GREENFIELD — It was the biggest field of contestants in years, but at the end of the 2014 Hancock County 4-H Fair Queen Pageant, only one of the young women was named to reign.
Seventeen-year-old Annalee Witte of Wilkinson, an eight-year 4-H’er, is the county’s new fair queen. She was surprised when her name was announced and humbled when the reality of becoming queen began to set in.
“I’m really excited. Mostly, I’m really honored that I can represent the fair out of all these girls here,” Witte said.
The field of 35 contestants was even larger than last year’s large group of 25 and required the venue to be changed from the 4-H Bowl to the 4-H Show Arena.
“We chose to come here to do it because of the amount of girls we had in the pageant,” emcee Alyse Vail said.
But neither the change of scenery nor the competition in the Show Arena phased Witte.
“Honestly, going into it, I wasn’t that worked up about it. It’s so subjective, and I’m so proud they thought that highly of me,” Witte said of the judges, who evaluated the girls in a closed-door session two weeks ago. “I was myself. I tried to go in there and be me.”
Witte is a member of the Country Kritters 4-H Club. She will be a senior at Eastern Hancock High School when the semester starts next month. She has not yet decided what she wants to study after high school.
“A really big part of my life is faith, and the other really big part is agriculture, and I just don’t know which one I’ll pick yet,” Witte said.
She will take over duties from 2013’s Hancock County Fair Queen Paige Carroll, a Mt. Vernon High School graduate who just completed her freshman year at Ball State University.
At the pageant Saturday night, she said she was impressed with how hard the girls worked this year. Before handing over the fair queen duties to Witte, Carroll had some words of wisdom for the new queen and court.
“You’re in for an experience of a lifetime,” Carroll said.
Witte’s court includes Miss Congeniality Morgan McKinney; 4-H Princess Jennifer Apple; and court members Alexandria Meyer, Shelby Wright and Hallie Wright.
Witte said she hopes her year as fair queen with her court members will have the same impact on local kids as it did on her years ago.
“I really remember, when I was little, watching the fair queen and thinking she was the most beautiful person in the whole world. I just love talking to all the little kids. I remember how the fair queen made me feel, and I just want to make them feel the way I felt.”
Cameras and cellphones snapped hundreds of pictures after the queen and court were announced Saturday, as the group of young women heads into the next year of their lives as fair royalty.
Vail, who was fair queen in 2005, had a poignant piece of advice for the new queen and her court.
“I hope they cherish the memories,” she said.