The Mathewson Exhibition Center was full of colorful, glittery evening gowns Friday afternoon for the Missouri State Fair Queen Pageant.
A total of 64 young queen-hopefuls from across the state competed in the evening gown portion of the competition yesterday. While the attire fit the typical pageant stereotype, their backgrounds were more fitting for a Missouri pageant. Most of the women were involved in Future Farmers of America and 4H clubs in their hometowns. Favorite hobbies included fishing, hunting, being outdoors and horseback riding, as well as singing, reading, writing and volunteering, all qualities that epitomize the state fair.
“From my perspective, it’s not just a beauty contest,” said pageant judge Terry Kelley. “I’m looking for someone with character and intelligence.”
The top 10 contestants were announced and each answered a question about how women are important in agriculture. As everyone awaited the final results, a young woman entertained the audience with a few songs, including a old favorite by Shania Twain. While most people would be nervous during that time, the top 10 seemed to be excited and past the hard part of their day.
“We were all super excited,” said Ashley Bauer, 18, of Warrenton. “We were all singing and dancing to Shania Twain. We were like her backup singers. We knew the judging was over; the worst was over.”
Bauer, unknowingly, certainly had nothing to worry about. She was the lucky young woman to hear her name announced as the 2013 Missouri State Fair Queen. Even though she had been calm the whole time, her shocked face said it all.
“It was unbelievable,” Bauer said. “I didn’t have any idea I was going to win. I was just honored to represent my county at the pageant.”
Bauer impressed the judges with her speech about a horseback riding accident when she was eight years old and how it has impacted her life, as well as with her evening gown and her interview answer, which Kelley said was “very articulate.”
“(Ashley) showed character and a lot of intelligence,” Kelley said. “She also has a wonderful personality. She will represent the state fair very well.”
Bauer’s agricultural passion is horses. She said she has been riding and showing horses since age eight, and now gives riding lessons. She also has showed dogs and poultry, as well as bred and raised rabbits.
She plans on continuing in the agricultural field by pursuing a degree in business administration and equine general studies at William Woods University.
Bauer may have claimed the crown, but she wasn’t the only winner yesterday. Awards were also given out to the highest score in each category. Ashleigh Lutz, 18, of Fayette, received the award for Top Talent. Lutz’s talent was a vocal solo with the song “How Great Thou Art.” Just like Bauer, she wasn’t expecting an award either.
“It was very exciting and kind of surprising,” Lutz said.
Keeping calm seemed to be a common trait at yesterday’s pageant. Lutz, a four-year member and chapter and area officer of Future Farmers of America, said she also kept her cool throughout the competition, even when it came time to announce the winners.
“I was calm when we were waiting,” she said. “I knew it would work out how it was supposed to.”
The new queen was already showing she’s qualified for the job as soon as she was crowned. As other top 10 contestants stopped by for a photo and a quick “congrats,” Bauer talked with each one. She was even overheard asking one if she was still showing sheep and when the show was, highlighting the unique agricultural aspect of the pageant.
During her reign as queen, Bauer will attend numerous fair events, emcee various contests, and represent the fair whenever needed as the new state fair ambassador, something that won’t be too far out of the outgoing winner’s comfort zone.
“I’ll be attending a lot of events, which is something I’d do anyway,” Bauer said. “The rodeo is one of my favorite events, and if I’m not participating in it, I’m at the show. If I’m not involved in an event, I’m there watching it.”