TERRE HAUTE —
As her mom helped her put on her crown to enter the fair as royalty for the first time, 2013 Vigo County Queen Sarah Hudson was full of nervous energy.
“I was so nervous and excited about the week and the role I have,” she said. “I guess I am a bit nit-picky about how straight the crown is on my head.”
Still bewildered about the fact she won the pageant, Hudson made her way — a few minutes late after the crooked crown problem — to the horse and pony show, one of many events she would attend throughout the week.
“I am still speechless about winning,” she added with a smile. “I keep watching the video just to make sure it is actually real.”
Coming from a line of 4-H oriented siblings, Jessica Jackson and Amber Stevenson, Hudson grew up around the fairgrounds. Connie Hudson, Sarah’s mother said she remembered as she waddled along side her while attending the fair every year.
“She eventually participated in the mini 4-H and worked her way up to where she is now,” Connie said.
Sarah even received some advice from Jackson, who won the 2007 Vigo County Fair Queen pageant. The tips ranged from posture, walking and interacting with the judges.
A lot has changed since 2007 for the role of fair queen, Sarah said.
“Due to insurance and liability issues, we aren’t allowed to get as involved in some of the events as past queens,” she said.
When Jessica was queen, she was able to ride in tractors, demolition derby cars, on donkeys and in a monster truck, Sarah said.
“I was looking forward to participating in more events, but I understand they have to protect people,” she added.
Sarah did enjoy an array of different events throughout the fair. Monday, she was judging poultry, rabbits and swine along side the two runner-ups, Jacy McClain and Klair Wiram. Tuesday, she was collecting the audiences’ vote ballots that pushed Caleb Sutherland to win “The Vocalist” competition. She even got the chance to be in the same room with one of her biggest fears.
“During the Silly Safari, the guy brought out a snake towards the end,” Sarah said as goosebumps formed on her arms. “I told him if he brought it near me I was going to leave. I am terrified of snakes.”
The majority of events she attended resulted in her handing out ribbons and plaques to the winners, she said. There were, however, a few quirky moments.
Sarah said she had never milked a goat before, but that didn’t stop her from trying Thursday night at the Round Robin Showmanship contest.
“I practiced a few times before-hand with a former queen who was in the dairy barn,” she said after chuckling as she recalled the event. “I was nervous and I knew I was going to lose, but I gave it a try anyway.”
People sat in the stands waiting for the event to start and the nerves running wild, she said. It was at that moment when an infant goat was brought out to replace the mature goat she was going to milk.
“Everyone knew the kid [infant goat] couldn’t be milked,” Sarah added. “It added a comedic aura and helped me calm my nerves before the competition. Luckily, they brought the adult goat out again.”
Little did the audience know that Sarah’s bucket already had a little milk inside to give her a head start, but the adult goat decided she didn’t like the handicap and kicked over her bucket spilling the contents. Sarah said she then had to start with an empty bucket and the competition began against McClain.
“She definitely beat me, but I had a lot of fun with the experience,” Sarah said. “She [McClain] caught on right away and was pretty good at it.”
Despite her loss, Sarah still left with a smile on her face and a positive outlook on the experience.
She even got to try her hand at competitive eating Wednesday afternoon, Sarah said.
“I wanted to get involved with the watermelon eating contest,” she said. “I thought I’d win for sure because I was going up against 13, 14 and 15 year olds.”
At the time, Sarah said she thought the point was to spit the seeds out, and by the time she understood the event, she had already lost to a young boy.
“It was crazy how fast they ate it,” Sarah said with an impressed look on her face.
Aside from the presence at events, their is a social side the queen must perform, she said.
“People from all ages would approach us and interact with us,” Sarah said. “Older women congratulating us [down to] 2-month-old babies being put in our arms for a picture — the generation gap we experienced was amazing.”
Connie is impressed with how well Sarah interacts with the many people that approached her over the course of the week.
“She is a very outgoing and well-known woman at 4-H,” Connie said. “It is amazing how natural it seems when she interacts with anyone of any age.”
Though Sarah was approached by many people during the fair, one time stuck out in her memory.
A 7-year-old girl named Haylee approached Sarah at the floriculture building and asked her, “Are you the queen?” Sarah said she responded with a “yes.” Haylee proceeded to give her a vase with flowers in it, informing Sarah that she made it for her.
As Sarah transitioned to a different event, Haylee asked to come along because she had lost her parents.
“After she told me that, I had her come along with me to the Jr. Leader session where we learned about each other,” Sarah said. “I learned about her favorite color, foods, animal and her family. She wasn’t a part of 4-H but she said she wanted to join after talking to me about it.”
After the parents caught up with Haylee and continued with their day, Sarah said she saw the value in interacting with the fair community. “It is the little things that make being queen worth it,” she said. “We are like a community here.”
As fair came to an end Saturday, and with only visiting home once throughout the whole week, Sarah said the only things on her agenda is to sleep a lot and spend time with her Great Pyrenees — Nick — who she has missed dearly.
Sarah summed up the week in one word — bittersweet.
“I am glad I will be able to get back into a routine, but I am sad the experience ends,” she said teary-eyed “I have enjoyed every minute of it, from the kids running up to me to spending time with the runner-ups. I am truly amazed and blessed for this opportunity and being able to have this role.”
Reporter Dustyn Fatheree can be reached at 812-231-4255 and firstname.lastname@example.org.