Young royalty crowned at second annual pageant

Last week'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.

Attracting a sizable crowd Friday afternoon is a somewhat new event that appears to be establishing itself as part of the local fair's tradition.

The second annual Miss Clay County Fair Pageant, which crowned a junior princess and a princess, was held Friday afternoon, Aug. 13, on the main stage near the Extension building on the fairgrounds.

Receiving the crown as junior princess was Anneliese Taggart, 9, daughter of Tom and Sarah Taggart of Vermillion. First runner-up was Grace Bucklin, 10, daughter of Steven and Stephanie Bucklin. Second runner up was Kennedy Paige Pratt, 8, daughter of Farron and Shellie Pratt. Megan Haselhorst, 9, daughter of Kevin and Amy Haselhorst, was crowned third runner up, and Emily Rolfes, 9, daughter of Mike and Susan Rolfes, was fourth runner up.

Receiving participation awards were Makenna Drueckers, 9, daughter of Scott and Kim Drueckers, Amanda Havermann, 9, daughter of Patrick and Cheryl Havermann, and Makyla Bennett, 9, daughter of Josh and Nicole Bennett.

Jessica Brady, 13, daughter of Jim and Dena Brady, Vermillion, was crowned as Clay County princess. First runner-up was Abby Weiss, 13, daughter of Kevin and Rose Weiss.

Second and third runner-up winners were Casey Druecker, 11, daughter of Scott and Kim Druecker, and Audrey Miiller, 12, daughter of Alan and Tanna Miiller.

Former Clay County 4-H'er Emily Miller of Irene who participated in the 2010 Miss South Dakota USA Pageant in Las Vegas, NV, last June, served as the event's mistress of ceremonies.

The contest began earlier Friday for the participants, as they each were interviewed privately by the pageant's three judges: Tina Ward, Mrs. South Dakota America 2010, Loren Vaillancourt, Miss South Dakota 2010, and Alyssa Hustrulid, Miss Teen South Dakota 2010.

Contestants were also judged on the modeling of sportswear, talent, the modeling of party wear and their ability to answer questions presented to them onstage.

"Since these young people aren't really experienced and they don't know too much about pageants since this was really their first one, you really have to look at their confidence, and how comfortable they are talking to people,Hustrulid said following the pageant. "I think the winners that we picked today were 100 percent all of those things."

"We really looked for personality, too, because we just want them to be themselves, not what they think they should be,Vaillancourt said.

"I was actually very surprised at how mature they were,Ward said of all of the contestants. "I wasn't expecting them to be so mature."

"It was fun because I've done a couple county pageants, and the contestants are nervous about it all first, but once they are interviewed, they get more comfortable with the process, Hustrulid said.

The interview process was lengthy, but the three judges said they attempted to make that portion of the contest enjoyable for all of the participants.

"We didn't want the girls to get too nervous, because usually when you ask them questions at this age, they don't know how to respond,Vaillancourt said, "so we just asked questions to get to know them."

"We asked them everyday questions,Ward said. "We just wanted to see how they answered their questions about everyday life."

It is wrong, she added, to simply stereotype this fairly new feature of the county fair as a beauty contest.

"We know it's not about the beauty. It's how you carry yourself, and what's inside,Ward said.

The three judges admitted they were faced with a difficult challenge when it came time to pick the winners of the pageant.

"They were all very cute, and all a lot of fun to talk to,Hustrulid said. "They were all fun to talk to, so it was very difficult to pick (the winners) today."

"It was very close,Ward said.

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