GREENFIELD — They kicked off their heels and laughed with relief.

Reprieve from a long day of standing in stilettos, modeling professional and formal wear and grinning as wide as possible as they vied for the crown.

As the newly crowned Ashley Fritz, the 2016 Hancock County 4-H Fair Queen, posed for photos, court members Gracie Johnson and Chadsey Matlock ditched their shoes and got comfortable.

They were among the 29 young Hancock County women who competed in Saturday’s Hancock County 4-H Fair Queen Pageant at Trinity Park United Methodist Church in Greenfield.

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Fritz and her court members, Johnson, Matlock, Emily Jones, (princess) Olivia Scott and Miss Congeniality Ann Marie Waitt will reign over the Hancock County 4-H Fair next week, serving as ambassadors for the popular youth program as they attend contests, pass out ribbons and wave to a crowd of hundreds in the parade.

Fritz, who graduated from Mt. Vernon last month, is a 10-year member of the Shakin Shamrocks who has participated in photography, fashion revue and consumer clothing over the years.

It’s the second time she’ll preside over Hancock County as one of its queens. Last fall, she was picked as queen of the Riley Festival.

Growing up, Fritz admired the young women who served as representatives of all the hard work that goes into the fair. She’s dreamed of being fair queen since she received her first fair ribbon from the queen as a little girl.

Saturday, she beamed as the announcer read her name aloud. Amid the flurry of photographs and congratulations, the words didn’t come easily.

“This is just unreal for me,” Fritz said.

She’s looking forward to spending the entire week at the fair with her court. It will be the first time in her 10 years she’ll spend every day from open to close at the fair.

She’s the 58th girl to serve as the monarch of Hancock County’s fair. Early next year, she’ll represent Hancock County as she competes against the state’s other county fair queens for the title of Miss Indiana State Fair. 

Organizers of the queen contest say their competitors take with them skills that will aid them as they head to college, apply for jobs and more. They go through an application and interview process. They’re also judged on overall poise during the professional and formal wear portion of the event, which is open to the public.

Poise, personality, whether their outfits fit well and look professional — it all goes on the score sheet.

Fritz donned a navy dress adorned with jewels for the formal wear contest. As contestants modeled the clothing they picked for the contest, emcee Ginger Hart spoke about the girls’ future plans and activities they’ve participated in through the years.

Hart told audience members Fritz is particularly proud of the service project she completed this year as part of the Riley Festival Queen Pageant. She made fleece blankets and visited local nursing homes to donate them to residents. 

Fritz couldn’t point to what made her stand out during the contest, as all of the contestants were deserving of the title, she said. Despite weeks of hard work preparing for the contest, Fritz was stunned when she heard her name called as the winner.

She wasn’t the only one sashed Saturday who was surprised.

Miss Congeniality Ann Marie Waitt didn’t recognize her own name when it was called out as Miss Congeniality, she said. 

“I heard it, and it took a minute to register. It’s like I forgot my own name,” she said with a giggle.

Miss Congeniality is voted on by her fellow contestants as a friendly and warm contestant whose personality shines. It’s the title Waitt, who will be a junior at New Palestine High School this fall, really wanted.

“It means so much because I want to be someone who makes others smile,” she said.

She’s an eight-year 4-H member who is looking forward to spending fair week cheering on all the younger 4-H’ers as past queens and courts have done for her.

Johnson’s mouth dropped when her name was called out for fair court. As a young girl, she remembers admiring all the pretty young women who represented the fair as she attended, growing up. She’s excited to be that pretty princess for the young girls participating in the fair this year, she said.

“I want to teach them being pretty on the outside is good, but being pretty on the inside is important, too,” Johnson said.

Crown contestants

Twenty nine young Hancock County women competed in the Hancock County 4-H Fair Queen Pageant Saturday. Ashley Fritz was named the winner. Other contestants were:

Alicia Chapman

Savannah Coe

Erin Dunn

Emily Fontaine

Olivia Fortner

Ashley Fritz

Karlee Gray

Cassidy Harp

Mallory Harrison

Heather Hummel

Gracie Johnson

Cassandra Jones

Emily A. Jones

Emily N. Jones

Jocie Kleiman

Skylar Knapp

Rylee Layton

Chadsey Matlock

Delanie Melton

Calista Overman

Rebecca Pope

Hannah Rose

Olivia Scott

Peyton Scott

Lauren Seib

Katie Smith

Dana Sutherlin

Lindsay Yeager

Ann Waitt

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.