ONTARIO – The Richland County Fair's Junior Fair program has been a life-changing experience for many of its participants - including this year's fair royalty.
On Sunday, Joseph Sieving and Sierra Schaffer were named the 2019 Junior Fair King and Queen, respectively. Sieving represented the Barnyard Buddies 4-H program, while Schaffer represented Country Kids 4-H and Crestview FFA.
Both Sieving and Schaffer, each now age 17, have been in 4-H since they were 9 years old. For Sieving, the program transformed him from a shy kid who barely spoke to someone who learned leadership, confidence and how to present yourself.
"When they first announced me (as king) it honestly really surprised me," he said. "Even a year ago, I wouldn't have even pictured myself running for something like this."
Sieving is a student at Knox County Career Center, and this year his fair exhibits include a dairy steer, a dairy feeder calf, and master photography. In the future, he hopes to further his education in the construction trades.
Schaffer was the second runner-up to fair queen last year, so to be crowned as queen this year was quite an honor.
"It was really nerve-wracking standing up there waiting for the announcement, but once he said it, it felt great," she said.
This year, Schaffer brought a steer for 4-H, and a leadership project and knot-tying project for FFA that both advanced to the state fair. Her most memorable moment in Junior Fair came this year after she served as a junior camp counselor.
"Once you get done with camp and come to fair, all the kids run up to you and remember you," Schaffer said. "They want to walk around with you because you're the role model they look forward to."
During her reign as royalty, Schaffer is looking forward to helping the younger kids through their fair exhibits. Both Schaffer and Sieving are also looking forward to visiting other fairs and representing Richland County.
"I'll be able to meet more people, make more connections, and it'll be a growing and learning experience," Sieving said.
Second and first runners-up to queen this year were Natalie Snyder and Laurasen Combs, respectively. First runner-up to king was Cory Myers. Other contestants included Claudia Caudill, Ryleigh Chase, Anna Circosta, Alexis Eldridge, Alexa Fulk, and Allene Watson.
With the crowning of the new king and queen, the 2018 royalty Brianna Given and Nathan Volz also gave their farewell addresses. Both said their experience as fair royalty the past year has given them a new appreciation for the Richland County Fair.
"I'm thankful for the impact Junior Fair has had on my life, and I hope to pay it forward," Given said. "There's still hope for the world, despite what others say about the upcoming generations. Be the positive influence someone was for you, because it's worth it."
"We have a community that comes together and supports each other, and that's so important for kids growing up," Volz added. "4-H changed my life forever, and built me into the man I am today. Get involved in everything; you won't regret it."