Libby Knoebel, Helenville, is crowned 2019 Fairest of the Fair by 2018 Fairest of the Fair Kiley Eck. The crowning took place Sunday at the Kids' Stage. Knoebel will reign over the 2019 Jefferson County Fair. For more photos, click here.
JEFFERSON — A childhood dream became a reality for Libby Knoebel on Sunday when she was crowned 2019 Fairest of the Fair.
The Fairest of the Fair competition was just one part of the 166th Jefferson County Fair, which concluded its five day run Sunday.
Knoebel was selected by the judges as this year’s winner and was crowned by 2018 Fairest of the Fair Kiley Eck at the Kids’ Stage just prior to the International Demolition DerbyI just want to say, judges, thank you so much,” Knoebel said after being crowned. “I’m so looking forward to this opportunity. It’s been a dream of mine since I was (very little). I’m not going to cry because I’m really excited and I’m shaking right now, so thank you so much. I’m speechless.”
A Helenville native, Knoebel was one of two contestants vying for the crown. She was joined in her journey by Natalie Ciciva, of Waterloo.
“It has been an amazing (experience),” the 2019 Fairest said after the ceremony finished. “Natalie was great, Kiley was great, the judges were amazing. The whole experience was, simply, I don’t even know; I have no words right now. I just want to cry.”
Knoebel explained that what she most is looking forward to during her reign is promoting the fair because she “grew up here” and wants more people to attend and be involved in the fair.
“Just (to) interact with all the kids,” she said when asked if she had any specific goals as Fairest. “My favorite part of this fair is working with all the different exhibitors, so supporting them and congratulating them on all their hard work is the most important thing to me.”
Having grown up on a fresh produce and livestock farm, Knoebel is the youngest daughter of Steve and Jody Knoebel and has been showing at the fair for “many, many years.”
In the fall, she will be entering her junior year at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where she is pursuing a double-major in animal science and dairy science, with the goal of becoming an animal nutritionist.
Throughout the competition, the Fairest contestants participated in a variety of activities promoting the fair, including dairy breakfasts and parades, producing radio commercials, communicating with businesses and community members, and assisting the reigning Fairest of the Fair throughout fair week.
The women were evaluated on professional appearance, community activities, personality, poise, fair knowledge and experience, speaking ability, a personal interview, radio commercial and their written application.
As winner, Knoebel will go on to compete for the title of Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs in the annual Wisconsin Association of Fairs Convention in January 2020.
Eck will compete for the title in 2019, with Knoebel attending as a representative of the Jefferson County Fair.
Ciciva, meanwhile, grew up on a livestock and horse farm and has shown horses at the Jefferson County Fair for the last 11 years. She was the 2014-15 Jefferson County Horse and Pony Project Equine Ambassador.
She is the eldest daughter of John and Donna Ciciva and will be entering her senior year at William Woods University in Fulton, Mo., come fall. Ciciva is pursuing degrees in equestrian science and equestrian administration with a minor in business administration and plans to return to Wisconsin to attain her certified veterinarian technician degree.
“This experience has been amazing,” Ciciva said after the crowning. “I got to become close with a few girls that I never thought I would. It’s really made us grow as friends, and that’s something that will forever be with us.”
Prior to the crowning, the contestants were asked two final questions. First, the women drew a card and were asked how they would interact with the person as Fairest of the Fair.
Knoebel was asked about interacting with a fair sponsor and Ciciva, a general fair-goer.
“As Fairest of the Fair, I would thank the sponsors graciously for all they do to support our fair,” Knoebel said. “It is extremely important that we have all of these people that support this great time of the summer, and without them, this amazing thing would not happen.”
Ciciva said she would begin by thanking the fair-goer for coming to the Jefferson County Fair.
“This is a great time for many people, as they come here and it’s kind of like a family reunion,” she said. “Once you start in Jefferson County, you’re always in Jefferson County, so I would thank them for coming.
“Maybe they’re coming to see the animals, maybe they’re coming to see the show and maybe they’re coming to see their family that they never thought they would have until they found Jefferson County,” she continued. “I would also remind them of what is happening that day and remind them to have a great time.”
Next, the two women were asked what three words they would use to describe the Jefferson County Fair and why they chose those words.
The words Knoebel chose were “unique,” “welcoming” and “unforgettable.”
“Most — not most, all — every single one of the kids that exhibits here is unique in their own way and you can see how much hard work they have put into their projects,” she said. “Each one is unique; none of them are the same. I think that sets our fair apart and is really something cool that anybody who comes to this fair can see.”
Having shown at the fair for so long, Knoebel said, there never has been a year she has not enjoyed her time there, much of which is due to the welcoming atmosphere.
“That is due to many of the people who showed here and just come to the fair,” she explained. “They are always so happy and, no matter what, how they do or how I do, we always congratulate each other and we’re always so happy to be here with one another. It’s always a highlight of the summer to come and see everybody who’s here because they are so welcoming and friendly.
“The third word I would use to describe this fair is ‘unforgettable’,” Knoebel continued. “We have amazing sponsors, we have amazing exhibitors, we have great entertainment of all sorts and types. We have the daily shows, which are always fun to see, the nightly entertainment, the truck pulls, the tractor pulls. Anything you come to this fair for is unforgettable and that’s why I will never leave this fair.”
“Family,” “fun” and “excitement” were the words Ciciva selected.
The fair is exciting because you “never know what you’re going to get,” she said, pointing to the sea lion show as an example.
“Everybody was like, ‘Oh, they’re sea lions,’ but it’s much more than that,” Ciciva said. “They’re telling you about the pollution that’s happening and how each one of the sea lions has a different background of where they came from.”
It’s fun because there’s “always something to offer.
“Whether it’s the corn box that comes back every year and the kids are like, ‘I have to play in the corn’ and they come back and dump their pants (filled with corn) out,” she said. “Yeah, that’s the corn box. Or, the fun of the future showman. Watching the younger kids walk into the show ring and come out with a smile on their face: ‘I survived. I did it. I accomplished what I was here to do.’”
Ciciva said she chose “family” because, “once you start in Jefferson County, you end in Jefferson County.
“It’s been something that really means a lot because the people that have been around to support me this week have been amazing,” Ciciva said through tears. “I lost one of my high school best friends in a car accident this past week, and (my fair family were the ones) putting a smile on my face and giving me the hug that I needed to push through for the week.
“I had to get up and I had to put my sash on and I had to greet the fair-goers and remind them why Jefferson County is great,” she continued. “The family that I had this week is what I truly look for, and I cannot thank Jefferson County enough.”
A Fairest’s farewell
While the judges deliberated on who would win the crown, 2018 Fairest of the Fair Kiley Eck spoke about her experience as Fairest.
“In the past year, I’ve been asked about this pageant — I don’t like calling a pageant a pageant, I like to call it a program, but that’s a different story — how it’s changed me, my goals, if I’m ready to give up my crown, if I’m excited or thankful that it’s over,” Eck began. “Truthfully, I’m not quite sure. To me, I’m still just Kiley. I’m still the girl that I started off as. But, people tell me that I’ve made changes.
“I’m just a little older, a little bit more mature and I really didn’t want to cry,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes. “I’ve known that this program would push me when I started. It’s part of the reason why I chose to do it.”
Eck explained that she hadn’t wanted something that was easy or came naturally to her. Instead, she wanted something that would make her “better in all aspects.”
The Fairest of the Fair program and the people she has met along the way have helped her accomplish that, she said.
“I would never, in a million years, dream about going on stage and talking to hundreds of people,” Eck noted. “But, for the past two days, I’ve done that twice. And although I seemingly talk well on the radio, man, did that make me nervous last year. Now, I can talk and look people in the eye and speak with confidence, knowing that whatever I say, I can say it well.”
She thanked her family, everyone involved in the fair and the judges from last year and this year.
“You’ve made these memories I can cherish for a lifetime,” Eck said. “To the judges from last year and this year, thank you for believing in me and granting me this wonderful opportunity.”
Also, she thanked the 2018 Fairest contestants — Rachal Mark, Amber Ziebell, Amanda Griebenow and Bianca Bavuso — as well as Knoebel and Ciciva.
“You guys all hold a very special place in my life,” Eck told her fellow fair royalty. “We got to grow up together and become who we are together.”
Speaking directly to Knoebel and Ciciva, Eck told them to “have fun and enjoy” as one of them continued their journey as 2019 Fairest of the Fair.
“It is something that you will never forget,” Eck concluded