ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BOB WOELK
Though Cheryl Prieb has never worn the crown of a fair queen, she already feels like a winner.
The 17-year-old Hillsboro High School senior has participated in seven royalty competitions-three in Marion County and four at the Tri-County Fair in Herington.
She finished second attendant (second runner up) in this year’s Tri-County event in early July. She will be one of six Marion County girls vying for the title at 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, in the fair pavillion.
The other candidates include Gina Andrews of Hillsboro, Andrea Carlson of Lincolnville, Laura Klenda of Tampa, Kristin Mueller of Tampa and Megan Whitaker of Marion.
For Prieb, daughter of Glen and Sharon Prieb of rural Hillsboro, the contest is the crowning moment in a lifelong 4-H journey.
“Everyone asks me, ‘Don’t you want the title; don’t you want to wear the crown?'” Prieb said. “Actually, I just want to represent 4-H in a positive way. I think with the crown, I can help do that.”
Prieb said her parents have been a big influence in her in 4-H career.
“But, I also have an interest,” she said. “I get to meet new friends that I see at later events. I gain leadership skills, which is something I will need later in life. And, it’s also a lot of fun. I really enjoy it. I don’t think people know how much fun 4-H is.”
The county fair is a time for all 4-H students to “show off projects they’ve worked on all year,” Prieb said.
“You get a chance to see how much you’ve grown during the year and from year to year. I think that goes for everyone; you grow with each project each year.”
Prieb has plenty of projects in the works this year, including photography, public speaking, leadership, purchased clothing and poultry. Part of the royalty contest is based on being successful in such projects. There are no evening-gown or swimsuit competitions in 4-H pageants, Prieb confirmed with a chuckle.
“They have more to do with what you do-how involved you are in your club,” she said.
Prieb said she thinks she knows where she fell short in the Tri-County competition earlier this summer.
“I tell everyone I bombed my question,” she said.
As part of the scoring, each contestant is asked a question at the banquet and has to answer on the spot, “in front of everyone.” Prieb’s question dealt with whether character was something a person is born with or something that has to be developed.
For the Marion County Fair, participants need two letters of recommendation, a self-evaluation and a second independent evaluation, an essay, answers to a questionnaire, an up-to-date record book and a collection of businesses as sponsors.
Following the crowning, the candidates will ride in the fair parade Wednesday evening. Those sorts of appearances would be part of the role as queen.
“You can take it as far as you want to,” Prieb said. “The winner will show up often at the fair-helping the judges, passing out ribbons, making appearances. She will ride in other parades in the area, also, and will become kind of an ambassador for 4-H.”
Although Prieb doesn’t necessarily directly correlate her participation in 4-H with outside achievements, she said her leadership training will likely be an asset in a role she has already been handed. Her contemporaries at Hillsboro High School elected Prieb as student-council president for the coming year.
“I hope my classmates recognize that I have leadership potential,” she said. “I want responsibility. I want people to see that I want to help. I plan to take the job very seriously.”
Prieb said her post high-school plans are not yet clearly defined, but she is looking into financial services as a career.
For this summer, her job is taking care of Tiffany and Brandon Rooker, daughter and son of Mark and Shelley Rooker, at their rural Hillsboro home.
Prieb said she is a people person, but that’s not necessarily what drives her to participate in fair contests. For Prieb, it’s not the opportunity to win as much as the life lessons gained in the process.
“I’ve learned from being a candidate that you are a good person, no matter what,” she said. “You might not necessarily have the title, and you might not be the queen, but you are still a special person.”