Lynn Reid has been involved with the Missouri State Fair Queen Competition for years, and she’s never seen anything like what happened Friday in the long minutes before Emily Wood captured the crown.
The competition was moving from the evening wear portion to the naming of the top 10 finalists, but there was a tie, so it quickly became the top 11 finalists. OK, no big deal.
After those 11 young women each answered an extemporaneous question on stage, it was time to name the runners-up and the 2012 queen. But there were more ties — not just for the top spot and the right to wear the crown, but through the top five.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Reid, the Superintendent of Fair Queens. “I was a nervous wreck.”
New sheets were sent out to the judges and emcees Megan Westhoff, the 2010 fair queen, and Tina York, Mrs. Missouri America 2012, did their best to stall for time. Westhoff brought Fair Director Mark Wolfe on stage and turned the microphone over to him.
“They tried to get me to sing — I said, ‘Do you want everyone to leave?’ ” Wolfe said.
Instead, he killed some time by taking responsibility for the fantastic weather over the past two days — since he typically gets the blame when the weather is miserable — then he introduced the state fair commissioners in attendance. Meanwhile, the crowd was growing restless and — since the pageant was in the Mathewson Exhibition Center — numb from the overblasted air conditioning.
After a five-minute intermission, the 11 finalists were paraded back onto the stage and runners-up were named. And finally, after tabulations and tribulations, Wood, Miss Marion County, received the crown from 2011 queen Meredith Jones.
After some photos and post-pageant interviews, Wood, 19, said that during the wait on stage, “I was so nervous, but I knew I had the good Lord above and everything would happen the way it’s supposed to be.”
Her father, Gary Wood, of Palmyra, said he was thinking, “Maybe it will be her, maybe not. ... I was about to pull my hair out. In the end, it all worked out OK.”
While the ties were surprising, Reid expected a highly competitive pageant.
“The contestants were very good,” she said. “And the on-stage question, they all did very well with their answers.”
Wood said: “I knew going in there were so many knowledgable girls in all areas ... and I knew it would be stiff competition. There were so many great talents and the girls looked gorgeous and poised and showed grace during the evening gown competition, so I knew it was going to be a tight competition.”
Helping Wood capture the crown was her clog dancing performance on Thursday, which was the highest-scoring talent among the 54 contestants. Her fast-paced routine to “Magic Carpet Ride” was choreographed by Mike Curtis, a member of the dance group All That, which is performing on “America’s Got Talent.”
Wood, a third-generation clog dancer who started when she was 2, found out Curtis was coming to St. Louis to do a clogging workshop, “and I knew I had to learn from him.”
Part of being the fair queen is having a deep understanding of agriculture’s role in Missouri, and thanks to her grandfather and father, Wood has that covered. Her grandfather raises livestock and feed crops, while her dad plants alfalfa, milo and sweet corn for wildlife.
She also sees her new role as being supportive of the state’s farmers.
“With the drought that has affected the state of Missouri this year, it will be my job as Missouri State Fair queen ... to help aid and assist those farmers who are experiencing that drought and let them know everything is going to come together and everything is going to be OK,” she said.
After the pageant, as Reid received thank-yous and hugs from the contestants, she got just a little emotional.
“The girls mean a lot to me,” she explained. “They all work very hard to get here, and they work hard while they are here.”
Then she focused on Wood.
“We are going to have a great queen,” Reid said. “She will do an outstanding job.”