GALLIA COUNTY — Though county fairs looked differently this year to meet public health guidelines, Abby VanSickle is thankful and excited to have still been crowned 2020 Miss Gallia County.
“I sobbed because this was something I had wanted ever since I was nine,” VanSickle said of that special moment when her name was called during the crowning, achieving a dream she’d had since she was a child.
“I ran for Junior Miss Livestock Princess when I was nine and won, and I just love passing out the ribbons and going to different fairs…so when I knew that Miss Gallia County was a thing, I knew that I wanted to do that when I was older,” she said.
Usually fair queens go to other local fairs, festivals, parades, and other community events with their courts, but this year many such events have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Normally right now I would be super busy traveling to different fairs…but a lot of them are canceled,” VanSickle said.
The Mason County Fair would have taken place this week but was canceled due to public health concerns, with only two days of livestock shows and a sale taking place. Next week, Meigs County will go forward with only junior fair events, starting Monday and continuing through Saturday, Aug. 22. As of the time of this interview, VanSickle said she plans to attend the fair events at Meigs, representing Gallia County.
“I’m hoping that the festivals are still going to be a thing,” she said, “so that I can actually do stuff with it.”
One event that VanSickle is most hopeful about is a state pageant where all 88 Ohio county fair queens compete for the title of Ohio Fair Queen.
“I hope that we have that and I can’t wait to represent Gallia County,” she said.
Though the fair was structured differently this year to accommodate for heightened sanitation and social distancing, VanSickle was still able to be crowned at the county fairgrounds. Normally the pageant is on the Monday night of fair week at 9:30 p.m. at the fairgrounds. This year, the interview was at noon and the pageant was held directly afterwards. Both events took place at River City Fellowship in Gallipolis. After the pageant, contestants went to the fairgrounds for the opening ceremony and crowning of the queen.
“It was different, but I liked it like that,” VanSickle said.
VanSickle also showed pigs this year. Though she was disappointed that rides and entertainment were canceled, she felt that the most important aspects of the fair were still able to take place, making it a meaningful and worthwhile experience.
“The rides and the entertainment—that’s fun for the atmosphere, but what really matters was already happening, so even though it wasn’t the same, it still felt the same to me, because what actually mattered to me was still going on,” she said. “Everyone was there for the same reason. We were all there because we had a passion for livestock, which is what mattered to me.”
This fall, VanSickle will begin her freshman year at the University of Rio Grande, where she will be studying special education.
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Sharla Moody is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing from Gallipolis, Ohio. She is a graduate of River Valley High School and currently attends Yale University.