Grange Fair Queen Emma Spackman didn’t initially expect to come out of last year’s pageant with the crown.
“I went into (the competition) thinking it would be a good learning experience, meet some new people and build some relationships,” the 18-year-old Port Matilda resident said at the 2017 FarmFest. “I wasn’t anticipating being crowed fair queen, so it was a great shock and surprise, but a really humbling and honoring experience.”
Her duties as queen have definitely kept her busy, she said, especially this past summer. There have been festivals, parades and speaking events to attend, as well as events with local and state political leaders and visits to county classrooms and libraries.
She’s rubbed elbows with judges, Centre County commissioners, state Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding and state fair Queen Madeline McEachin. But Spackman said the most memorable people she’s spoken with have been the children of the county, particularly a group of second-graders.
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“It’s just the little things, the questions they asked. ‘Where’s your castle?,’ ” she laughed. “ ‘You’re a queen? Are you from England?’
“The little comments like that have been my favorite part of it, because I just enjoy anything with the kids.”
She also cited a local agriculture-geared event at the Centre County Library in Bellefonte, reading to a group of preschoolers as another high point of her reign. She spoke to them about “our friends, the farmers,” going to the farmers market and where food comes from.
“A lot of that age group just gets fed what their parents put on the table,” she said, “so they don’t know much more than that.”
Spackman grew up on Roundtop Farms, an eighth-generation farm just north of Port Matilda. In between almost-weekly queen events, she said she raises market lambs — which she also shows at the Grange Fair — and works as a nanny between 45 and 50 hours per week.
She plans to attend Penn State in the fall, majoring in elementary education with a minor in special education. When asked why not a major in agriculture, the answer naturally came back to the children.
“I really have a heart for educating our younger generation,” she said. “Unfortunately for ag education, most of their degrees are toward high-school age, and I prefer elementary.”
Overall, she said the experience of being queen was wonderful — meeting new people, working with the community and building new relationships — noting it will be “bittersweet crowning the next queen.”
She said she supports all of the 2017 queen contestants and offered simple advice to whoever takes the crown — be genuine and smile.
“It’s OK if you’re not sure all the time what you’re doing,” she said, “because the outcome will always be good.
“And enjoy the time you have. Sometimes it seems like you have so much going on, but it will be over before you know it.”