Aug 2, 2017 - By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff WriterFor the six youths who've been appointed royalty for the 2017 Fremont County Fair, the honor is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to developing skills that have allowed them to flourish at the county's weeklong celebration of agriculture.
Those skills are also ones they're focused on passing on to the next generation.
At a two-hour "royalty clinic" on Tuesday, younger girls gathered in the Little Wind Center, where they were taught how to polish their boots, shape their hats, and identify parts of saddles.
Fair queen Becca Weber, 20, said the clinic was the one fair responsibility she had been looking forward to the most. Terri Cash, who held a number of royalty titles in the 1990s, emphasized best practices for modeling while Weber and other local royalty titleholders gave the girls tips to reduce speech-giving stress.
Fremont County went two decades without a royalty program before Pam Rivers, the current royalty coordinator, convinced the fair board to restore the program in the late '90s.
Participation in fair royalty helps youth develop abilities like horsemanship, Rivers said, but more importantly, the girls also develop skills -- like public speaking and interview prep -- that pay dividends for the rest of their lives.
Rivers said she saw that development of confidence in her daughter when she participated in the program.
"I think this kind of stuff did more for her than anything else," Rivers said.
Even over the course of two hours, a boost in confidence seemed evident in 9-year-old Harmony Hardman. She was sheepish in her first try at modeling, but by the end of the workshop, all nerves were gone as she posed for pictures with reigning Miss Rodeo Wyoming, Abby Hayduk.
For some young fair-goers, like Hardman, the royalty program is a natural extension of the activities they already do: Hardman has designed clothed in the last two year for the fair's fashion review, and her latest entry was a floor-length dress with an over-lay.
"I wanted it to look like a princess dress," she said.
After her grandfather taught her to sew, Hardman has now designed and modeled a purse, an apron, a shirt, skirts and pants.
"She's always been interested in modeling and being a queen," her mom, Charity Hardman, said.
Hayduk was ready with some advice for aspiring royal families like the Hardmans.
"If you want to do this, I hope you're ready for some miles, late nights and early mornings," she told the girls.
The experience does come with some great benefits, though, like substantial scholarship opportunities.
"There are girls who've graduated debt-free from law school," Hayduk said.
The culture of fair royalty is what sets it apart from similar programs.
"It's not like beauty pageants," she said. "We don't wear swimsuits or anything immodest. We take pride in ourselves and what we represent."
The Evanston native graduated from Central Wyoming College in December with associate degrees in bioscience, pre-veterinary and equine science.
Hayduk said that events like the Tuesday workshop are important to help foster interest in fair royalty and allow the program to continue.
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