KENDALLVILLE — On Sunday, Noble County’s fair queen skipped a dress in favor of a pink Miss Noble County T-shirt tucked into a pair of jeans.
Considering that at most fairs, you’ll find Sierra Gonzalez in a show ring exhibiting her much-loved turkeys or just about any other animal you can think of, this year’s queen is no stranger around the fairgrounds in July.
Gonzalez, of York Township, was crowned this year’s Miss Noble County Fair, albeit in a circumstances a little different from most years. This fair, she was the only candidate who stepped up to compete for the crown, as participation in the annual fair pageant has dwindled in recent years.
But don’t start to think she’s queen by default — Gonzalez has a lot of fair cred to back up the title.
Last week, she was named Noble County’s Tops in 4-H, but also an Indiana Farm Bureau Tenure Award. Each year in 4-H, she has about 15-plus projects to show. And this year, she really wants to help promote the program and get more younger women interested in the fair queen contest for the future.
“It’s definitely going to be a good experience, I’ve already had a lot of girls come up and say ‘Oh, you’re the queen?’ It’s great being a role model to little girls, so that’s a big thing for my entire week,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve always had about 15-16 projects, so I’ve always been here all week and one of my big ones is being in poultry. I love my turkeys.”
In between competing — the crown comes off in the show ring, by the way — Gonzalez said she looks forward to getting around to as many shows as possible to help pass out ribbons and awards.
In the past, the queen usually had a court of four other women, so she’ll be shouldering a bigger load.
“I’m honestly looking most forward to going to shows and actually being able to pass out ribbons and be in the ring with these younger members,” she said.
She’ll have a little help, though, as this year Noble County also launched a fair princess contest for women under 18 years old. Isabella Peterson is the first-ever princess and will be around to help Gonzalez out.
“I want to get to go to the different shows as well and pass out ribbons, I love meeting younger people and helping them figure out where they’re at and where they’re supposed to get to,” she said. “I’m mostly just excited to get to meet everybody.”
Peterson, a five-year 4-H member who shows rabbits and goats and does sewing, also was the only candidate for the new princess contest this year. She was interested because she heard there was an interview involved. Although she’s still years from graduating high school, she said she’s trying to take advantage of opportunities to grow and hone her job-seeking skills.
“I read there was an interview ... when you get older and you’re trying to get a job, it’s very helpful to have skills for that, so I’m trying to do activities that get me ready for that type of stuff,” she said.
But on top of that, she loves walking through the log cabin and looking at projects and she’s excited to meet and greet a lot of new people this week.
For both teens, a big part of the job this year will be promoting the fair queen contest so that it hopefully gets re-energized in years to come. One way to do that will be hosting the daily photo booth near the Merchants Building, where people can drop by to get a photo with the queen and learn about the program.
The booth will also have a video from the 2018 Miss Noble County, Kaylie Warble, talking about her experience as the queen last year.
“A lot of little girls want their pictures with the queen, so this is a time where I can stand still and they can come and get pictures with the queen, ask questions about what it’s like and hopefully inspire them to want to do it when they’re older too,” Gonzalez said. “I definitely plan on trying to go and talk to younger girls so that they can run for princess and older girls to run for queen so that way there’s more of a competition.”
But at the end of the day, Gonzalez said she’s simply excited to represent the fair not only here this week but also at the state fair pageant to come.
For almost all of her life, the Noble County Community Fair has become her life for one week in the summer, so being able to give back and represent the hometown event as queen is an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
“It means everything. This is my home for an entire week. It’s so great to be here. I love being able to hang out with friends and go to all these different events and just really enjoy what hometown means to me and what agriculture means to everyone else,” Gonzalez said.