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Fairest of them all

While many young girls only dream about being a real queen for a day, Beth Struzynski was queen for a week at the Johnson County Fair.

Johnson County Fair Queen Beth Struzynski gets a hug from the 2003 queen Marra Burr after she was crowned Monday night at the fair. Press-Citizen/Matthew Holst

The fair queen crown became hers Monday night, and she proudly wore it throughout the week while handing out ribbons to 4-Hers and walking the grounds shaking hands.

"I will never forget it," the 16-year-old said. "It has been so much fun. I've gone to as many shows as I can, and I have had so many people just come up to me and say congratulations."

Though she will go on to compete in the Iowa State Fair Queen Pageant Aug. 14, she said the event will not be as magical to her as being crowned queen of Johnson County.

"This is my county fair," she said Thursday after helping with the bucket bottle calf competition. "I am kind of sad it is ending."

What makes becoming queen especially sweet to Struzynski is the fact that she was truly surprised she won.

Beth Struzynski

Age: 16.

School: Junior at Clear Creek Amana High School.

4-H group: Cosgrove Hustlers.

Activities: 4-H, vice president of her class, football cheerleader, member of student council and National Honor Society, active in drama and in the student assistance program.

Hobbies: Sewing, cooking, shopping and, thanks to her two older brothers, she likes fishing and hunting.

Future plans: To attend the University of Iowa to be a teacher.

What's next: Struzynski will compete in the Iowa State Fair Queen Pageant at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 14 at the Bill Riley Stage in Des Moines.

Most of the other eight contestants will be seniors this fall or just graduated, while she will be starting her junior year at Clear Creek Amana High School. And many of the other contestants were trying for a second or third time, while this was her first.

"Going in, I just wanted to get the experience of it and meet some girls," Struzynski said. "It was a complete surprise."

For those in her 4-H club, Cosgrove Hustlers, it didn't come as a surprise at all.

"She truly deserves it," leader Linda Reynolds said. "She is a very outgoing, and a positive uplifting person."

Judge Joan Vondracek agreed, adding that Struzynski had all the qualities they were asked to look for.

In her two years of being a judge, this was the hardest contest to call because of the talent of all the girls, she said.

Yet, Struzynski's energy stood out among the others, Vondracek said, adding that she was impressed by how the teen kept her poise and smile throughout the competition, which lasted more than an hour.

Fair queen Beth Struzynski is congratulated by fellow candidate Amanda Seelman after they left the stage Monday night. Press-Citizen/Matthew Holst

Judging was based on leadership, citizenship, personality, attitude, poise and appearance.

Contestants need to be active 4-H or FFA members. In addition to Vondracek, Dan Swick and 2003 Iowa State Fair Queen Jessie Hutcheson judged the contest.

"She is just a beautiful girl," Hutcheson said of her decision to crown Struzynski.

The judges chose Sarah Nightingale of Iowa City as princess.

Being royalty for a week with Struzynski was a great experience, Nightingale said.

"It was so much fun," she said. "Beth is a sweetheart. She is the nicest girl, and she was so nice to me this week because I was princess, I was hoping to have some duties, and she let me help her out."

Struzynski has been in 4-H for six years, and has completed many clothing and working exhibits. You can catch her latest - a headband demonstration - at the state fair.

Beth Struzynski awaits the announcement of the winner during the queen contest Monday.
Press-Citizen/Matthew Holst

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