Abby Thomas and MaryBeth Ortlieb were competitors in this year’s Cortland County Junior Fair Queen event, but they are working together to bring agriculture to light in Cortland County.
Thomas, 16, of Lansing, won this year’s fair queen competition Monday night. Ortlieb, 17, of Preble, was the first alternate in the event.
“It feels pretty amazing to represent the Cortland County Junior Fair,” Thomas said, a student at Lansing High School.
Usually held on the first night of the county fair, the fair queen event has taken place for over 50 years, said fair queen committee chairperson Anita Carrier. Carrier was the fair queen winner back in 1995.
A few days before the fair queen event, judges conduct interviews with the contestants. On the night of the event, the judges ask the contestants impromptu questions.
Thomas mentioned that it’s been a goal for her to compete in the fair queen event since Megan Robison, Carrier’s daughter, was crowned fair queen in 2019.
Ortlieb has been involved in the fair queen process twice, mainly due to her love for public speaking.
Ultimately, Thomas and Ortlieb’s involvement in the fair stems from their participation in the Cortland County 4-H program, which is part of the county’s Cornell Cooperative Extension.
According to the county’s 4-H program mission statement, it is “an opportunity for boys and girls to learn and develop life skills that may assist them in becoming responsible adults.”
“Our focus includes developing life skills, encouraging leadership development, science education, agricultural and livestock skills, and healthy living,” the statement continues.
Thomas, who has been involved in the 4-H program for nine years, has enjoyed representing and being able to find a connection in agriculture.
“I’d like to see more representation of agriculture in the county,” she said. “These 4-H’ers work really hard to possibly gain a future interest in a career in agriculture.”
Ortlieb has participated in the 4-H program for a decade, adding that she fell in love with it and “always been a joy” of hers.
“I’ve been part of it since I was seven,” said Ortlieb, who is homeschooled. “It’s always been a part of my life.”
Thomas and Ortlieb are working together to promote the county’s 4-H program up until next year’s county fair. The work includes making a video that spotlights different 4-H clubs in the county, and celebrates National 4-H Week.
Thomas and Ortlieb each have animals that have been showcased at the fair’s livestock shows this year.
Thomas is showcasing dairy and beef cattle, and sheep. A 8th-generation dairy farmer, Thomas works on a dairy farm in Lansing and her family owns a dairy farm in Troy, Pennsylvania.
“I love representing the dairy industry in any way I can,” she said. “It inspired me to look into becoming a dairy herdsman in the future.”
Ortlieb has showcased dairy goats for the past five years. In the past, she has brought horses, bunnies and cattle to the fair. Her family owns a small hobby farm in Preble.
“I love seeing all of the shows and exhibits, and seeing all of the kids’ hard work they put in,” Ortlieb said. “It’s great to see the community put in the work to make it happen.”