COLUMBIA — The giant smile on Ally Walker’s face gave testament to her joy as she was crowned the 2008 Miss Boone County Fair Queen on Monday evening.
Walker is a 2006 graduate of Southern Boone High School and is currently attending the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She decided to run for fair queen after watching two of her friends compete in the competition in previous years.
“My friends Brittany and Chelsea ran, and it sounded like a lot of fun,” Walker said.
Walker took the crown after her engaging and informative speech on Boone County. Clad in overalls and sporting a country accent, Walker used green signs labelled with the names of local cities to tell the audience about what Boone County has to offer. She explained how the county “cultivates the land and minds” by giving fun facts on the agriculture and education of each city.
During the impromptu question stage, Walker was asked what public policies she would choose to implement. She said she would focus on agriculture because it is now controlling food and energy resources, and she would make sure that there was equal access to education for all students.
One benefit of participating in the competition is the chance at winning a scholarship. The queen wins $1,000 to be used at a school of her choice. The three women on the court win $750, $500 and $250, depending on where they place.
The queen’s court this year includes Dawn Sherrill, first runner-up; Morgan Sapp, second runner-up; and Lindsey Carlisle, third runner-up.
The queen and her court will be presented at venues around the Boone County Fair, appear in parades throughout the year and may even 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.”
Along with fair queen, two other crowns were given out at the competition this year: Boone County Fair Teen Queen, which went to Hailey Ketchum, and Boone County Fair Princess, which went to Madison Baker.
Teen Queen, awarded to girls ages 12 to 16, and Princess, awarded to girls ages 7 to 11, were added to provide competition opportunities 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.
At the evening competition, contestants for Miss Boone County Fair Queen were required to show off a talent or make a speech on an agriculturally related topic. Contestants also went through several other phases of judging, including an evening gown competition and an impromptu questioning.
Also, the then-reigning queen, Sarah Carlisle, posed another round of questions to the four finalists, and a new Miss Boone County was 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 Royalty Competitions committee, about the impact of scholarship competitions on young women.
The pageant judges this year were: Ann Bozarth, a community member; Cynthia Frisby, associate professor of journalism at MU; Ken Pearson, Boone County presiding commissioner; Reuben Stern, managing editor of the Columbia Missourian; Caleb Walker, an agent for American Family Insurance; Amanda Williams, the 2008 Miss Columbia; Karla Klingner-Diaz, an attorney with Simon, Diaz and Ellis; and Terri Rholfing, a middle school reading teacher.
“For judges, we want people that live and deal with life on a regular basis in Boone County,” Wilson said.
Donovan said she 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.”