GREENFIELD — It was a pageant unlike any other in the 62-year history of the Hancock County 4-H Fair queen contest.
Despite the social distancing, face masks and limited crowd, however, it was still a night of celebration Tuesday for newly crowned queen Jordyn Wickard, even if she had to crown herself.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there was no physical contact among contestants. Meaning no arms wrapped around shoulders as they awaited the winner’s name, and no celebratory hugs.
As each of the finalists’ names were called, they each approached a table on stage to pick up a bag filled with their sash and floral bouquet.
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When Wickard’s name was finally announced as queen, she retrieved her bag, reached inside, and placed a sparkling tiara atop her head.
While the contestants didn’t wear face masks when on-stage in their finest formal wear — since they were social-distanced — the queen and her court did pose for a tongue-in-cheek photo of them all gathered together wearing face masks at the end of the pageant, with their formal wear, flowers and tiaras on full display.
It was a fitting way to capture the unprecedented pageant, which for more than six decades now has been celebrating young women involved in 4-H.
“The purpose of the pageant is to highlight the outstanding 4-H activities and achievements of these girls who will be serving the community as ambassadors. Only 12 or 15 counties in the state limit their fair queen pageant to 4-H participants,” said pageant organizer Michelle Hasty.
Wickard — a nine-year 4-H participant — is thrilled to take on her new role as a countywide 4-H ambassador, and to represent Hancock County in the Indiana State Fair Queen pageant next year.
One of her favorite things to do is showing the cattle, sheep and goats her family raises on their farm — Wickard Livestock in Greenfield.
She and her little brother Jacob spend “almost every waking hour” out in the barn together, tending to their animals, said their parents, Chris and Julia Wickard.
The family travels the country together showing animals and advocating for America’s farms.
Their roots run deep. Julia Wickard was raised on McClarnon Stock Farm, a multi-generation Greenfield farm that was homesteaded in 1846.
“My farm roots are where my passion for 4-H came from,” said Jordyn, who was recently elected District 8 president for Indiana’s FFA.
“Farms are what feed America. I consider it a real privilege to be able to advocate for agriculture as an FFA district president and as fair queen,” she said.
The well-spoken teen loves to do public speaking and advocate for what she’s passionate about, said her mom, who credits her daughter’s strong speaking skills to her six years spent in Kids Play, a local acting group for kids.
“It kind of gave her the opportunity to come out of her comfort zone, then the sky was the limit from that point forward. In both 4-H and FFA she’s embraced every leadership opportunity she possibly could,” Julia Wickard said.
“She doesn’t do anything halfway. She gives 150% to pretty much everything she does.”
The ambitious teen had an especially busy day Tuesday, rising at dawn to drive an hour to Trafalgar for a mandatory FFA meeting, then heading back home for the pageant — which wrapped up at 7 p.m. — only to head back to Trafalgar that night to wrap up the conference.
She’ll spend the rest of this week working with her animals in preparation for the county fair, which kicks off this weekend.
The annual 4-H fair queen contest typically kicks off county fair events each year.
Pageant organizers worked hard to make sure the pageant could still be held this year, albeit virtually, despite COVID-19 restrictions, Hasty said.
Rather than dozens of friends and family packed in to watch the event, only a scattering of people was allowed to attend the event, held in the gym at Trinity Park United Methodist Church. The 13 contestants each had two registered guests, who sat in pairs of folding chairs spread out across the gym floor.
More than 70 people tuned into the pageant’s live broadcast online.
Within minutes of the broadcast concluding, “we received a ton of compliments for making this work for the girls,” said Hasty, who expressed gratitude to pageant sponsor Ninestar Connect and host location Trinity Park, who also provided technical audio/visual services.
While just 13 girls applied to compete in this year’s pageant — last year, 21 young women competed — the stage was filled with smart and talented young women who represented what the 4-H program is all about, Hasty said.
“Seeing them improve their confidence is huge. That’s the biggest thing I see and love each year,” Hasty said.
Outgoing queen Jenna Smith had nothing but great things to say about the past year she spent as queen.
Being an advocate for 4-H helped improve her self-confidence and speaking and interview skills. She especially loved how little girls’ faces would light up when she and her court would walk through the fairgrounds, delighting the next generation of 4-H kids.
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Hancock County 4-H Fair Queen Pageant
Jordyn Wickard, 17, Eastern Hancock High School
Megan Long, 18, New Palestine High School
Rachel Bates, 17, New Palestine High School
Abby Elsbury, 16, Greenfield-Central High School
Lainey Lawrence, 17, Eastern Hancock High School
Ashley Swango, 18, Greenfield-Central High School