Rule change prompts new 4-H queen contest

Herald Staff Writer

The Dubois County 4-H council is preparing for two pageants at this year’s fair. When the Dubois County 4-H fair queen contest takes place July 6, it will have an addition: a junior miss contest.

The addition of a second pageant is due to a new rule being put into effect by the state 4-H council. The rule requires queen contestants at the state fair to be 17 when they compete because the winner must be 18 by the time she reigns over the following year’s state fair.

The rule came about because the state fair council wanted the queen to be covered under its liability insurance, making it mandatory that she be a paid employee, according to Laura Sherman, co-chairman of the Dubois County queen contest. With the state queen being a paid position, labor laws come into play. When the queen travels across the state to promote the fair in June and July, plus during the weeks of the fair itself, the position includes 40 or more working hours a week, thus requiring the queen be 18 or older.

“In order to be able to send our county queen to state, we had to be in compliance with their rules, so that our queen could compete” in the state contest, Sherman said.

Previously, anyone 16 or older could compete for the state title. The Dubois County 4-H Council didn’t want 16-year-olds to be left out of the experience, so the junior competition was created. It is open to 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds.

According to Herald archives, two 16-year-olds have competed in the county queen contest since 2008.

“It’s a growing experience,” Sherman said. “Being able to participate when they’re young will prepare them for whenever they get to do the queen contest.”

The first junior miss competition will take place with the queen contest at 7 p.m. at the Jasper Middle School Gymnasium. The two contests will be intermixed, Sherman said. While 17 contestants ages 17 to 20  will compete for the title of queen, eight girls ages 14 to 16 have been preparing with Sherman and the rest of the contest committee since the beginning of June to earn the title of junior miss. The girls have been working on their interview and modeling skills to ready themselves for the competition.

Jessica Hilsmeyer, 15, a member of the St. Henry Saints 4-H Club, is a junior miss contestant. She has participated in 4-H since third grade, completing projects in ceramics and flowers.

“I’ve always wanted to do the queen’s contest, and (the junior miss competition) is a good opportunity to get know everything before the big one,” said Jessica, a sophomore at Southridge High School.

Though Jessica has always planned to participate in the 4-H queen contest, another contestant, Nicole Epple, 15, wasn’t sure. Nicole, a member of the Wrangler 4-H Horse and Pony Club, is a self-described “laid-back country girl” and was never much of a “pageant girl.” She said her mom, Sharon, and her grandparents always pictured her doing queen pageants, so she thought she’d give it a shot. The competition is still nine days away and the Forest Park sophomore said she already is glad she chose to participate.

“It’s the greatest experience I think I’ve ever had, personally,” Nicole said. “I like how the girls are all so interactive and I’m learning so much.”

Sherman said the winner of the junior miss contest will have duties like any queen’s court member. She will be present at fair events, hand out ribbons to 4-H’ers and participate in fair activities including the hog wrestling and tug of war.

The junior miss contestants will continue practicing up until the competition, picking up advice on how to present themselves during the contest along the way.

“It is a younger group of girls than we’ve ever had before,” Sherman said. “It’s been really neat to see their improvement and their growth.”

Contact April Dittmer at

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