Paige Baker, Glenn County Queen
● By Emily Miranda
Queen of the Fair
Story by Emily J. Miranda
Photos by Lisa Taylor Photography
WHAT BEGAN in 1916 as a one-day livestock event is today’s Glenn County Fair. The fair was the brainchild of John J. Flaherty, who was elected to oversee the Glenn County Livestock and Agricultural Association with the dream of turning the livestock show into the largest event in Northern California. The original buildings were constructed in 1940 and stand today on 54 acres of land, including the livestock barns and office, wool building, horse stalls, the grandstands and Flaherty Hall.
In 1955, the Glenn County Fairgrounds held its first official Junior Livestock Auction and 10 years later it introduced the Destruction Derby. But one event had already established itself long before the fairgrounds were completed: The Queen of the Fair Pageant.
Initially, the pageant welcomed contestants from surrounding North State counties in hopes to attract more people to the event. Farryl Dean Luning of Red Bluff was crowned the first Queen of the Fair in 1931. The pageant soon evolved into the Miss Glenn County Pageant, crowning Shirley Mudd the first Miss Glenn County in 1954, bestowing her with a ruby ring and laurel wreath. The first panel of Miss Glenn County judges included celebrities Donna Reed and Charlton Heston.
Today, it is not your stereotypical beauty pageant with swimsuit competitions or cliché homilies for world peace. The Miss Glenn County candidates are bright, dedicated young women. Just ask Paige Baker, 2018’s Miss Glenn County.
“I have gone to the pageant for years, watching people I know run for the position,” says Baker, admitting she had always had an inkling that she wanted to compete.
Ultimately, it was her passion for the Glenn community and her sister’s persistent urging that gave Baker the courage to pursue the title. A two-month preparation period led up to the competition, including meetings, dance rehearsals, a competent memorization of Glenn County history, writing a speech, preparing for an interview and attending Saturday practices, all while balancing schoolwork and personal life.
A daunting schedule, but not one Baker faced alone. At first, her fellow contenders were but strangers with familiar faces, girls Baker recognized from school yet hardly knew. Throughout the process they became fast friends, forming a fellowship of support.
“It was fun getting to know the other girls and practice with them,” Baker says. “You create bonds through the mutual experiences and struggles. If one girl struggled with writing her speech, or another with choreography, it was nice to see how each of us began to use our strengths to support one another in our weaknesses.”
The pageant is held during the Glenn County Fair, but the competition begins a week prior, when each candidate undergoes a private interview with a panel of judges. The final judging takes place at the show itself.
Competition rounds may vary from year to year, but traditionally the first round is a choreographed dance performed as a group. Main rounds include a speech, an evening gown sashay and the performing of a special talent.
“The most exciting part of the show is what happens backstage,” Baker says. “We’d go on stage in a rotating order, so once you exit the stage you have to change for the next round. It was fast paced and we had little time to change our outfits and hair between each round.”
As judges tally the scores, the participants line up and await the results.
“Your role begins shortly after being crowned,” explains Baker. “The winners help with the Little Miss Glenn Pageant, participate in the fair’s parade, take photos with people, sell tickets at the Destruction Derby and hand out the derby awards.” Along with the crown, Miss Glenn County signs a contract agreeing to attend 10 community events throughout the year, in addition to receiving scholarship money.
“My main role as Miss Glenn County is to connect with the community. I’ve made appearances at events such as Octobee Fest, the Willows Independence Day Parade and the Avenue of Lights in Orland,” she says.
“It’s intimidating to be introduced at some of the larger community events, especially when I attend them alone. It was having to start conversations with people I didn’t know and coming up with questions to ask them,” she continues, adding that being outside her comfort zone has helped shape better conversation skills.
Yet it is the smaller community tasks, such as visiting group homes and reading to young girls at the Orland Library, that Baker enjoys most about this role. “The people of Glenn County are very supportive of each other. I really enjoy getting to interact with them, with my community,” she says.
Applications for the 2020 Miss Glenn County Pageant are available at the Fair Office in Orland, 221 E. Yolo St. •
Glenn County Fair • May 16-19
www.glenncountyfair.org • (530) 865-1168