Swedlund crowned Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs

Michelle Stangler
Representing the Green County Fair, Sharlene Swedlund of Juda was crowned the 2023 Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs in Wisconsin Dells on Jan. 11, 2023.

Sharlene Swedlund of Juda rose to the top of a band of 36 enthusiastic contestants to be named the 2023 Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs during the annual Wisconsin Association of Fairs Convention in the Wisconsin Dells.

Swedlund, 22, who hails from Green County will begin her whirlwind tour of visiting the state's 75 county and district this summer, promoting the educational, agricultural, social, cultural, and commercial opportunities available at Wisconsin’s fairs. She succeeds Jackie Rosenbush from the Washburn County Fair.

Her most visible role will be serving as the official ambassador of the 2023 Wisconsin State Fair in August. During the fair's 11-day run from Aug. 3-13, Swedlund will greet fairgoers and special guests, perform as the master of ceremonies for events including in the showring at livestock shows, participating in various contests, and representing the State Fair during special media appearances. 

Swedlunds’s involvement with fairs began at a young age growing up on a farm and exhibiting at the Green County Fair since she was young.

“The Green County Fair became home during the summer, quickly,” Swedlund said.

During competition, judges asked all top five contestants to share their most influential fair moment for the final question. Swedlund recalled how she overcame a fourth-place finish in a master showman contest and rose to supreme champion the following year. She told judges that all of the hard work and determination paid off.

Her desire to promote and educate people on everything she loves within agricultural advocacy began during her reign as the 2016-17 Juda Dairy Queen.  Afterwards it become Swedlund's goal to become more involved with the county fair. Watching the fair's queen and agriculture ambassadors perform their roles inspired her passion for the fair industry and spurred her on in her quest to share that on the state level.

Looking forward to the year ahead, Swedlund says she is eager to be an "advocate for what I love, and that is all things fair.” The 22 year old is just the second Fairest of the Fair from Green County to hold the statewide position. Hayley Barker represented Green County in 2000 as the 34th Fairest of the Fairs.

Swedlund is the granddaughter of Rocky and Clare Swedlund and currently studies Manufacturing Engineering Technology at Blackhawk Technical College. She is currently employed at Kuhn North America as a Technical Publications Specialist working in engineering documentation.

Joining newly crowned Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs, Sharlene Swedlund, center, from left are third runner-up Meghan Numrich of Winnebago County, first runner-up Brooke Shatley of Barron County, third runner-up Zoe Ertel of Sheboygan County, and Sam Wirtz of Northern Wisconsin State Fair, fourth runner-up.

Top finishers

Brooke Shatley, 22, of the Barron County, was named first runner-up. She is earning her degree in Family and Consumer Science from the UW-Stout. Zoe Ertel, 19, of Sheboygan County, was named second runner-up. She currently serves as the Plymouth FFA Chapter president and Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association president.

Meghan Numrich, 20, representing the Winnebago County Fair, was named third runner-up. She is pursuing a degree in Geology from UW-Oshkosh where she also works as a community advisor. Sam Wirtz, 19, representing the Northern Wisconsin State Fair, was named fourth runner-up and awarded the Tim Heffernon Congeniality Award. She is studying English at Central College in Iowa.

The Fairest of the Fairs is selected by a panel of three judges representing the agriculture, media, and hospitality industries. This year’s judges were Stephen Asplund, Kaitlyn Riley, and Stacie Christel.  

Her story not ended yet

While her time has officially came to close, Jackie Rosenbush isn’t done being part of Wisconsin fairs.

“My fairs story didn’t end tonight – I’m going to continue to give back to my communities,” she said.

After student teaching in the agriculture department at St. Croix Central High School in spring, Rosenbush is planning to stay active with fairs through FFA and 4-H and through volunteering any way she can at the county level.

As she reflects upon her year serving as the 2022 Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs, Rosebush’s top memories included having a positive impact on others in the community; from bringing State Fair to the Wisconsin’s Children Hospital to young people who couldn’t attend to the activities to wielding the auctioneer's gavel for the first time at the Fond du Lac County Fair.

“Any opportunity I had to interact with the fairests, or fair ambassadors, really just empowered me to continue to be a leader and to empower others,” added Rosenbush.

During her farewell address, Rosenbush says she has learned a new lesson at every fair she as attended. And throughout her reign, three themes have resonated with her: passion, perspective and persistence.

“I want to encourage you to attend your local fairs, give back to your community (and) put money towards the youth of tomorrow because the future of Wisconsin agriculture can be found at every county, district and state fair in Wisconsin,” she said in closing. "Thank you for the opportunity to be the voice of Wisconsin fairs."

WAFC award winners

Prior to revealing the winner of the 2023 Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs, the Wisconsin Association of Fairs recognized the time and effort of people who work behind-the-scenes to make fairs a success.

Hall of Fame inductees were awarded to fair board and committee member based on 12 years or more of active service. Rhonda Klemet (Langlade Co. Fair), Deb Gotibson (Dunn Co. Fair), Ken Deaver (Vernon Co. Fair) and Eileen Walsh Grzenia (Walworth Co. Fair) was inducted to this year’s class.

Outstanding Fair Person honors fair board and committee member being active 12 years or less. Brooke Aertz (Florence Co. Fair), Cindy Van Dyk (St. Croix Co. Fair), Kory Ryan (Lodi Ag Fair) and Dick Pollen (Manitowoc Co. Fair).

V.I.P. Award honors an individual or couple non-farm board or non-committee members. Hannah Holdaway and Emma Klumpp (Florence Co. Fair), Rita Palewicz and Dennis Hurtis (St. Croix Co. Fair), Bryce Berger (Lodi Ag Fair) and Bob and Anne Oelke (Dodge Co. Fair) were awarded the honors this year.

Additional awards included the Volunteer Group Appreciate Award presented to the Elroy Fire Department in addition to Friend of the Fair honorees including Judy Peterson, Melissa Ploeckelman and LuAnn Hanke.