Two of the best reasons for a young person to join 4-H are getting to try something he or she has never done before and learning to improve a skill that will be needed in the future.

Many people who are not affiliated with, or know much about, 4-H think the organization is related only to agriculture and while there is a great focus on ag, there are lessons and skills that can be learned that have an influence on other areas of life.

Newly-chosen Fountain County 4-H Queen, Cami McGrady, knew those reasons when she entered the contest and became one of the six candidates for the 2019 crown.

“I had never interviewed for a scholarship or anything else, but knew I would have to do it in the future,” McGrady said after the event was over. “I needed to know how to do interviews and gain confidence in doing them.”

Contestants are interviewed individually by the three judges on the day of the contest and how they respond contributes 35% to their score – the largest single portion – that is used to select the queen and two runners-up.

Their final tally also includes scores from modelling business attire and an evening gown as well as giving an off-the-cuff answer to a previously unknown question while on stage in front of the live audience.

McGrady, a Crawfordsville High School graduate, said being in the contest made her nervous and it was not just from having to give an interview.

“This was a different kind of experience for me,” she explained. “I’m not used to so many people watching me. I’m a swimmer, but here they were all looking at me [on the stage].”

Unlike some contestants over the years, McGrady had not grown up focused on a chance to be a queen, but rather on becoming the best swimmer she could be, a path she and her sisters Clare and Cathleen have shared.

“I never planned on doing this,” she said about entering the queen contest, “but two of my best friends talked me into it.”

After the final modeling was completed, judges left to deliberate while the six candidates (#1- Reba Martin, #2 – Lainey Freeland, #3 – Alexis Martin, #4 – McGrady, #5 – Gretchen Ratcliff and #6 – Brooke Crane) remained on stage where they had to sit, smile and impatiently, but stoically, wait for the results.

When the extended deliberations finally drew to an end, the judges returned and the emcee named the award winners: Miss Photogenic to Freeland, Miss Congeniality to Crane, Second Runner-up to Freeland, First Runner-up to Crane and finally Queen to McGrady who did not realize, at first, that she had won.

“I heard them say “Number four” and I’m thinking, “Who’s number four?” and then they said my name,” she explained, “I didn’t know how to react.”

Once it hit her that she had won, she looked shocked and started to cry before going to center stage where 2018 Queen Katelyn Duncan crowned her and gave her a bouquet of red roses.

“I’m so excited about representing my county,” McGrady said. “I’ve been told by other queens ‘This will change your life’ so I’m really excited for what comes next.”

Up next for McGrady will be appearing at numerous events for the rest of the 2019 Fountain County Fair and later competing in the Indiana queen contest, running against other county winners.