The first order of business for the 2017 Franklin County 4-H Fair is the selection of a queen and her court to preside over the July 17-22 event, a process that's well underway and culminates with this Sunday's (June 25) pageant at Franklin County High School.
Six Brookville area teenagers and dedicated 4-H'ers are in the final preparation stage before vying to accept the crown from reigning Queen Madison Payne.
In their quest for the title, the sextet are not lacking for an experienced support system. Pageant coordinator Dana Hornung is now in her 21st year of involvement. Alongside her is Becky Schwab, with 20 years under her belt. Additional group mentors include former queens Payne, Kelly Kolb and Molly Schwab, as well as Chris Ross, Jennifer Kolb, Charla Payne and Allie Cochran.
"We all take part in different jobs and different roles to get it to all come together," Hornung said of preparations.
Prior to the main event, the girls will rehearse from 4-7 p.m. Thursday at FCHS' Lew Wallace Auditorium. Practice will involve going over their stage walks and individual presentations.
Although participation requirements differ from Hoosier county to county, as Hornung explained, the one constant for Franklin's contest (beyond age requirements) is each contestant must be involved with 4-H in some capacity. That's no hindrance for the current group – Makayla Ball, Alexa Brehm, Shelby Kolb, Ashlie Raible, Victoria Volk and Clare Weidner – with dozens of 4-H years among them, not to mention numerous county and statewide awards.
Sunday's itinerary starts at 3 p.m., when each girl will sit for a 5-minute solo interview with each of the evening's three judges (two women and one man, all out-of-county residents). The pageant will begin in the auditorium at 6:30 p.m., followed shortly by a 3- to 5-minute introductory speech from each of the six entrants. There will also be a Mini 4-H Princess Contest and intermission entertainment provided by local Dixon Dancers.
When the contestants return, they will be asked to come to the front and answer impromptu questions for the audience. This year's event will also feature a special guest: reigning Indiana State Fair Queen Becca Lax, Vanderburgh County.
Once the court is announced, the real work is just around the corner, according to Hornung.
"Basically, they'll work their tails off," she said, referring to county fair duties. "They will hand out ribbons and interact nonstop with people, inviting them to grandstand events, thanking them for coming and telling them of upcoming fair events."
Payne recalled fondly her time in the 2016 spotlight.
"It is so much fun," she said. "We had a ball that whole week and it's really like a huge bonding session. We hung out, got our nails done, went to different shows and events. You get to see all the people of Franklin County come together for a 4-H event that we're all really happy to be a part of."
This year's queen will be invited to the Indiana State Fair (Aug. 4-20) during state fair queen day and must face the elements for the Indiana State Fair Queen Pageant in January 2018.
But the journey starts Sunday and the public is encouraged to attend the free event.
"We'd love to invite everybody come out and watch," said Hornung. The contest is expected to wrap up by 9 p.m.
Who the contestants are
Parents: Eric and Jalena Ball
School: 2017 Franklin County High School graduate and incoming Ivy Tech Community College student
Activities: 10-year member of Blooming Grove Tigers 4-H Club, Core 40 recipient, Bleacher Bums, hunting, fishing, caring for sheep and hogs
Future plans: study nursing to obtain her nurse practitioner degree
Sponsor: Rosebud Village
Parents: Jeff and Rosa Brehm
Residence: Cedar Grove
School: 2016 Brehm Academy graduate and Penn Foster College student
Activities: 10-year member of Rockdale Ranchers 4-H Club (4-H honors include 19 Grand Champions, three-time Outstanding Fair Achievement award, overall 4-H Achievement award, State Fair Achievement trip to Washington, D.C., Chicago Achievement Trip, Purdue Science workshops, Junior Leader states conference, State Fair Youth Leadership Conference and Franklin County Farm Bureau 4-H Tenure Award), youngest rostered skater with the Cincinnati Rollergirls and first rookie to skate varsity, sewing, sheep herding
Future plans: to graduate with a degree in veterinary technology, as well as build her flock and master roller derby.
Sponsor: Franklin County 4-H Trapmasters Shotgun Shooting Sports Club
Parents: Elmer and Lori Kolb
Residence: West Harrison
School: 2017 Franklin County High School graduate and incoming Eastern Kentucky University student
Activities: Mustangers 4-H Club (high point champ), East Franklin Flyers 4-H Club (president), Junior Leaders (president), FFA (chapter and district president, state officer candidate, outstanding leader award), National Honor Society secretary, Hoosier Girls State delegate, children's church teacher, MCATZ (Mentoring Wildcats), Dekalb Award, SOAR conference counselor, Franklin County Farm Service Agency volunteer, cheerleading, barrel racing, working with horses, babysitting
Future plans: to major in agriculture business and build a program technician career at an FSA office. She also wants to breed quarter horses for working cattle and raise kids who share her love of ag and animals.
Sponsor: Owens Corning
Parents: Rick and Vickie Raible
School: 2017 Franklin County High School graduate and incoming University of Indianapolis student
Activities: 10-year member of Mustangers 4-H Club (4-H honors include state Grand Champion in public speaking, Reserve Grand Champion for halter horse, Mustanger Sportsmanship Award, high point in English riding), class salutatorian, Student Council, National Honor Society, Hoosier Girls State delegate, LifeSmarts captain, MCATZ board member, FCHS dance captain, varsity track (academic all-conference), Eli Lilly Endowment and Safety Smart Ambassador scholarships, Digital Citizenship Award, top student in AP psychology, AP U.S. history, speech and Biology 2, volunteer (Special Olympics, Ag Day, 4-H Fair, Humane Society), church youth group, horseback riding, farming, gardening, fishing, dog fostering
Future plans: to major in nursing to become a pediatric physical therapist, working with both children and animals. She'd like to own a show pig business and open an animal sanctuary.
Sponsor: Mustangers 4-H Club
Parents: Steve and Sharon Volk
Residence: Cedar Grove
School: 2017 Franklin County High School graduate and incoming Kettering College student
Activities: 4-H and Teen Camp counselor as well as club president (4-H honors include nine Grand Champions, several Reserve Grand Champions and Division Champion and State Fair awards; also a Chicago Achievement Trip recipient), Junior Leaders, church server and Eucharistic minister, FCHS Key Club, Academic Team, National Honor Society, MCATZ, varsity soccer and tennis (two-time Academic All-State), swimming, babysitting
Future plans: to obtain degrees in radiologic technology and advanced imaging, followed by a doctorate in radiology
Sponsor: Brookville IGA
Parents: Ray and Lyn Weidner
School: Oldenburg Academy senior
Activities: Highland Hoosiers 4-H Club, 4 Paws Dog Club member, Brookville's Pregnancy Help Center volunteer, OA soccer (junior varsity MVP) and basketball, CYO volleyball, OA spring musical, Champions Together, Campus Ministry, World Language Club, Adopt-A-Sis, Junior Leaders, Indiana State Fair Dog Show (placed), babysitting
Future plans: to attend Mount St. Joseph University and become a neurological physical therapist
Sponsor: 4 Paws Dog Club