Hayden For the next five days, all eyes, especially the eyes of the Routt County Fair Board, will be on fair queen hopefuls Cortni Denning, Kylie Hawes and Kimberlie Williamson.
The three are being judged and evaluated on everything from their public speaking abilities to their willingness to answer spectators' questions. The young woman who earns the most points will be crowned the 2004 Routt County Fair queen at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
The competition began Tuesday at the fairgrounds in Hayden with a short speech and a 15-minute interview before the fair board. It concluded with a fair queen contest horse ride in the outdoor arena.
"They'll be judged on sportsmanship," said Kristi Wille, vice president of the fair board. "How they are volunteering, helping hand out ribbons, helping children get to shows, giving people directions and helping spectators will get them extra points."
The queen contest is open to any youth in Routt County between the ages of 14 and 18. One contestant will be named queen and another will be an attendant for a calendar year. The fair queen candidates must also display the ability to ride a horse. In Denning, Hawes and Williamson, the fair board has found three suitable candidates that all have a bit of cowgirl in their blood.
Denning, 16, and Williamson, 17, live in Yampa. Hawes, 15, is from Clark.
"When you are representing the fair and rodeo, that's the kind of background we are representing," Wille said. "We want that Western heritage because that's what we're promoting."
But it also is important that whomever is selected queen be confident, outgoing and a great communicator because she will be required to attend a long list of functions and events in Routt County and throughout the state in the upcoming year.
The travel requirements and the chance to meet new people were reasons the three young women were drawn to apply this summer.
"When I was younger I did gymkhana and rodeos and was around queens and noticed how nice they were," Hawes said. "I felt, of the queens I knew, I had some of those qualities."
Hawes reiterated those points to the fair board when she delivered her short speech Tuesday afternoon. Denning said the candidates each talked about what they could bring to the role of queen.
One of the queen's primary responsibilities is to serve as an ambassador for fair through advertising and public appearances. This is Denning's seventh year participating in the Routt County Fair, and she qualified to model her clothing in the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo but turned it down to compete in Routt County.
"I feel like I could promote the fair in a good way," she said.
All three young women are fair participants this year. This is Hawes' third year as an exhibitor. Williamson has been bringing animals to the fair for eight years.
"I wanted to get out and meet new people and help others," Williamson said.
For the next five days, she and the other contestants will have that opportunity in Routt County. Growing up on ranches, all three said they were a little out of their element wearing makeup, styling their hair and dressing the part, but each seemed comfortable and ready to accent the responsibilities should she be crowned on Sunday.