GREENFIELD — On a warm Friday afternoon as most of the 2014 Hancock County 4-H Fair scrambled through final setup and the queen contestants rehearsed to find their marks, the reigning fair queen was all things composed and royal, complete with sash and tiara.
In the last two days of her monarchy, Paige Carroll returned to the fairgrounds to make final appearances and help a record 35-contestant field for this year’s queen contest through rehearsals.
“It’s bittersweet,” the sophomore at Ball State University said as her reign moved into its last 48 hours.
Since being crowned last summer, it’s been a busy year in Muncie for Carroll as she pursues a major in business administration and a minor in Spanish.
“It’s been so much fun. I love college,” Carroll said. “But it’s fun being back and talking to all the girls again.”
For the queen, fair week becomes a non-stop Tilt-a-Whirl immediately upon coronation as she becomes the face of the fair, making all manner of appearances and passing out awards and ribbons from dawn to well into the evening.
The queen’s advice to survive the week and maintain one’s royal comportment: “Take naps when you can,” she laughed.
“Make sure to eat, and drink plenty of water. You just don’t realize how exhausted you’re going to be at the end of the week – how early your mornings will be and how late the nights will get.”
Now, in the final hours until the 2014 queen is named, Carroll and her court aren’t feeling any pressure.
“We’ll be stopping by for as many events as we can and make appearances,” she said. “But it’s much more relaxed.”
Last year, the 10-year 4-H’er and Mt. Vernon High School graduate was surprised by her selection from one of the larger fields in recent memory.
“We had a big group last year of 25, and that’s as big of a group that we’ve had in a long time,” said Michelle Hasty, chairwoman of the 4-H queen committee. “And this year, we’re even bigger with 35, and many of them are first-time contestants.”
The key, Carroll said, is simply to relax, have fun and enjoy the ride.
“It’s been a wonderful experience; I’ve learned so much,” she said.
As last year’s queen, Carroll represented Hancock County in Indianapolis in the pageant that selected this year’s Indiana State Fair queen. That field of contestants was not restricted to 4-H members – as the local pageant is – and many of the entrants were veteran pageant contestants.
Always alert to take what she can from any experience, Carroll said she learned a lot from the state competition. But once a 4-H’er, always a 4-H’er, and she was glad to come back to Hancock County and her roots.
“It’s really nice that the rules require you to be in 4-H (to be named queen) here,” she said.