A handful of teenage girls dressed in blue jeans and fancy tops lined up across the show barn stage at the Loudoun County Fair Sunday, July 22, to compete in Miss Loudoun County Fair 2007.
Kim Monroe, pageant coordinator, said the annual event is held opening day of the fair, so Miss Loudoun County Fair can fulfill her duties.
The Loudoun County Fair, located on Dry Mill Road in Leesburg, has changed over the course of 50 years, but one mainstay is the pageant, where teenage girls compete to represent the fair by passing out ribbons and trophies and posing for pictures over the course of the week.
"The rules are simple," Monroe said.
Pageant contestants must be residents of Loudoun County and be between the 16 and 22 years old, never been married, nor have children.
"All contestants must be a female who has continuously displayed exemplary moral characteristics," said Monroe. "The contestant must never been convicted of any crime, nor has any criminal charges pending against her; one that has never done any act or engaged in any activity which is or could be characterized as dishonest, immoral, indecent or in bad taste."
KIMBERLY DEHAVEN, Tricia Corle and Laurie Niergarth sat at a table in the middle of the show barn with pencils in hand and asked the teenage girls questions about the county, the challenges it faces, and, of course, 4-H.
"We’re judging on their overall presentation and public-speaking skills," DeHaven said.
Corle, a volunteer at the fair, said she had no pageant experience, but was looking for the finest girl to represent the fair.
"She is going to be responsible for handing out ribbons and answering questions through out the week," she said. "So we are looking for the best girl to do that."
The five contestants were involved in at least one aspect of 4-H, and represented Sterling, Leesburg and western Loudoun.
AFTER THE interview portion of the competition, the teenage girls raced to makeshift dressing rooms to change into formal wear.
After the contestants strutted across the stage in evening gowns and shiny flats, they took center stage again to await the results.
Within minutes, Carly Griffith was named Miss Loudoun Fair 2007.
As camera flashes went off from the wooden bleachers, Miss Loudoun Fair 2006, Alexandra Beard, placed a shiny tiara and white sash on Carly Griffith.
GRIFFITH GOT her first taste of the Loudoun County Fair and 4-H life about eight years ago. One of her friends took her to the fair, where she enjoyed learning about the animals, especially rabbits.
"Since I live in Sterling, I can’t be like, ‘Mom, can you buy me a cow?’ so I was like, ‘Mom, can you buy me a rabbit?’"
The following year, Claire Griffith bought her daughter a rabbit.
Now, the 17-year-old Park View High School senior is a member of the 4-H Rabbit Club and tends 14 rabbits in the backyard of her Sterling home.
As a member of the Rabbit Club, Carly Griffith is responsible for showing her animals, as well as talking about them at local competitions.
"Four-H has definitely helped me with public speaking, especially in school, like when I have to do a class presentation," she said.
She is also involved in the 4-H Club’s Teen Council, which promotes 4-H, leadership opportunities and community service throughout the county.
Before Carly Griffith joined 4-H, her mother said she was shy.
"I’ve noticed a difference in [Carly] since she joined 4-H seven years ago," Claire Griffith said. "It has really helped her grow and mature."
It has also brought the mother and daughter closer together.
"I grew up in a suburb. I didn’t know anything about rabbits," Claire Griffith said. "It’s definitely a family affair. We all work together to take care of the rabbits."
AS THE NEW face of the fair, Carly Griffith’s duties include handing out ribbons and trophies and posing for pictures with winners of various contests throughout the event, which runs through Saturday, July 28, and preparing for the Virginia Association of Fairs Pageant in January 2008.
She must also be present at next year’s Miss Loudoun County Fair contest, to pass the crown on to another 4-H member.
"Each year I like to try something new," Carly Griffith said. "I’ve gained a lot of confidence through 4-H. It has helped me in all aspects of my life."