News, Union Grove

Racine County Fairest of the Fair to reign over State Fair

Racine County Fairest of the Fair Kelsey Henderson, a Union Grove High School graduate, receives the Wisconsin Fairest of the Fair crown from predecessor Sharlene Swedlund on Jan. 10 at Chula Vista Resort in the Wisconsin Dells (Submitted/Southern Lakes Newspapers).

Union Grove graduate to serve as this year’s ambassador

By Jason Arndt

Kelsey Henderson spent countless hours representing the Racine County Fair last year in her role as the 2023 Fairest of the Fair.

Henderson, 21, who earned the title last June at the county fairgrounds in Union Grove, channeled her passion for agriculture and the fair by welcoming visitors, highlighting exhibitors, and showcasing events.

Now, the reigning Fairest of the Fair will represent more than Racine County, with Henderson receiving the Wisconsin Fairest of the Fair crown on Jan. 10 at Chula Vista Resort in the Wisconsin Dells.

She was selected among 35 contestants and became just the second from Racine County to earn the crown. The first was in 2012 when Richelle Kastenson became the Wisconsin Fairest of the Fair.

Kastenson, who was on hand during the Wisconsin Fairest of Fairs convention, said she and other Racine County Fair Board members are beaming with pride at Henderson’s achievement.

“She is a wonderful person inside and out, so we are very excited that she also gets to represent our county,” Kastenson said. “Seeing Kelsey up on stage, she was really fun to listen to.”

Kastenson recalled her own tenure as Wisconsin Fairest and believes Henderson is up to the challenge.

“Our fair board and our fairest committee on the county level are just so proud of Kelsey,” Kastenson said. “She represented us so well, and she has just done a great job this year. We are so excited for what her future holds and how she is going to represent everyone. She is going to do a phenomenal job.”

‘Truly blessed’
Henderson, like other contestants, participated in many interviews in various settings – and interacted with other officials – before earning the state fairest title.

“I felt truly blessed to be selected, not only as Wisconsin Fairest of the Fair, but I was actually selected Miss Congeniality as well,” Henderson said. “Miss Congeniality was voted on by all of my peers in the contest. That almost meant more to me to be recognized by all of them. They were truly an inspirational group.”

Henderson succeeds Sharlene Swedlund from Green County and will spend a year traveling throughout the state, promoting the educational, agricultural, social and culture of fairs. Henderson will also promote commercial opportunities available at Wisconsin Fairs, according to Mid-West Farm Report.

She will also serve as an official ambassador for the 2024 Wisconsin State Fair, which will be presented by US Cellular Aug. 1-11 in West Allis.

Henderson will greet fairgoers and special guests, perform as master of ceremonies for events, participate in multiple contests and make multiple media appearances showcasing the Wisconsin State Fair, according to Mid-West Farm Report.

Additionally, similar to her predecessors, Henderson will travel to other county fairs in the state.

“There is so much I am looking forward to. I am really excited about the Wisconsin State Fair,” Henderson said. “I am super excited to see that in a different light because I was always an exhibitor at it.”

During Henderson’s tenure, she will learn more about the state’s fair industry, including the uniqueness of each county fair.

Henderson said she has always found enjoyment as an exhibitor at the Wisconsin State Fair. As a bonus of being Fairest, she will now be able to experience all 11 days of the event this year.

“I would go every day to the Wisconsin State Fair, so I am super excited to go every day,” Henderson said.

Local upbringing
Henderson, who graduated from Union Grove High School in 2020, grew up around the Racine County Fair, exhibiting award-winning animals and being involved in Union Grove FFA and 4-H.

She is the daughter of Craig and Sue Henderson and has a younger sister, Madisyn.

Kastenson worked with Henderson most of the year representing the Racine County Fair and recognized Henderson’s passion.

“She grew up exhibiting at the fair, so she took the passion and shared it with the public and she was helping us with our social media on the fair Facebook page,” Kastenson said.

Leading up to the Racine County Fair, Henderson used the Facebook page to interview exhibitors, who talked about their projects set for display at the annual fair.

“This past year, with our fair, she made these really cute videos and she really got to know different exhibitors,” Kastenson said.

Since Henderson began as Racine County Fairest of the Fair, she has been impressed with the overwhelming support from the community, including members of the Racine County Fair Board as well as Fairest of the Fair committee members.

“Ever since I was crowned, I have felt nothing but love and support from my county and it truly means the world to me,” Henderson said.

Henderson plans to graduate from Iowa State University in May with a degree in agricultural business and a minor in entrepreneurship as well as a marketing option.

When she completes her term as Wisconsin Fairest of the Fair, which will expire in January 2025, Henderson will join John Deere full-time as a Marketing and Customer Support Development Program representative.

She appreciates John Deere for being willing to allow her to serve as Wisconsin Fairest of the Fair until her term will end early next year.

“They were willing to work with me, which I appreciate,” she said. “They understand the personal mission that I have.”

See the Jan. 18 print editions of the Burlington Standard Press, Waterford Post, and Westine Report for the full story.

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