News, Union Grove

Hinkel to reign as Fairest of Fair in Racine County

Kelsey Henderson, 2023 Racine County Fairest of the Fair, passes the crown to successor Jennifer Hinkel during the May 31 coronation ceremony on the Racine County Fairgrounds in Union Grove (Submitted Photo/Southern Lakes Newspapers).

By Jason Arndt

Jennifer Hinkel’s passion for the Racine County Fair began as a youngster, exploring the barns, watching exhibitors showcase animals, and participating in multiple activities.

Hinkel, originally from Franklin, said she became so fond of the fair that she eventually joined the Raymond 4-H Club and exhibited a dozen projects.

Years later, her passion continued, with the 2015 Franklin High School graduate competing for Racine County Fairest of the Fair on two other occasions before earning the crown on the third try during the May 31 coronation ceremony at the Racine County Fairgrounds in Union Grove.

Hinkel, a former Wisconsin Honey Queen and American Honey Queen, expressed disbelief when her predecessor and Wisconsin Fairest of the Fair Kelsey Henderson passed the baton at the ceremony.

“For me, it was always a highlight and an end goal. I have seen so many people selected, and I have gotten to know quite a few of them over the last couple of years while being 4-H Outstanding Teen and then as Fair Royalty.”

Hinkel, 26, who earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing with a minor in communications at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, became inspired to run for the third time in honor of her late mother, Rose, who passed away recently.

Family inspiration
Before she began showing at the Racine County Fair, Hinkel recalled spending time on the fairgrounds with her family, including parents, Rose and Bill.

“I didn’t know about the Racine County Fair until my parents took me there for my first time,” Hinkel recalled, adding she walked through the horse barns and watched exhibitors showcase projects.

“I was just amazed at all they were doing,” Hinkel, sister of Christopher, said. “That is what kicked off my knowledge of the fair and sparked my love for it. Then I was able to join Raymond 4-H.”

As a Raymond 4-H member, she participated in a dozen projects, including horses, swine, poultry, shooting sports, basketry, photography, foods, electrical, and woodworking.

As an exhibitor, she learned all she could about the Racine County Fair, even as a youth.

“Even while I was a junior exhibitor showing, I was active in showing in the open class at the same time,” she said. “I participated in some of the contests that the fair offered. I wanted to do it all and see as much as I could of the fair.”

Hinkel, a former Racine County Fair intern, also became a Racine 4-H Outstanding Teen and decided to compete for the title of Racine County Fairest Fair in 2019 when she became Fair Royalty.

Hinkel had since run for Fairest of the Fair once more until she won the crown last week.

“I couldn’t believe it actually happened,” she said. “For years, I knew I wanted to run for the position.”

Hinkel earned a lifetime membership to the Racine County Fair, a $2,000 scholarship, and will represent the fair at the Wisconsin Association of Fairs convention in January at Chula Vista Resort in the Wisconsin Dells. She will vie for the title of Wisconsin Fairest of the Fair at the convention.

Other candidates who sought the Fairest of Fair consisted of Sydney Van Swol, of Kansasville; Emma Henningfeld, Franksville; Paige Koenecke, Union Grove; and Maggie Metzen, Franksville.

Fair spokesperson
The Racine County Fair, themed “Stars, Stripes and Summer Nights,” will be held from July 24-28 on the Racine County Fairgrounds.

Hinkel acknowledged her role carries importance, noting she will be responsible for outreach and welcoming thousands of visitors to the annual event.

“The Racine County Fair has always been something that I have looked forward to every single summer,” she said. “It is a way to not only highlight the fair, but also the people involved behind the scenes that helped make this possible. Without the support of the 39 board members, who are volunteers, the Racine County Fair wouldn’t be possible. The role is important to me and it is a way to reach new people that come to the fair.”

Hinkel said the Racine County Fair offers something for everyone, even adults, who could come and enjoy a series of live music presentations.

Additionally, the fair features multiple children’s activities, including a petting zoo and other interactive exhibits.

“There are so many things happening,” she said.

Living through agriculture
Outside the Racine County Fair, Hinkel became the 2020 Wisconsin Honey Queen, serving as the spokesperson for the Wisconsin Honey Producers Association.

A year later, Hinkel earned the title of American Honey Queen, traveling through dozens of states as a representative of the American Beekeeping Association and hundreds of producers across the United States.

On the national stage, she delivered educational presentations while conducting outreach efforts.

Hinkel, owner and operator of Buffalo Bill’s Christmas Tree Farm in Franklin, also works as the agricultural communications and education coordinator at the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis.

“I get to live and love the fair every single day,” Hinkel said.

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