2018 marks 25th Gasconade County Fair Queen Contest

Roxanne Murphy

As the 71st Annual Gasconade County Fair Queen contestants gear up for the start of the festivities Wednesday, the queen committee also marks the 25th year of the modern day queen contest, 1994 to 2018.

Erin Sassmann, chairperson, worked with the six fair queen contestants this year and is trying to contact all previous queens for the 25th anniversary.

“We have messaged all the (former) girls and are trying to get as many as we can Wednesday night (July 25) at the queen contest,” Sassmann said. “We plan to have them come up on stage for a photo at the contest.”

Sassmann, who began working with the queen candidates shortly after her own win in 2002 as Erin Riefer, said most of the former Owensville queens are planning to attend. She only knows of one that definitely cannot.

“We are still trying to hunt one down, Molly Hengstenberg, and have been unable to reach Mary Maloney from Hermann,” Sassmann said.

Maloney was the first Gasconade County Fair Queen from this segment, crowned in 1994. According to an article in the Hermann Advertiser Courier, Maloney was the first queen crowned in 22 years. Attempts to locate Maloney have been unsuccessful.

This year’s contestants met Monday night at Gasconade Manor Nursing Home for interviews and talent performances. The nursing home allows them to use the facility free of charge. Interviews are private and judged prior to the fair. Gasconade Manor also prepares a meal for the contestants.

“The queen is actually picked at the fair Wednesday,” said Sassmann, who started helping in 2004 under the direction of Rena Gerloff. “Talents and questions on stage are judged at the fair before winners are announced.”

Queen contestants began training for the event at the beginning of July.

“In July we have one meeting a week until the fair,” Sassmann explained. “During those meetings, we talk about interview skills, go over their talents, and practice their questions on stage.”

Sassmann said before they began practicing questions on stage, it used to be a weak point for the candidates. She added that the State Fair Queen usually helps judge the contest, but schedules didn’t line up this year. Therefore, they have different judges lined up.

“The new high school choir director Philip Giacomelli is absolutely amazing,” Sassmann said.

The Missouri Beef Queen Kenadee Barnitz from Lake Spring and Jeanette Krupp, a graduate of Owensville High School who now lives is Texas, will help judge.

“Qualifications to judge include not knowing the girls or live in our town,” Sassmann began. “Get one judge that knows about talent; one that is in the agricultural field of work; and someone that is going to be a good judge of character.”

Contestants must be between the ages of 17 and 22 years-old and attend the Gasconade County R-1 or R-2 school district. Contestants from Gerald are also permitted.

“A lot of times what we say is it is more of a scholarship competition, as the winner gets a $500 scholarship; and each runner-up receives a scholarship.

“It is more based on personality, who you are, what your talents are,” Sassmann said. “It is not about a beauty contest, but just being an awesome person.”

After the contest on Wednesday, all runners-up and court reign over the rest of the fair, helping to introduce events and distribute ribbons.

“They go to all the events—and even the runners-up say they didn’t win, but they still had a blast,” Sassmann said.

The Gasconade County Fair Queen is sent on to the State Fair Aug 9 to compete in the State Fair Queen contest for two days—where they generally do well.

“To me, the really neat thing about Gasconade County is our girls have done well at the state fair and in the past 10 to 15 years, have been in the top 10,” Sassmann said. “Many won best talent and best evening gown. I know in the past 10 years, one has won talent and three or four have won the evening gown category. It makes me feel good our girls can place high.”

After the State Fair, the queen’s job is not over.

“Throughout the year, whoever wins goes to different events throughout the county,” Sassmann said. “She helps with Christmas Downtown, Trunk or Treat, Springfest—this past year she actually judged the Springiest Queen Contest.”

Sassmann said they have not found a whole lot to do in Hermann yet. Last year’s fair queen, Tessa Eldringhoff, from Hermann, was trying to find more for the queen to do.

“There is also no rule about which end of the county should win each year,” Sassmann added. “Funny, the last few years, you just never know the type of girls you are going to get. That is why the committee has nothing to do with the judging.”

The 2018 Gasconade County Fair Queen Contest committee is Kimberly Huebler, Heather Schlottach, Tricia Ritter, and Brenna Panhorst.