Meet the Fairest & her court

 Rice Lake resident Sarah Doyen, far left, was crowned Barron County Fairest of the Fair Friday, July 20, 2018. With her are, from left, Casi Stager, Cumberland, runner-up, Taylor Willger, Rice Lake, Desirae Larson, Cameron, and 2017 Fairest of the Fair Katie Bates, of Prairie Farm.                                                                 Photo by Bob Zientara

The new Barron County Fairest of the Fair, Rice Lake resident Sarah Doyen, will start out her busy year right where her predecessor – Katie Bates, of Prairie Farm – left off.

Crowned Friday evening, July 20, 2018, at the Tim Heffernan stage on the fairgrounds, Doyen spent much of Fair Week volunteering at different events. And, according to Karen Rindsig, of Sarona, coordinator for the Fairest of the Fair program, that’s just the beginning.

The kind of schedules that are kept by contest winners “depends a lot on who they are and how they choose to fill their time,” Rindsig said Monday, July 23.

“They work full-time at the fair, and they are required to make some public appearances – such as the Haugen Fun Days Parade (weekend of Aug. 12-13) and the Cumberland Rutabaga Festival (Aug. 23-26),” she said.

If they’re able, the young women also attend meetings of the County Fair Board “to learn more about the fair, and have some input” into the decision-making, Rindsig added.

Doyen, 18, is the daughter of Steve and Cindy Doyen, and a graduate of Rice Lake High School. She is planning on enrolling in Chippewa Valley Technical College’s diagnostic medical sonography program to become an ultra sound technologist.

Her “Fairest” court includes Cameron resident Desirae Larson, daughter of Tammy Amos and Jason Larson, now studying to be an orthodontist assistant (she also has eight years of 4-H experience); runner-up Casi Stager, of Cumberland, daughter of Allen and Twilia Stager and a 10-year 4-Her; and Taylor Willger (who was involved in the contest for the second consecutive year), a Rice Lake resident, 11-year 4-H veteran and daughter of Louis and Kathy Willger.

Contest judges included Almena resident and recently-retired UW-Extension Agent Tim Jergenson, Kathy Broker, a Rice Lake area farm wife, and Audrey Held, a former Extension nutritionist, from Cumberland.

You’re gonna miss this

At Friday’s coronation ceremony, Bates talked about how the past year had changed her life, as well.

She started with a quote from a Trace Adkins country hit -- “You’re gonna miss this, you’re gonna want this back.” However -- “I can’t wait to be done with some things,” Bates said.

She began her reign in 2017 by volunteering to sell one of the animals during the fair’s livestock auction.

“I am not going to quit my job to become an auctioneer,” Bates said.

But she also said the commitment she made to being an ambassador for Barron County brought her into contact with hundreds of people throughout the year, and broadened her life experiences.

Still valid in the 21st century

Rindsig said Fairest of the Fair is still a relevant concept in today’s day and age.

“For one thing, (the winners) learn how to meet and greet people,” she said “At the state (Fairest of the Fair) convention, they get an intense week of training, meeting folks, learning about personal appearance, and being professional. It’s a way of preparing you to go into the business world.”

The county Fairest of the Fair winner earns a $500 stipend from the Fair Board and an extra $500 incentive payment if she completes her term, Rindsig added.