By LAURA CARRELL Courier Staff Writer
---- — ELDON — The rides were whirling, the fryers bubbling and the music thumping, but the focus of the opening night of the Wapello County Fair was in the Grandstand as five queen and 11 Little Miss candidates hoped to hear their name called.
That dream came true for 2013 Wapello County Fair Queen Paige Nicole Reck and 2013 Little Miss Kaitlyn Marissa Baeza.
Reck, from Blakesburg, was honored a second time, as she was also named Miss Congeniality. She will be attending Indian Hills Community College in the fall.
Being a part of the Wapello County community is incredibly important, she said, and that pride will spill over as she fulfills her role as this year's fair queen.
"I've always been proud to be from Wapello County. This is an opportunity to show people from other counties around the state how wonderful Wapello County is," she said.
The queen candidates spent the day giving individual interviews, participating in group discussion and preparing answers for the judges' final question of the evening. They even had time to write thank you notes to their sponsors. The judges were given the candidates' applications and personal information, and they watched them during their interactions throughout the day.
After spending an exciting day getting to know the other queen contestants, Reck said winning the crown came as a complete surprise.
"There's not a lot of pageant people in our family, so I was very surprised," she said. "It's an honor to not only compete, but also to win."
Baeza, of Ottumwa, attends Wildwood Elementary School. She could easily explain what being a Little Miss at the fair is all about.
"Just to have fun," she said.
And that's exactly what the younger girls did all afternoon Wednesday. Baeza said they played games, talked a lot and even made butterfly rings. Then they got to get dressed up and got out on stage.
She will now join Reck in the official duties around the fair. They will hand out trophies and ribbons, visit events as a representative of the fair and attend concerts.
Today is Senior Day at the fair, which opens at noon. All seniors can attend for free.
Harness racing begins in the Grandstand at noon. Auto races will follow at 7 p.m. For a complete schedule of events for today and the rest of the week, visit www.wapellocountyfair.com.