WEST LIBERTY — On Wednesday night, the Muscatine County Fairgrounds welcomed four young ladies to the stage of this year’s fair queen contest.
This year’s competitors were Morgan Hodge, 16, West Liberty, Anna Marine, 17, Wilton, McKenna Riess, 18, Muscatine, and Haylee Lehman, 19, West Liberty.
Lehman won, becoming the 2021-2022 county fair queen. She will move on to compete for the Iowa state fair crown later on this summer. As for the other titles, Hodge won this year’s Ms. Congeniality while Marine won the title of First Runner-Up.
Sponsored by the West Liberty FFA, Lehman attends Drake University, where she is studying for a degree in Health Sciences with minors in psychology and Spanish for medical care professionals. In high school, Lehman was in FFA and showed beef and bottle calves. She participated in photography, visual arts, craft projects and the bucket brigade. She was also involved with student council, National Honor Society, softball, basketball, volleyball, track and several community service projects.
Each contestant had a 10-minute interview with the judges. Following that, the judges observed a discussion of current events in a group interview. Finally, each of the contestants answered two randomly selected questions in front of the county fair audience.
For her first question, Lehman was asked what tradition at the Muscatine County Fair stuck out to her the most. She answered with, “Personally, the livestock shows (stick out the most to me), because you can see all the hard work, dedication and work ethic that these kids put into these livestock animals, and how it’ll pay off. Also the fair parade, just to see all community and county members that come out to see the people that’ll be either in the fair parade or throughout the fair during the time that you’re here.”
In her second question, she was asked about her community, which was West Liberty, and had to explain what she thought made it unique. Lehman pointed to the city’s diversity for her answer. “One thing that’s really big around here is the way we have multiple different ethnicities. No matter that we’re different we’re also the same, and we can get along and not have to have these difference in-between us.”
Following her win, Lehman said that although she was still shaking from nerves, winning the title made her feel blessed.
“Being able to represent my county is something that I’ve kind of dreamed of since I was a little girl,” she said, “My aunt won it when she came and competed, so that just kind of motivated me. She surprised me today, so it was very sentimental for her to come and see me. Winning the crown just kind of put the cherry on top of the cake.”
Lehman said she wanted to compete not just to represent her county, but also get out of her comfort zone. “I don’t really do this whole pageant and crown stuff, but it was fun and it was a great learning opportunity. I’m meeting a whole bunch of new people through it, and I’m excited to represent the county at the state fair.”
Although she isn’t sure if she’ll win, Lehman said that she’s looking forward to meeting this year’s other competitors and hopefully making some lifetime friends. As for what she had to say to those girls who may be thinking about competing for the county crown next year, Lehman encouraged them to do it.
“Chase your dreams, even if it’s out of your comfort zone,” she said, “I was second-guessing it, and honestly (competing) was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I want to thank the judges, my family and everybody who’s been in my corner since day one. I’m truly blessed to be in this position.”