MOUNT VERNON — The first day of the Knox County Fair kicked off with the coronation of the Junior Fair King and Queen on Sunday. Ten candidates gave speeches regarding why they should be picked as king or queen. This year, Emma Laymon, Gambier, was named queen, and Brayden Freeman, North Liberty, was named king.
In her speech, Laymon outlined her last 10 years in 4-H, describing each year as a chapter in her life. Despite her uncertainty with joining the organization and her shy demeanor, in chapter 6 she found that 4-H brought her out of her shell and helped her realize her love of helping others.
“…I found my confidence and my ability to voice my own opinions. At this point, the greatest aspect of my 4-H career was introduced to me; I learned that I have the ability to teach others while still growing myself,” Laymon said.
Fair royalty comes with a few responsibilities, including an appearance at every show and answering any questions that might come their way. The win came a surprise to Laymon, who didn’t feel like she was the tiara type.
“I can’t believe it in all honesty. I never thought I could be the girl that had the queen tiara, I’m the country little tom-boy. I always thought, ‘I don’t want a tiara!’ But I really looked up to all of those girls, and actually having that as my own now, I want the next little girl to look up to me,” Laymon said.
Freeman said that becoming the fair king is something he has wanted since he started coming to the fair at two years old.
“I’ve really wanted to do this, ever since I was a little kid. I’m one of those guys,” Freeman said. Freeman got involved with 4-H and the Knox County Junior Fair Board after years of looking up to past fair kings, and wanting to be in their shoes. He said in his speech that he found his passions and his confidence through 4-H, and learned how to persevere during difficult times.
“Strength and perseverance clears a path for success. If you have something standing in your way, you put your head down, you do what you know what you need to do, and when you look up it’s behind you. That’s what I’d like to convey to these younger guys and gals, hard work and perseverance, because that’s what the fair has taught me,” Freeman said.
Both contestants agreed that the application process for king and queen brought them out of their comfort zones.
“It was almost like I was boasting, and I don’t typically like to rant on about myself, so that in itself was really taking it out of my comfort zone, and going ‘Yeah, I have done this, and I have completed that.’ I’m proud to say all of those achievements have led up to being queen,” Laymon said.
Both grew up home-schooled, and didn’t have much experience with public speaking. Laymon, currently in nursing school, read her speeches to a few of the residents that live in the nursing home she works in.
“I work the night shift, and there’s three or four of them that stay up late, and I asked, ‘Would you like to hear my speech? I’m trying out for the Knox County Fair queen,’ and seeing their eyes light up, I thought, ‘Maybe I actually have a chance at this,’” Laymon said.
Both said that showing at the fair has given them confidence and other skills that they wouldn’t have learned otherwise. Freeman said that he learned to compete in a healthy way and how to practice good sportsmanship, and Laymon learned how to be confident in herself and her projects, which she hopes will stay with her as she enters future careers.
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