COLUMBIA — The first round of judging Saturday to become queen of the Boone County Fair was a little like speed-dating: three-minute meetings with each of the five judges, answering a range of questions.
The main event was scheduled for this evening, though, with seven young women competing to win the 2008 Miss Boone County Fair Queen Scholarship Competition. The queen wins $1,000 to be used at a school of her choice. The three women on her court win $750, $500 and $250, depending on where they place.
Along with her court, the queen will be presented at venues around the fair, appear in parades throughout the year and might be asked to judge other fair competitions.
“The whole purpose of being queen is to help people focus on agriculture and life in Boone County,” said Ashlei Wilson, a committee member for the competition. “We want a friendly face, someone who looks easy to approach. Little girls say, ‘Mommy, I want to be just like that when I grow up,’ so we want people feeling comfortable coming up to the queen.”
At the evening competition, contestants are required to show off a talent or make a speech on an agriculturally related topic. They also are judged in evening gowns, and each is asked an impromptu question based on information in her application. The Saturday scores are factored in before four finalists are chosen.
Then the reigning queen, Sarah Carlisle poses another round of questions to the four finalists, and a new Miss Boone County will be crowned.
“For a local area county fair, it’s more about the camaraderie of meeting and making new friends,” said Deborah Donovan, chairwoman of the Miss Boone County committee, about the impact of scholarship competitions on young women.
The pageant judges this year were: Ann Bozarth, a community member; Cyndi Frisby, associate professor of journalism at MU; Ken Pearson, Boone County presiding commissioner; Reuben Stern, managing editor of the Columbia Missourian; and Caleb Walker, an agent for American Family Insurance.
“For judges, we want people that live and deal with life on a regular basis in Boone County,” Wilson said.
The competition rules say the Miss Boone County Fair Queen must be female, between 17 and 22 years old and a resident of Boone County or have attended school there for at least six months before the competition. She can’t be pregnant nor can she have married or had children. Donovan got involved with the competition as a pageant mom six years ago.
“I got involved with it in 2002 when my daughter ran for the first time, but she didn’t place,” Donovan said. “She tried a second time and didn’t place and came back a third time with an attitude of ‘I’m going to do it one more time and have fun.’ She had a beautiful speech about the history of Boone County and, in 2004, she won. In 2005, they had no one to run the competition so I decided to help.”
Two new competitions took place this year, Boone County Fair Teen Queen for ages 12 to 16 and Boone County Fair Princess for ages 7 to 11. They were added to provide something for younger Boone County girls.
“In the past we’ve had people ask if there was anything for their little girls to compete in, and we always had to say no,” Donovan said.
Scheduled to also be crowned tonight, the reigning teen queen and princess will get to participate in some of the same activities as the queen, including parades and being presented around the fair.
Donovan thinks that the Miss Boone County competition is much more than a beauty pageant.
“When that one girl wins it is unreal, because I don’t even know who will win. I’m just as surprised as everyone else when it all comes together,” Donovan said. “It’s exciting to know we can make a difference in girls’ lives with these scholarships.”