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Franklin County Fair Queen earns Pennsylvania crown

January 22, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The usual harbingers of bad luck failed to work their contrary magic Saturday as Katy Mitchell, the 2007 Franklin County Fair Queen, became the first woman from the county to wear the crown in the 22-year history of the Pennsylvania State Fair Queen pageant.

When the 18-year-old Fort Loudon, Pa., woman was named county fair queen in August, a deluge forced the pageant from an outdoor stage into a show tent. At Saturday's pageant in Hershey, Pa., the James Buchanan High School senior's contestant number was 13 among the 53 women competing for the title.

"It is our job to cultivate new audiences, create new partnerships with our developing industries and generate a renewed appreciation for the single thing that ensures our survival as humans - agriculture," Mitchell said Monday of her message to the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs.

"Come to my fair to see what we have done to ensure that we are the connection between urban and rural, past and future, tradition and innovation," Mitchell said.

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Pageant participants each submitted a written essay, were interviewed by a panel of judges, delivered a speech and answered an impromptu question during the three-day event at Hershey Lodge, Mitchell said. Her speech was a look ahead to a 2013 Franklin County Fair featuring biodiesel-powered tractors, recycling bins replacing trash cans, solar-powered rides and ethnic food cookoffs.

Mitchell said she also spoke about the need for a statewide "micro ag" program in schools.

"My message would be to plant a seed, both literally and figuratively," with a program educating students on the importance of agriculture, including having students grow something. A state Department of Agriculture official spoke with her at the pageant about a similar education initiative, she said.

"I'll continue to work on it after my reign," said Mitchell, the daughter of Yvonne Butts-Mitchell and Douglas Mitchell.

The event did have its nerve-wracking moments, Mitchell said, particularly as she waited to hear the top five contestants being announced, hers being the fifth name called.

As state fair queen, Mitchell will receive a scholarship worth $1,500 at the end of her reign, which she will use at Penn State Mont Alto, she said. From now until the next queen is crowned, she will travel to county and community fairs, agricultural expositions and legislative events.

It will involve a lot of time and travel, but Mitchell said the title carries benefits beyond the value of the scholarship.

"I get paid back in memories and new experiences," she said.

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