HANCOCK COUNTY — First, the announcers called her name for the top 16 finalists.
After she performed a one-minute speech and modeled her professional wear, they called Ashley Fritz on stage as one of the top 10 finalists at the Indiana State Fair Queen Pageant, the first time a Hancock County woman has earned a place so close to the throne in decades, organizers said.
Ashley Fritz, 18, the 2016 Hancock County 4-H Fair Pageant Queen, earned a place on the queen’s court as third runner-up during the weekend-long event at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Fritz, a freshman at Anderson University majoring in nursing, underwent a barrage of interviews and other trials to test her poise and public speaking ability against more than 80 other young women who were their counties’ 4-H Fair pageant queens.
“It was a very long weekend, but it was very exciting and well worth it,” Fritz said. “I was ecstatic and overjoyed to be in the top 10. I felt like my hard work had paid off.”
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Fritz always presents herself in a genuine and down-to-earth manner, which helped her earn her way into the queen’s court, said Hancock County 4-H Fair Queen Pageant chairperson Michelle Hasty. Part of the competition was a one-minute speech on the topic of her choosing, during which Fritz chose to speak about her experiences being diagnosed with poly-cystic kidney disease and raising money for a yearly walk in Indianapolis dedicated to the cause.
Hasty texted back and forth with Miss Hancock County throughout the weekend — the pageant director reminded her 2016 queen to have fun and be herself, she said.
“I am, and I will!” Fritz replied.
The three-day experience was unlike anything she’d ever done before, she said. Queen candidates arrive at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and bunk in barracks-style housing for the weekend, grouped together with 13 other competitors. At the end of their day, they would sit around and talk until they were tired, Fritz said; hearing how so many different people ended up at the same place was a thrill.
Despite the novelty of the jam-packed weekend event, the young woman is no stranger to a strong finish at pageants, as she was both the 2016 Hancock County 4-H Fair Queen and the 2015 Riley Festival Pageant Queen. Fritz, a 10-year member of the Shakin’ Shamrocks 4-H club, participated in photography, fashion revue and consumer clothing over the years as well.
She’d always thought about competing in the 4-H Fair Queen Pageant, said her mother Sara Fritz of McCordsville, and she learned skills she needed to excel during 4-H. For example, she had to be interviewed as part of her consumer clothing projects throughout the years.
Sara Fritz said she is a very proud parent, not only of Ashley’s poised performance during the pageant, but also the young woman she’s become.
“She has a huge heart,” she said. “To me, her inner beauty exudes out.”