Nobody here is worried about that. Everybody just wants to have fun. We are all one big group.”

The contestant chosen as the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair Queen will be responsible for attending all events during the fair, which begins July 4. The new queen will be accompanied by members of the queen’s court —although queen’s court members might separate into groups to make sure a representative attends each event.

And for this year’s winner in Bartholomew County, there will be changes later this year in how the new state fair queen is selected.

For the first time, the newly-crowned county queens will not compete in the State Fair pageant during the fair in August. Instead, county queens will now compete for the title of Miss Indiana State Fair during a three-day event in January 2015.

The pageant, scheduled for Jan. 2 to 4, will feature preliminary rounds open to the public and housing for the contestants on the fairgrounds — both firsts for the State Fair Queen Pageant.

But before thinking about a state competition, the contestants must take all of Garnett’s coaching and go for the title Sunday, something that contestant Kelcie Davie said is a little bit easier because of Garnett’s advice.

“I’ve just learned a little bit more about myself and I’ve become more open,” Davie said. “I have more confidence in myself now.”

Garnett said confidence is key, as well as being genuine and honest.

“The main thing they should focus on is being true to themselves and not trying to conform to something that they think they should be,” Garnett said. “Just really show the judges who they are and their personality.”

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