GREENFIELD — When Claire Bishop was crowned the Indiana State Fair queen at the state fairgrounds this past weekend, she had about 35 friends and family members there cheering her on.
The Greenfield-Central High School senior couldn’t help but smile every time she glanced out into the crowd to see them waving glow sticks and pictures of her face in the air.
In yet another big accomplishment in an already storied senior year, Claire made history Sunday, Jan. 8 by becoming the first Hancock County resident to win the state fair queen title.
On Nov. 12, the 17-year-old became one of the youngest contestants to ever be crowned the 2023 Indiana State Festivals Association queen, representing and promoting festivals throughout the state.
Claire was automatically entered in both pageants after winning her hometown counterparts of each competition last year — being crowned the 2022 Hancock County 4-H queen in June and the 2022 Riley Festival queen in September.
One of her favorite high school teachers, Laken Rosing, said the farm-raised Hancock County girl is as deserving as they come.
“Claire is remarkable. She is inquisitive, precocious, thoughtful, kind, generous and loyal. She has a heart for serving while also balancing and prioritizing quality relationships, which is hard to do at any age, but she does so with grace and class,” said Rosing, who was there rooting her student on at last weekend’s pageant.
While Claire was excited and surprised to win Hancock County’s two big queen pageants last year, she said she was flabbergasted when her name was announced as a finalist and then queen at Sunday’s pageant.
She and the field of 81 other contestants spent three days in close quarters staying in dorms at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, getting to know one another as the three-day pageant took place — with interviews and speeches on Friday, preliminary rounds on Saturday and the finals on Sunday.
“All the contestants had already won a pageant in their hometown, so they’d all been through this before,” said Claire, who enjoyed making new friends and acquaintances from around the state.
“They were all so wonderful and unique in their own ways, it was an honor to get to know them,” she said.
Unsure but hopeful that lightning just might strike twice — granting Bishop her second state title — her cheer section waited with baited breath as the finalists were announced at the close of Sunday’s pageant.
The crowd went wild when Claire’s name was announced, granting her a second state-wide title in less than two months.
While unverified, it’s likely the Greenfield teen is the first to win both crowns in the same year, which has left officials from both pageants strategizing how Bishop will fulfill her duties to both organizations this year.
As the Indiana State Fair queen, Claire will travel to multiple county 4-H fairs throughout the state, encouraging Hoosiers everywhere to visit the Indiana State Fair in August.
She’ll also travel the state as the Indiana Festival queen, making appearances at various festivals throughout the state.
“Exploring all the festivals and towns in Indiana is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m so excited to get the opportunity to do it,” said Claire, though it’s still unclear what her dual role as queen may look like.
For now, the high school senior is basking in the moment and relishing her senior year of high school. In the fall, she hopes to attend Purdue University, which releases its acceptance letters later this week.
Anna Whelchel, chief marketing sales officer for the Indiana State Fair, has no doubt Claire will succeed at whatever she sets out to do, based on the impression she left on judges at Sunday’s pageant.
“They thought she was very friendly and upbeat, and they commented on her approachability — that she was relatable,” said Whelchel, “and they felt like she’d do a great job of transitioning from talking to kids to grandparents and everyone in between while traveling for the state fair this summer.”
While the Indiana State Fair pageant is open to fair queens from counties throughout the state, not all come from 4-H fairs, and 4-H membership isn’t a requirement.
Claire, however, has a rich history in the Hancock County 4-H program.
The 10-year 4-H member won the honor of Supreme Showman at the county fair last year, in addition to two Grand Champion awards for sewing construction and consumer clothing fashion revue.
She pulled double duty at last year’s state fair, showing pigs and also showcasing the black pencil skirt and intricately-detailed jacket she made for the fashion revue, for which she won grand champion honors. She also placed seventh in cross breed showmanship.
Claire said agriculture is a big part of life for her and her family, who run Bishop Family Farms near Pendleton.
“Entering the world of agriculture as a kid I learned that there was always something to learn and always somewhere there to teach you. It’s a very welcoming community, and I look forward to passing on that same sense of community through my role as the Indiana State Fair queen,” she said.
Rosing, her former English teacher, has no doubt she’ll succeed.
“Claire is an ultimate role model,” said Rosing, who admires her former student’s ability to serve others and celebrate success, all the while humbly acknowledging the sacrifice, discipline, and support required to get there.
“She is having such a fruitful year in that all of her hard work and growth are paying off,” said Rosing. “This wasn’t overnight success— she has put in the time, energy, and effort, so anyone who really knows her is ecstatic to see her continue to shine.
Michelle Hasty, longtime coordinator of the Hancock County 4-H queen pageant, feels the same way.
“We are incredibly proud of Claire … She is genuine and hardworking and a fantastic advocate for our Hancock County 4-H program, amongst so many other things she’s involved in,” she said.
“She is genuine, resilient and carries herself maturely and gracefully with everyone she is around … We have no doubt that she will continue to make Hancock County and the State of Indiana proud.”