A girl who grew up showing registered Jerseys and loving every minute of it is the new Wisconsin Fairest of the Fair.
Kaitlyn Riley, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was chosen from girls representing fairs from across the state last week and will reign at the Wisconsin State Fair 2014.
The daughter of Paulette and Jody Riley, who farm in the Boscobel-Gays Mills area, she credited her parents for her strong interest in exhibiting at her local fair and Wisconsin State Fair and for stoking her passion for agriculture.
The family farm has a herd of 70 registered Jersey cows and they were her ticket to a world of friendship and activity outside her normal circle of friends and family.
Jody Riley said there are probably friends she made while exhibiting cattle and going to the fair that are closer to her than her friends at school. “The fair is the highlight of her summer,” he said.
Kaitlyn, 21, is no stranger to the tiara and sash, having served as Wisconsin State Jersey queen as well as serving as Crawford County Fair’s Fairest last year.
She said the week leading up to the contest finale was a whirlwind of activities during the Wisconsin Fairs Association annual convention. “By the end of the week I felt such a bond with the other girls. I’m sure many of them will be friends for life.”
A senior majoring in strategic communications and broadcast journalism at UW-Madison, Riley will graduate in May, just in time to spend her summer visiting county fairs and spending time at the Wisconsin State Fair.
She said she was “absolutely shocked” when she became state Fairest and is now excited to address different issues related to agriculture as she goes forward through the coming year.
“Every day we’re part of agriculture and I want to do what I can to educate the public about how that impacts us every day.”
She spent eight years exhibiting cattle at Wisconsin State Fair and says she met people all the time who had no knowledge of farmers or agriculture. One of the things she enjoyed most about her time in West Allis was trying to reach those people with the message of how agriculture affects them.
“I always appreciated the chance to answer their questions.”
The state fair was also a chance for Riley to renew her friendships as well as spending time visiting with urban fair goers who she tried to reach with background on agriculture.
Her career goals have her looking ahead to a public relations position related to agriculture and potentially at the state Department of Agriculture.
First runner-up in the contest was Lodi Agricultural Fair’s Ariel Hellenbrand; second runner-up was Racine County’s Fairest Jenna Crayton; third runner-up was Kenosha County’s Alizabeth Elfering; fourth runner-up was Sheboygan County’s representative Jennifer Kuffel.