Here she comes, Miss Clay County Fair First annual pageant keeps large audience entertained By David Lias
Plain Talk This year's Clay County Fair in Vermillion featured tried and true activities that have been a mainstay of the event for years. The Achievement Days 4-H livestock shows, the free musical entertainment, the demolition derby, the ATV mud races and the free community barbecue all went off without a hitch. To the delight of both its participants and its planners, a new event added to the fair experience this year also ran smoothly and drew a significant audience. The first ever Miss Clay County Fair Pageant, which crowned a junior princess and a princess, was held Friday afternoon, Aug. 14, on the main stage near the Extension building on the fairgrounds. Receiving the crown as junior princess was Rachel Brady, 8, daughter of Jim and Dena Brady of Vermillion. First runner-up was Emily Rolfes, 9, daughter of Mike and Susan Rolfes, Vermillion. Second, third and fourth runner-up winners were Makenna Druecker, 8, daughter of Scott and Kim Druecker, Vermillion; Haleigh Melstad, 9, daughter of Brad and Beth Melstad, Wakonda; and Amanda Havermann, 9, daughter of Pat and Cheryl Havermann. Marley Hanson, 12, daughter of Marlon and Pamela Hanson, Vermillion, was crowned as Clay County princess. First runner-up was Jessica Brady, 12, daughter of Jim and Dena Brady, Vermillion. Second, third and fourth runner-up winners were Taylor Lyso, 12, daughter of Evan and Stacy Peterson, Wakonda; Abby Weiss, 12, daughter of Kevin and Rose Weiss, Vermillion; and Casey Druecker, 10, daughter of Scott and Kim Druecker, Vermillion. Former Clay County 4-H'er Emily Miller of Irene who participated in the 2009 Miss South Dakota Pageant in Hot Springs last June, finishing among the top seven of all finalists, served as the event's mistress of ceremonies. Nadeen Peterson, Emily's aunt, helped organize this unique event of the 2009 fair, and credits her niece for introducing the idea to fair officials. "She came up with the idea that we could have a Miss Clay County pageant to try to encourage some involvement at Achievement Days," Nadeen said. It took a bit of scrambling to get everything organized in time for this year's fair. The idea of holding a pageant didn't become reality until mid-summer; word of this event didn't get out to potential participants until late July. "We just started recruiting girls, and at first we weren't sure what ages would be interested," Nadeen said. "But we didn't really want a pageant-type of contest; we wanted to crown a Miss Clay County – someone who would represent Achievement Days and the fair, so we settled on offering this to 8- to 12-year-olds." The morning of pageant, each participant was interviewed by the event's three judges. During the pageant itself, the girls modeled sportswear and party wear, and were judged on talent. Each of these four categories counted for as much as 25 percent of the total score judges could give to each participant. The contestants entertained the pageant audience with singing, dancing, oratory, and baton twirling. "The interview section makes this a little more serious," Nadeen said. "You have to think about what you're doing and you have to think about why you want to do this. The girls also had to think of what they would do for us if they did become the princess." The pageant was a learning experience, she added, for both the contestants and its organizers. "For a first-time shot, I think we did well," Nadeen said. "Our whole thought was that Friday afternoon tends to be hot, long, drawn out period of time (at the fair) and we wanted to think of something that we could do that people could watch, and if they wanted to leave, they could come back and watch again. "As it turns out, I think most people sat in the audience and watched for most of the two hours," she said. "I think the crowd really enjoyed themselves, and I think everything went really well." The pageant is designed to a regular annual event at the fair that organizers hope will be bigger and better each year. "This year, we didn't really know if we would get contestants," Nadeen said. "We did, and we were thrilled about that. We hope that next year, when we host this, there will time to do more, to sign up earlier, and to work on a program. We hope to get to the point that a month before the event, we can have a practice session so that it doesn't take so much organizing the morning of the contest." Rachel and Marley were kept busy at several of the remaining activities during the fair. Wearing their crowns and sashes, they made appearances that night at the demolition derby, and also represented the fair at other activities on Saturday. They likely will make appearances later this year at other community events, including the Dakota Days Parade. "I'm very confident that our junior princess and princess will do a very good job in representing the fair," Nadeen said.