WISCONSIN DELLS – Most people putting in a 60-70 hour work week would be crazy to add another responsibility to their already heaping plate. Not Isabella Haen. This dynamo from Kewaunee County is gung ho to take on another time-consuming adventure as the newly crowned Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs.
Haen, 21, was selected from a field of 36 contestants representing county and district fairs throughout the state during the annual Wisconsin Association of Fairs Convention in Wisconsin Dells, Jan. 7-10.
"I'm looking forward to getting out there and telling my story, listening to others and how they've connected to their love for agriculture," the Luxemburg native said.
Haen succeeds 2017 Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs, Rebecca Starkenburg from the Lodi Agricultural Fair in Columbia County.
Ashley Miller of Sheboygan County was named first runner-up, followed by Madison Stronach of Walworth County. Third and fourth runners-up was Michelle Knapp of Kenosha County and Kaitlin Konder of St. Croix County, respectively.
Julie Nunes representing the Northern Wisconsin State Fair, received the Tim Heffernon Congeniality Award.
Other contestants include Kati Kindschuh of Fond du Lac County, Sydney Brooks of Waupaca County, Sarah Eulgen of Racine County, Sarah Carufel of Polk County and Kara Hutter of Iowa County.
52nd Fairest of the Fairs
Haen is the daughter of Matt and Lisa Haen and Al and Coleen Blizel of Casco. She is a recent graduate of Fox Valley Technical College where she earned a degree in Agriculture Business and Science Technology.
She currently works as a herdsperson at Kinnard Farms Inc., where she and her team are responsible for the well-being of 7,200 animals. In addition, Haen picks up a few part-time hours at a fashion retail outlet in Green Bay and was active as a member of her FFA's alumni program.
Even while attending Luxemburg-Casco High School, Haen was still milking cows and serving as Student Advisor, Vice President and President in her 4-H Chapter.
When approached to throw her hat into the ring as a contestant for the Kewaunee County Fairest of the Fair position, she didn't hesitate.
"I gave it some thought and before I knew it, I handed in the application three months before the due date," said Haen, adding that wearing multiple hats has its demands. "Giving up what little free time I had was the most challenging part in serving as my county's Fairest of the Fair. However, the rewarding part was all of the life-long friendships I made."
During her one-year term, Haen will take on a whirlwind schedule, making appearances at fairs and events throughout the state, working with media and promoting the importance of Wisconsin’s fair and agriculture industries.
In addition, she will serve as an ambassador of the 2018 Wisconsin State Fair, presented by U.S. Cellular, which will take place Aug. 2-12. This includes greeting fairgoers and special guests, performing as the master of ceremonies for several events during State Fair, participating in various contests, and representing State Fair during select media appearances.
"I always thought I was very good at speaking in front of crowds and having personal conversations, but being Fairest of the Fair really pushed me harder to become better," Haen said. "After the statewide competition, I really feel as though I'm ready for the statewide stage."
Kathleen O’Leary, CEO of Wisconsin State Fair Park, welcomed Haen to the Wisconsin State Fair staff.
“Isabella has proven she will be an excellent ambassador for Wisconsin’s fair industry, including State Fair," O'Leary said. "Congratulations to all of the 2018 contestants, who have proven the merit of this program for young men and women who are truly passionate about the fair and agriculture industries.”
The Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs program was created 52 years ago, to select an ambassador for the Wisconsin Association of Fairs, which represents all 76 Wisconsin county, district and state fairs.
Haen says when the fair season rolls around, she's ready to clear her calendar and begin her ambassador duties and meet folks all across Wisconsin, including the state's youth.
"County fairs help teach youth the importance of hard work, responsibility and creating friendships," Haen said. "Getting our youth excited for the fair and keeping them coming back year every year is especially important to me."
Right now, Haen says her future beyond serving as the 52nd Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs is largely unscripted.
"I love my responsibilities at the farm and the people I get to work with every day, but I know a job in Ag Communications would be the place for me...and of course, I would keep myself busy with our FFA Alumni and 4-H programs!"