Crown perched atop her head, Betty Cantrell posed the question, bent down and inclined her ear. Her diminutive interviewee crinkled her forehead in concentration.
“What sound does a horse make?” Cantrell asked.
Jaelynn Bush, eyebrows knitted, pondered for a moment before answering.
“Baa,” Jaelynn, 4, ventured.
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Smiles appeared around the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau Exhibit Building where Cantrell, the reigning Miss America, was quizzing younger visitors on agriculture before posing for photos on Tuesday morning. Cantrell, 21, grinned at Jaelynn, who — after posing for a photo with Cantrell — left in good spirits all the same. Meeting Miss America can be intimidating.
But, at least for Jaelynn, the first of Ag Progress Days had more smiles in store than not. She nodded when asked if she found the hopscotch game, which those queuing to see Cantrell had to traverse, to be fun. And later she’d get to see some horses and confirm firsthand the answer to Cantrell’s question.
Cantrell, a Georgia native, grew up on a peach, pecan and pine tree farm, she said, learning to drive a tractor and spending most of her time outdoors. A singer, she belted out “Tu Tu Piccolo Iddio,” a song from the Italian opera “Madama Butterfly” on her way to the Miss America crown. After her reign ends in September, she said she plans to move to Nashville to pursue a career in country music.
She’s focused her platform on helping children live healthy lifestyles. An appearance at Ag Progress Days was her last official event.
“I was able to expand my platform and reach kids on a deeper level, helping kids understand where their food comes from,” she said.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau worked with the Miss America organization to bring Cantrell to the three-day agricultural exposition.
“Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is thrilled to be able to host Miss America during the opening day of activities at Ag Progress Days. We strongly support Miss America’s focus on educating children about the need to make healthy choices and to exercise,” PFB President Rick Ebert said in a statement. “Through our Foundation’s Mobile Agriculture Education Science Lab program, Farm Bureau teaches children attending schools all across the state about a wide variety of topics, including nutrition and healthy food choices.”
Hannah Kemmer, who also posed for a picture with Cantrell, said she enjoyed the quiz and meeting the pageant winner.
Her question: Is beef high in zinc and iron?
For Hannah, whose family raises beef cattle on its farm, the answer came naturally.
“I’ve never met anyone so important,” she said. “It was really special.”
Roger Van Scyoc: 814-231-4698, @rogervanscy