Racine County woman named state’s ‘Fairest’
The young woman who will serve as ambassador to fairs around Wisconsin in the coming year is Richelle Kastenson – the new Wisconsin “Fairest of the Fairs.”
The representative of the Racine County Fair was crowned after three days of interviews, demonstrations and other activities at last week’s Wisconsin Association of Fairs annual convention in Wisconsin Dells.
The selection process concluded Wednesday evening (Jan. 18) as a panel of three judges whittled the contestants from 37 women to 10 semi-finalists and then five finalists.
She has always loved her county fair and serving as an agricultural intern at the Wisconsin State Fair last year made her want to be Fairest of the Fairs even more, Kastenson said in an on-stage question-and-answer session in front the fair association’s membership.
In addition to Kastenson, the five finalists included Columbia County Fair’s Jerianne Blau; Waukesha County Fair’s Erica Spiegelberg; Oconto County Fair’s Bethany Rieth, who was runner-up; and Waupaca County Fair’s Kayla Oberstadt, who was also given the congeniality award, which is voted on by all the contestants.
“I told the judges that if I won the first thing I was going to do was thank my parents,” a thrilled Kastenson said as she was crowned. “And if Brian Bolan is here, I don’t need an internship this summer.” (Bolan is agriculture director at Wisconsin State Fair.)
Proud parents Rick and Julie Kastenson were on hand to see their daughter win the title. They have a 400-acre farm near Union Grove and also own a small meat locker business where Richelle and their other children have worked.
Rick said he started at the Harry Hanson Meat Service back when he was in high school, and a few years ago he was able to purchase that business.
Fair tradition runs deep in the Kastenson family. Julie and Rick met at the Racine County Fair when both were showing cattle and Rick’s dad hauled her show animals, Julie said. They haven’t missed going to the fair since their youth.
Their older daughter, Tia, now 24, was Fairest of the Racine County Fair three years ago and is now studying to become a veterinarian. All four of the Kastenson children have shown beef and sometimes pigs at their county fair.
Today their farming operation includes beef cows — mostly Simmentals — feeder calves and a straw business in addition to the meat plant.
Richelle, 21, is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where she is an elementary education major, with a minor in special education. Her next project will be student teaching in the fall, which she may do in Sweden, as part of an international program at Whitewater.
When she’s not working on her studies, she is at home helping her family with their meat locker business.
She plans to graduate in December 2012. She chose elementary education because she loves working with kids and hopes to bring her knowledge of agriculture to the classroom.
As a small child Richelle says she wanted to be an auctioneer but soon found a passion at the county fair. She started showing in Cloverbuds, the 4-H program for younger children, and in third grade she begged to show in open class.
That put her in the show ring as a very small child with a large steer. All went well and she was hooked. “I showed Buddy and from then on I’ve always loved it,” she said of the fair.
She was a member of Racine County’s 4-H program for 14 years and after she got too old to be a member, Richelle has served as a leader and volunteer. She is currently the Racine County 4-H Ambassador Advisor.
Older sister Tia had worked as an intern at Wisconsin State Fair for three years and last year Richelle interned there as well. She enjoyed all of it, but especially fetching the judges from the airport and visiting with them about all they’ve seen and done.
As “Fairest”, she wants to continue spreading the message of fairs and how important they are for youth and for local communities.
This is the first time a Racine County Fairest has taken the state title, association officials said.
“She has such a bubbly personality. I could see her winning,” said Julie, of her daughter. “I think she’ll be pretty good at it.”