The Fairest of the Fair pageant at the Appalachian Fair may keep with the tradition of evening gowns and tiaras, but it’s also about teaching young women important life skills.
Kimela Williams, director of this year’s Fairest of the Fair, said the pageant — scheduled to take place on the Museum Stage at the fairgrounds Monday at 8 p.m. — requires a lot of dedication to enter. She said by turning in an application, the girls, ages 16-20 years old, are committing to being present and available throughout the duration of the fair if crowned as the next Miss Appalachian Fair.
“The way we explain it to our young ladies is it’s just like any other job that you’re applying for,” Williams said. “It’s a very big responsibility and a big title, because they are the face and they represent the Appalachian Fair.”
According to the Appalachian Fair website, the girls must also pay a $50 non-refundable entry fee and be sponsored by a civic organization or business firm to enter the competition.
She said after all of the applications are in, the girls must also participate in two practices and a run-through of the show.
“What we normally do is we go through the whole thing, we read all the bio’s. We do everything,” Williams said. “Then we actually have a class on interviews. We have a panel of three judges, one male and two female judges. The judges will sit down with them and we do a four-minute interview. This is their time to get to know the judges on a personal basis. We want to make sure those girls know how to sit, how to speak, how to answer questions. Most people just think it’s just a beauty pageant, but the way we look at it is we’re trying to teach girls ... future skills.”
She said choosing a girl that can fully represent all aspects of the Appalachian Fair is very important.
“All week long she’ll be walking around in her crown, signing autographs, getting to know people, answering questions, just mingling with all the ... people (who) come to the fair,” Williams said. “We want to make sure that we have a young lady that can represent us well, because whether ... she’s meeting an entertainer or whether she’s having a picture made with a young girl ... we want to make sure that it’s someone (who) is well-rounded.”
She said this year’s group of 14 contestants, all from the area and surrounding counties, will have their Fairest of the Fair interviews at 2 p.m. today at Gray United Methodist Church.
Susan Painter, former director of the pageant, said the interview score from today is carried over into Monday night’s overall score, which will include an evening gown competition.
“After those two scores are tallied, then the five girls that have the highest scores, they get called out and they will answer an on-stage question,” Painter said. “From there, those Top 5 will know that they have placed or either won.”
She said the Fairest of the Fair competition used to be held on the Main Stage at the Appalachian Fair and said there used to be numerous girls competing.
“When I first started doing it ... I had over 40 girls in the pageant and it was not intimate at all. You just handed them a number, had their pictures made,” Painter said. “It was hard.”
She said she has since seen the number of contestants decrease.
“The amount of girls (competing) has gone down,” Painter said. I really don’t know what has caused the amount of contestants (to go down), but we have a great quality of girls that come through. It’s still a good pageant. It’s always the first night of the fair. We always have a good show of people, a full crowd. We’ve had some really excellent girls to represent every year.”
Hannah Everhart is the reigning Miss Appalachian Fair.
“I’m going to be sad that my reign is over,” she said, “but I’m also going to be very excited for the next girl because I know what she’s going to be doing. I know what she has to look forward to, so I’m going to be excited for her. It’s been one of the best experiences of my life so far.”
She said entering last year’s pageant was one of the many things she had written down on her bucket list of things to do in life. Everhart said as shocked as she was to make it into last year’s Top 5, being crowned as the contest’s winner was a complete surprise.
“I just kind of stood there,” she said. “It took a second to sink in that they were about to call my name and then when they did, I still just kind of stood there in awe.”
Everhart said she’s enjoyed her experience as Miss Appalachian Fair and said the best advice she can give to this year’s competitors is to just be unique.
“Be unique because ... you’ll hear advice coming from every direction. I hunt (and) I was not afraid to tell them that in an interview,” she said. “Being yourself is kind of the key to everything, because you may have something to offer that another girl does not.”
The next Miss Appalachian Fair will go on to the state competition in Nashville in January, according to the fair website.
For more information on the competition or the fair, visit www.appalachianfair.com.