Who's the fairest of the fair? Wait til spring

Who's the fairest of the fair? Wait til spring

JEFFERSON -- Jefferson County Fair Park is hopping with entertainment this week, from early-morning animal judging to the afternoon carnival, to music and other attractions stretching into the night.

But one event that's conspicuously absent this year is the fairest of the fair competition. For the past couple of years, the fairest competition has taken place on the last day of the fair, crowning the fair's official spokeswoman for the next year.

Amy Listle, fair park director, said that the Jefferson County Fair is in the midst of reorganizing this event, with the competition likely to take place during the spring of 2020 in preparation for the 2020 fair.

No official dates have yet been set, but planning for this competition will take top priority for fair personnel as soon as the 2019 fair run wraps up Sunday.

"For the last couple of years, our fairest competed during the fair and was crowned on the Sunday of fair, to reign the following year," Listle said.

Prior to the past couple of years, the Jefferson County Fair had its fairest competition earlier during the fair week.

However, a few years ago, organizers decided they wanted all of the candidates to be more invested during the whole run of fair.

So then the competition was moved to the final day of fair, with all competitors participating in numerous events throughout the week as fair royalty while the fairest crowned in the previous year served as the public face of the Jefferson County Fair.

However, the county had trouble attracting applicants this year, despite extending its deadline three times, Listle said.

The only requirement to be fairest was that the individual turn 18 by this July 1.

Traditionally, Jefferson County's fairest have all been young women. However, there are actually no restrictions as to participants' gender or age.

In fact, Jefferson County did have a male contestant a couple of years ago, but he had to drop out of the running due to scheduling conflicts, Listle said.

At that time, fair coordinators had considered changing the title to fair ambassador to be more inclusive, but that particular candidate had indicated he'd be fine with being called fairest.

There have been male contestants in other counties, Listle noted, and for the last three to four years there has been a male competitor in the state fairest contest, she said.

Likewise, there's no reason why the role of fair ambassador -- whatever it's called -- could not go to an older person.

For now, there are no plans to change the name of the competition or title, which tie in to the Wisconsin Association of Fairs Fairest of the Fair program.

Listle said that Jefferson County did get some interest in the position this year from people who met the age requirements, but those potential candidates wound up having conflicts which would prevent their full participation.

Likewise, the fair office heard from a number of candidates who wanted to try out in future years but didn't quite meet the age requirements as originally laid out, so they could not participate this year.

With the competition likely moving to the spring, Listle said, it is possible the age requirement could be moved so that candidates could participate if they turned 18 by the time of the spring competition.

"We'll be reviewing that right after this year's fair," Listle said.

The change in timing for the fairest competition will also give Listle, who took up the mantle as fair park director officially in May, and new marketing specialist Micheala Slind, who took her position at the end of June, a chance to review and revamp the program.

In the meantime, the spotlight will be on the 2019 Fairest of the Fair Libby Knoebel of Helenville. Knoebel is scheduled to give her farewell address Sunday afternoon around 4 p.m. after the herdsmanship awards.

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