Fairiest of the Fair contestant Kayla Hobbs, 18, sponsored by Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
“I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry,” Kayla Hobbs said, recalling the moment her name was called out as the winner of the Fairest of the Fair competition Monday night at the Appalachian Fair in Gray.
“I just didn’t know what to do, or how to react. I just looked at Hannah ... the reigning Miss Appalachian and I looked at the judges and I was like ‘Oh my goodness, really?’” she said.
Hobbs, 18, from Kingsport, said she had competed in only one pageant –– the Miss Kingsport pageant –– before signing up to compete for the Fairest of the Fair, and said she’s gained valuable experience from all the different aspects of competition.
“To me, it’s just kind of helped me be a more well-rounded person and kind of put myself out there,” she said. “I think it’s just made me a stronger person. I wanted to do it for the experience. It’s helped me with interviewing skills as well.”
While all of the girls listed certain hobbies and activities they enjoy doing on their application for the Fairest of the Fair, ‘volunteer firefighter’ written on Hobbs’ page seemed to stand out from the others competing.
She said she is currently a volunteer firefighter with Warriors Path Volunteer Fire Department in Colonial Heights.
“Firefighting was something I just kind of wanted to do,” she said. “My sister, she’s actually in the Navy and I felt like the service wasn’t really for me, but I wanted to do something that kind of reached out to the community in another way. I thought about volunteer firefighting and I felt that it was a really big challenge. I just kind of wanted to do it to prove to myself that I could do it and it’s been a wonderful experience.”
Hobbs said on Monday she was all dressed up and ready to walk out onto the stage in her black and silver metallic evening gown, but said she was suddenly missing one very important component.
“I was changing into (my) evening gown after we finished our opening number and I had my dress on and I could not find my shoes,” she said.
Hobbs said one of the ladies helping orchestrate the competition ran and grabbed her daughters 71/2 size shoes.
She said she normally wears a size 8, but said the shoes fit like a glove.
“I was just so thankful that I had some shoes to walk out in,” Hobbs said.
After being called as one of the Top 5 contestants, she said she was in awe, but when she was announced as the winner she just couldn’t believe it.
“Everything’s happened so fast, I still can’t comprehend it yet. I’m just so excited,” Hobbs said. “I’m kind of speechless. I’m not sure exactly how I would describe it. It’s just so surreal and I’m thankful for my experience.”
She said she and the other 13 girls competing Monday night on the Museum Stage were nervous, but said the girls had each others back.
“All of them were so supportive and encouraging and positive. We just all kind of helped each other out,” Hobbs said.
As the newly crowned Miss Appalachian Fair 2013, Hobbs will be on the fairgrounds for the entire week, mingling with the fair participants and representing the entire event for the next year.
“Every bit of it has been worth it,” she said. “I’m so excited. I just can’t wait to get out there and talk to everybody and just meet people and take pictures. I’m just so excited and I hope that I represent the fair really well. I consider this a job and I hope I do it really well. It’s an honor.”