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By Emily Bontrager
Talk about keeping it in the family. Two local first cousins competed for the coveted Missouri State Fair Queen title 12 years apart and they both came home with the crown.
Elsie Kigar, 17, was crowned this year’s 2022 Missouri State Fair Queen and in 2010, her first cousin Megan (Westhoff) Hamilton, now 33, won the title.
Elsie is from Bible Grove, Missouri and her parents are Jim and Alisa Kigar. She is a senior at Scotland County R1 High School.
Megan grew up in Memphis, Missouri and she now lives in Maryville, Missouri. Her parents are Scott and Angela Westhoff.
On July 11th, 2022, Elsie competed in the Scotland County Fair Queen Contest and won.
One of the reasons Elsie decided to move on and compete at the state level competition was because of her cousin, Megan (Westhoff) Hamilton, previously winning the title.
Megan first competed at the state fair competition when she was 17 years old in 2007. She did not win that year, but in 2010, when she was 20 years old, she took home the state fair crown.
According to Megan, the reason she decided to compete was because of the scholarship opportunities and because she loved the state fair.
“I was so passionate about the state fair, but more specifically the junior exhibitor event and all of the opportunities there are primarily through 4-H and FFA,” Megan said.
“I also knew that serving as a state fair queen means you get to represent the association and attend events the whole year. I really wanted to be a part of that, not only for my own experience, but because I really wanted to give my own talents and my own energy to an organization I really loved.”
Being 1st cousins, Megan and Elsie grew up together, but Elsie was only five years old when Megan won the state fair title in 2010. Elsie was not present when Megan won, but she saw Megan the next day at the fair.
“At five years old it was amazing to be with her and kind of then was when I was like ‘Yeah, I want to be the Missouri State Fair Queen,’” Elsie said.
“Someone actually got me a shirt that says, ‘Future Missouri State Fair Queen,’ and there is a picture with Megan where I have the shirt on. Her daughters now have that shirt, and they came out with a new ‘Future Missouri State Fair Queen’ shirt this year, so we bought her two little girls a shirt.”
According to Megan, she was the person who bought the shirt for Elsie years ago. At the time Megan thought to herself that Elsie would be the Missouri State Fair Queen someday.
“She really was and is a special person in my life, so I spent the whole fair trying to find something that she and her brother Eli would like. I was collecting little goodies for them and one of those goodies was a sweet little t-shirt that said, ‘Future Missouri State Fair Queen.’” Megan said.
The other main reason why Elsie decided to compete at the state fair was to get her name out to other people who work in Missouri agriculture because she hopes to work in agriculture in the future.
The Missouri State Fair Queen Contest was held on Wednesday, August 10 and Thursday, August 11 in the Mathewson Exhibition Center in Sedalia, Missouri.
There were 41 competitors from across the state that competed in the competition. Participants were judged in multiple categories, including interview, speech, talent, and evening gown.
To prepare herself for the competition, Elsie watched the Missouri State Fair 2019 and 2021 competition tapes.
“When I watched those videos, I could see the girls’ speech or talent, evening gown, and on-stage questions,” Elsie said.
“When I watched those, I thought I could give a pretty good speech. The evening gown part isn’t my strong suit, but I thought I could be a competitor.”
The first round of the competition started with interviews on the morning of August 10. Each of the five judges interviewed the contestants for two minutes.
The next day, contestants had the choice of giving a speech or performing a talent for the pageant. Elsie chose to give a speech.
“I’ve given speeches for FFA and I had about three speeches that I really liked, and I was going to do a combination of the three of them. My pageant director, Trinity Davis, from Scotland County had the great idea of “When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade,” because my grandma, Elaine Forrester, makes lemonade at the Scotland County Fair for charities,” Elsie explained.
The speech was also based on Elsie’s butcher beef business.
“When Covid hit, I had to find something new for the show steers, so it was about how my butcher beef business had grown from that. Like ‘life gave me lemons’ and since I had no county fair, I had to find something to do and I made it into a business,” Elsie said.
After the speech and talent portion of the pageant, Elsie competed in the evening gown portion of the contest on Thursday afternoon.
Elsie’s best friend, Bryn Aylward, helped Elsie with her hair and makeup while she was competing at the event and Bryn hoped that Elsie would take away the crown.
“When she was doing my hair for evening gown, she said ‘I had full intentions of coming down here and you winning.’ I was like ‘Oh, that’s really funny.’ About an hour later, I won,” Elsie laughed.
After the evening gown portion of the competition, the top ten contestants were announced.
“As they called the girls out for top ten, I was counting as I was clapping,” Elsie said.
Elsie was one of the girls that was chosen to be in the top ten.
After being chosen, each of the top ten competitors took turns answering an on-stage question and the top four awards were announced, recognizing individuals in interview, speech, talent, and evening gown. Elsie did not win any of the top four category awards.
The top contestants were then announced.
“I thought I might be second or third runner-up, so when they said I didn’t win one of them I thought that’s ok, I just got top ten this year,” Elsie said.
“They then called 1st runner up and it was the girl I had picked to win. My mom and dad had picked her to win and we all pretty well picked her to win because she was the best contestant.”
“Dad said he thought to himself, ‘Well, who beat her?’ and at that time ‘Contestant number 20, Elsie Kigar’ was announced and I was absolutely blown away,” Elsie said.
Elsie’s cousin Megan was watching the competition from Maryville, Missouri on Facebook live when Elsie won, and she was so happy for her.
“It’s not even about the title, it’s just about being so proud of this person that you have watched grow up and reach one of her big goals and knowing she did it so humbly because she did not expect to win,” Megan said.
“She was just as shocked and surprised as anyone in the room when she was crowned. To see her genuine surprise and just the sweetness of that moment, I will hold it just as close as the moment I won myself.”
As the 2022 Missouri State Fair Queen, Elsie received a $2,000 scholarship, a crown and sash, and a $500 gift card to Bichsel Jewelry in Sedalia, Missouri. Elsie also spent 12 days at the Missouri State Fair, where she helped with many events.
“In the mornings, I would go to the commissioners meeting, which is the whole commission, director of the fire department, and the chief of the state troopers. They discussed how the day went before and you learned the inside scoop of the fair,” Elsie said.
“Throughout the day I would do show dedications or hand out ribbons. One day I got to do the Rooster Crowing Contest and that was fun.”
In her free time, Elsie visited different buildings throughout the fairgrounds.
“One of my favorite ones to go to was the Senior Citizen Center, where I could just sit and talk to all the older people and what they were doing at the state fair,” Elsie added.
Elsie was also able to meet with Missouri Governor Mike Parson, Missouri Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe, and Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Chris Chinn.
She was also able to go on a hot air balloon ride over the state fairgrounds.
“One of my favorite things from the whole time at the fair was the little girls, because they just loved me,” Elsie said.
Elsie hopes that by winning she can become a role model to other girls around her and to see them compete one day at the Missouri State Fair.
“The queen works with kids a lot more than people realize, just because she really is an exciting face for small children to see at the fair,” Megan said.
Megan also believes that the skills she learned while competing molded her into who she is today.
“It’s definitely been a big piece of the puzzle,” Megan said.
“Those skills that it took to build myself up to reach that goal are 100% present in the things I’m doing now. From teaching, serving my community, serving at my church, and just being a professional and working with kids, there are just so many parallels that I did as queen.”
Elsie Kigar is very grateful to have had the opportunity to compete at the Missouri State Fair because she met a lot of great people and had people support her on her way to win the state crown.
“I want to thank Trinity Davis; she was the Scotland County Fair Queen Director. She helped me a lot with my speech and polished me in presenting my speech, and working on my evening gown walk,” she said.
Elsie also wants to thank her sponsors for helping her compete and the community for the encouraging words sent to her and her family.
The Missouri State Fair Queen Contest is a stiff competition, but that did not stop Elsie from trying her best and working hard to achieve her goals. These competitions give young ladies the opportunity to grow, learn new skills, and meet new people in different industries and it helps shape them into better individuals.
Both Elsie and Megan encourage others to compete, because it is a great opportunity that opens up many doors in the future and helps people step out of their comfort zone.
“Don’t necessarily expect to win on your first try, but just go and try it. You are going to learn so many skills from the interview and having to be on stage in front of so many people. You will meet a lot of cool girls from the state of Missouri too that love the same things as you,” Elsie said.
“Just go and do it. You can learn the ropes and then come back in years to come and be a competitor.”