This morning I had the opportunity to judge the O'Brien County Fair King and Queen Contest. With no real expectations going into the event, I had little risk of disappointment. When I met the contestants and the people in charge, I knew disappointment would not enter the equation. Only five upcoming seniors from northwest Iowa competed, but they were definitely five of the best.
Robyn Larsen, a former Clay County Extension employee and current city of Spencer employee, has done this before and agreed that we had our work cut out for us. Though we met only five competitors, the process took about two and a half hours! It was time well spent and it definitely flew by for that reason.
We spent that time listening to and interviewing some of northwest Iowa's finest young ambassadors. Each gave a two- to five-minute speech and each was fairly comfortable. The speeches themselves dealt with questions about 4-H and FFA, and how those programs have been a part of their lives. Though I only had a short stint in FFA, I was interested throughout all the speeches and actually wished I was more active in both programs. I couldn't help but think about what I had missed out on and how I may have grown up differently.
In addition to the content, and actually the highlight for me, was the delivery. Note cards helped some of the contestants get through the speaking part, while others spoke without aid. Meaningless body movement and "Umm"s were limited, most used meaningful gestures and their points were well-presented. Whoever is teaching these kids how to talk in public -- credit goes to FFA, 4-H and high school speech teachers -- are doing a great job. One young man had even gone to state speech in his first year, proving his teacher wrong. Another contestant incorporated a guitar version of the song "For Good" from the musical Wicked, which she had just seen a week prior.
Dedication and leadership qualities were evident in all of these youths. They all know they are role models for youngsters and they accept that role. I truly believe these kids do the right things more often than the wrong things. Either they really are that upstanding, or they deserve an award for acting, as well.
Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "Why are you ranting about kids who live a county away?" Or you're thinking, "Hey, we have good kids here, too." I definitely believe Clay County is similar to O'Brien, and that's why I included northwest Iowa in my title. The reason why I'm taking time to praise these young folks is because it's really easy to see negatives in life. Just look at the stories getting the most attention on this website today. Negative news sells. But, it's definitely refreshing to see and report back on some positives.
In line with my theme of spring and summer activities, I'll end with a couple questions. Do fairs fit into the summer favorite activity list? What do you think about fair queen (and king) contests? Maybe you even have some stories about fair kings and queens. I'd love to hear about it.