On a hot summer day three years ago, Jessica Wilson was checking on the cured hams she had entered in the ham show at the Boone County Fair when she heard some girls rehearsing for the Fair Queen Pageant. Wilson decided then and there she could do something like that.
“I stumbled upon the pageant,” Wilson said. “I thought, ‘Hey, I could do that,’ and so I tried and tried and now here I am.”
After two years of not placing in the pageant, Wilson, 19, was crowned queen of the fair Monday night.
“I was overjoyed with tears of elation,” Wilson’s mother, Debi Donovan, said. “She wanted it this year, and she worked so hard. She was confident with it and had a fun time like she should have.”
Wilson won the talent/speech portion of the competition with her speech on the history of the Boone County Fair. As winner of the entire competition, she will receive a $1,000 scholarship to the school of her choice. She was also given an engraved silver dish and will have the opportunity to compete at the Miss Missouri State Fair Pageant on Aug. 12-13 in Sedalia.
“I knew I was ready to represent Boone County,” Wilson said. “I’m ready for the responsibility, knowing that while I’m out at the fair I’ve got little girls looking up to me saying, ‘Mommy, I want to be like her some day.’”
Wilson, first runner-up Rachel Worley and second runner-up Lauren Whitney will be introduced at all of the county fair events. Wilson said she hopes their presence will interest people in learning about the fair’s history and the pageant.
“I will be trying to get to every event possible at some point during the day, so you can expect to see me out there,” Wilson said. “The crown gives everyone an advantage because they can come up to me and I’ll answer any questions they have about the fair, Boone County, the pageant, whatever.”
Wilson and her family began attending the fair when they moved to Columbia in 1990. She attended Mill Creek Elementary School for kindergarten, then Rock Bridge Elementary School, Gentry Middle School, Jefferson Junior High School and Rock Bridge High School. While at Jefferson, Wilson became interested in agriculture due to the influence of teachers Larry Henneke and Kevin Duncan.
“I have all my thanks to give to them because they got me interested in an ag class offered through the career center,” Wilson said. “Mr. Henneke showed me how much fun it is and how much you can learn.”
Through the ag class, Wilson became involved with the FFA. The Columbia Career Center and the local FFA chapter provided a program to help kids involved with FFA who were unable to participate in farm projects because they couldn’t care for livestock where they lived. The organizations provided a fenced area where the students could properly care for the sheep. Wilson applied to the program, and for two years she was given the opportunity to show a market lamb at the fair.
“Sheep are, by far, not the best or smartest animals, so it’s a big challenge to make something that doesn’t want to walk walk,” Wilson said. “To know that you’re out there and all these people are out there looking at something you put so much time and effort into, it’s a great feeling.”
Wilson’s love for animals will continue into her career. She is attending Moberly Area Community College and plans on attending Parkland College in Champagne, Ill., in the fall to become a veterinary technician.
“I had a very strong interest in animals before even showing sheep,” Wilson said, “but to know that a sheep can be shown and how much care you have to put into taking care of an animal, it makes you responsible. Having the knowledge of the sheep and of raising my puppies will give me the chance to step up to work with those animals as I get my degree.”
Wilson will get a chance to be close to the animals during her reign at the fair as well.
Louise Martin, customer service representative for First National Bank and Trust Company, was a judge for the queen competition.
“Jessica’s speech stood out because she had it completely memorized; she used absolutely no notes,” Martin said. “She was confident and her presentation was excellent. Also, the subject was on the Boone County Fair, which made it very interesting.”