It was Cheyenne Parks’ turn to feel like a princess Wednesday night when she was crowned queen of the 2014 Washington Town and Country Fair.
Wearing an aqua blue strapless gown with a full, flowing skirt that she could flip and swish as she walked, Parks said it has long been a dream of hers to be in the contest and hearing her name called as Fair Queen felt unreal.
“Since I was 3 years old, I’ve always watched these girls walk on stage in these pretty, beautiful gowns and look like a princess, and it’s just so surreal that it’s me now,” she said.
Sharing the spotlight with Parks are Rachel Buenemann, Washington, first runner-up; Sally Jo Kelley, Augusta, second runner-up; and Madison Yarbrough, New Haven, Miss Congeniality.
At 18 years old, Parks was one of the younger girls entered in this year’s queen contest. She graduated from Washington High School this spring and will begin her freshman year at the University of Missouri-Columbia in just a few weeks, but that’s also why she felt this year was the perfect time to enter.
“I was transitioning from a teen to a miss, I was going to college, so why not just take it on, and I needed the scholarship money ultimately,” she said.
A Washington fairgoer all her life, Parks said her two favorite activities have always been the queen contest and the motocross events. That’s what she’s looking forward to the most during the Fair.
“I absolutely love motocross and everything that there is to do with it,” she said, noting at home she enjoys riding dirt bikes with her little brother and one week ago she was the motocross start car girl at the Warrenton fair.
Watching Parks walk with such grace across the Main Stage, despite wearing 5 1/2-inch heels, it’s easy to see her 15 years of dance training. It also helped that she practiced walking around in her dress and heels for several hours before the ceremony.
Parks began taking classes at Ursula’s when she was 3 and later moved to Dance Zone in Union. When she was in seventh grade she enrolled at Charmette Academy of Dance in St. Louis where she has studied all styles of dance — tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, gymnastics, partnering, ballet, pointe . . .
At WHS, Parks was captain of the Jaywalkers dance team and was featured on ESPN for the United Dance Alliance opening production number at nationals. This fall, she will be a member of the Golden Girls dance squad at Mizzou.
In addition to dancing, Parks is very proud of her volunteer work with organizations like the Miss Amazing Pageant and Children’s Miracle Network and promoting youth leadership and development across the state.
At Mizzou, Parks plans to study textile and apparel management and business. Her dream is to work with a fashion designer hosting fashion shows and photo shoots.
Looking ahead to the next few days touring the fairgrounds, Parks said she is looking forward to meeting as many people as she can.
“I want to say thank you to everyone,” she remarked. “I’m so excited to represent Washington.”
Parks is the daughter of Scott and Rhonda Parks, Washington. She was sponsored in the queen contest by Schnucks.
Less than an hour after hearing her name called as first runner-up in the Fair Queen contest, Rachel Buenemann, 21, said the honor was still sinking in.
“I’m just so excited for how this week’s going to be,” she told The Missourian. “I’m looking forward to helping represent the Fair throughout the entire week and all of the contests, getting to interact with all of the kids and everyone.”
The contests at the Washington Town and Country Fair have always been Buenemann’s favorite. As a child she competed in the turtle races and Hula-Hoop contests and won many Best of Show awards in the horticulture, floriculture and rose shows.
For the last two years she served as a department head in the home ec exhibitor building, only taking off this year so she could enter the queen contest.
“I love all the contests at the Fair,” Buenemann remarked.
Now as a member of the queen court, she’s looking forward to seeing the Fair from another perspective.
“Getting to see all the kids will be fun,” she said. “I remember when I was a kid, as they brought (the queen court) out at every event, just to see it now from the other angle.”
Buenemann is the daughter of Jerome and Rita Buenemann, Washington. She is a 2011 graduate of Washington High School and a 2013 graduate of East Central College where she earned an associate degree in biology.
This fall she will be a senior at Southeast Missouri State University where she’s finishing a bachelor’s degree in dietetics. Her plans are to be a nationally registered dietician and work in a clinical setting in a hospital.
Buenemann’s sponsor in the queen contest was Colton’s Steakhouse.
For the last 11 years, Sally Jo Kelley, Augusta, has shown a market hog at the Washington Town and Country Fair.
This year, at age 20, Kelley is too old to show, so she decided to do the next best thing — compete in the queen contest.
“I love the Fair,” Kelley remarked.
“This is my last shebang where it’s mandatory for me to be at the Fair Wednesday through Sunday like I would when I showed.”
Now as a member of the queen court, Kelley said she is excited to support all of the livestock entries, including the market hog show that was held Thursday morning.
“I’m really excited to be in all the pictures,” said Kelley. “I always looked up to those girls when I showed.
“I’m most looking forward to meeting all of the little kids, being someone they look at, a role model, and to be with the court and to support the livestock.”
Kelley and Miss Congeniality Madison Yarbrough just met in June through the queen contest, but they developed such a fast friendship that they came up with their own “handshake,” something they call the “Boom Clap,” after the feel-good song by Charli XCX that has become their theme song.
“We’re both really outrageous, and we wanted to do something really cool (when passing on stage), so we messed around with a couple of different things, and that’s what we decided,” said Kelley.
Kelley is a 2012 graduate of Washington High School and a 2014 graduate of St. Charles Community College. This fall she will be at William Woods University studying special education.
She is the daughter of Debbie and the late Bradley Kelley, Augusta, and her sponsor in the queen contest was Halcyon Spa, Augusta.
Listening to Madison Yarbrough, 18, as she interacted with other members of the queen court at Fricke Studio just following the coronation ceremony Wednesday evening, it’s easy to see why the group voted her Miss Congeniality.
At one point she even burst into song, singing “Build Me Up Buttercup,” as the court was leaving after having their photos taken for the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce office.
Yarbrough, who also was named Miss Congeniality of this year’s New Haven Fair, said winning this honor felt extra special.
“It was beautiful. My heart just got so much bigger, like Dr. Seuss’ the Grinch, because it wasn’t judges who had just known me for a day it was people I had been with for two months,” she said.
“I started tearing up, because it was amazing to think that they voted for me.”
Yarbrough said she entered the Washington Fair queen contest for the fun of it, and she wasn’t disappointed.
“I connected with almost everyone,” she said. “I just really love to talk to people, and I don’t like silence . . . it was wonderful getting to know every single one of them.”
Yarbrough has gone to the Washington Town and Country Fair at least one day each year for as long as she can remember. Her favorite activities have always been the queen contest, the rides and the food.
If she hadn’t been competing this year, she would have been in the audience with her friends, “riding rides, getting milk shakes and fish and chips.”
As a member of the queen court, Yarbrough said she doesn’t even know all of the special things she has access to, so she’s looking forward “to everything!”
A 2014 graduate of New Haven High School, Yarbrough will be a freshman at Northwest Missouri State University this fall where she plans to study elementary education with a double minor in Spanish and music.
She is the daughter of Cindy and Scott Yarbrough, New Haven, and was sponsored in the queen contest by Papa Murphy’s pizza.
As Fair Queen, Parks will receive a $2,500 scholarship as her prize. First runner-up will receive $1,000; second runner-up, $750; and Miss Congeniality, $500.
The queen also will receive numerous other gifts.
The Fair Queen and her court will be touring the fairgrounds through Sunday evening, Aug. 10.