CLEARFIELD – Last year’s winner Halee Kephart became “best friends” with contestant Melanie Swartz, 19, of Ginter, and this year, she crowned her the 2011 Clearfield County Fair Queen on Sunday afternoon at the grandstand stage at the Clearfield Driving Park.
Swartz was joined by first runner-up Misti Bruner, 19, of Curwensville and second runner-up Chelsea Folmar, 16, of Luthersburg. In addition, Victoria Garner, 17, of La Jose and Kristin Rindosh, 18, of DuBois were named as Top Five Contestants.
“Oh my gosh, I can’t even begin to describe it,” Swartz said just moments after Kephart crowned her as this year’s queen. “We became best friends when I was her second runner-up last year, and it made me want it even more this time.”
Swartz said that Kephart mentored her over the past year and showed her a particularly important quality. “I learned to just be myself, and it’s the best quality that anyone could ever have.”
According to Kephart, neither she nor the judges could have selected a better queen than Swartz. She said the two friends have grown and learned from each other in the fair queen program.
“I’m just so proud and happy for her. There’s no doubt in my mind that she’s going to be an outstanding representative for our fair and for Clearfield County,” Kephart said.
“My year changed my life in so many ways, and I’ve grown from being in this program the past two years . . . It would be selfish of me to keep this crown. I want to give another an experience of a lifetime.”
Swartz said she greatly benefited from spending last year in the program alongside Kephart and because of that, she knew what was expected of her in this year’s competition.
“I wanted to do my best for me. I wanted this for me,” she said when speaking of the opportunities coming her way over the next year. “And, Halee and I are best friends, and I know I can go to her any time.”
In her speech, Swartz couldn’t forget the time that she wore flip flops to the fair. She went home only to notice her feet were a shade of tan from her dusty travels at the fairgrounds.
“I realized how much my fair means to me because of my dust-covered feet,” she said. Her fair’s foundation was established around agriculture, which is the state’s No. 1 industry.
Swartz said that 92 percent of farms are owned and operated by families and her fair gives its visitors – young and old – an “up close and personal” glance at animals.
However, her fair’s concession stands serve up an array of traditional favorites that its visitors crave all year long. “It’s that special treat one time a year that fills a hungry stomach, and it also fills your heart,” she said.
While the grandstand entertainment features popular musical artists from country sensations Trace Adkins and Kellie Pickler to pop phenomenon Big Time Rush, Thursday night’s Truck & Tractor Pull raises the dirt of the fairground’s half-mile track.
The Clearfield fair is currently one of only 15 statewide that still features harness racing, she said. Before leaving the fairgrounds, she encouraged visitors to stop by the Expo buildings and admire the craftsmanship of the area citizens.
“Come to my fair and go home with dust-covered feet,” Swartz said.
Swartz became the 23rd Clearfield County Fair Queen, a program that was restored in 1989. This year, 16 girls entered the competition, and of those, 11 competed on stage.