Between showing hogs and helping little hands on the farm, Leah Marek has donned a tiara for the second time this summer.
Washington County native and 2019 County Fair Queen Leah Marek earned the title of second runner-up in the Iowa State Fair Queen Pageant over the weekend.
“It was great. It was such a surprise to place second [runner-up] overall,” Marek said.
Marek was crowned Washington County Fair Queen in July, making her eligible to compete for the title of Iowa State fair queen.
“I didn’t plan on doing it. It all kind of rolled into motion after winning the county fair,” Marek said.
Marek faced more than 100 girls from counties across the state for the state queen title, which went to Hannah Koellner of Mahaska County.
“We spent [evenings] in each other’s rooms. It was like one big sleepover,” Marek said.
The pageant, which consisted of three rounds of interviews over the course of five days, was very similar to that of the Washington County Fair — the largest difference being that it was on a much larger scale this time, Marek said.
Two of Marek’s older sisters participated in the Iowa State Fair Queen Pageant, with one earning the title of first runner-up in 2012.
Between the Washington County Fair Queen Pageant and her sisters’ advice, Marek was well prepared.
“I was a little nervous, with the new setting, but I was more relaxed because I’d been through it before [with the county fair],” Marek said.
She lent a hand during Little Hands on The Farm over the weekend – a perfect fit for Marek, whose favorite duty as Washington County fair queen was taking part in activities geared toward younger kids.
“They’re adorable, and they think you’re so cool because you have a tiara,” Marek said.
She took part in the parade Wednesday night, and gave an introduction to fair attendees Thursday and Friday nights, alongside other members of the fair queen court.
When she wasn’t busy with pageant duties, Marek was in the show ring.
“I placed third in senior showmanship and third in my class for my gilt!,” Marek said excitedly.
Marek is a member of the Jackson Jets 4-H Club and has been showing livestock since she was a young girl. She showed gilts and earned the title of senior showmanship champion at the Washington County Fair last month.
For placing second runner-up, Marek received a $1,000 scholarship and a $250 gift certificate to Jordan Creek Mall in West Des Moines.
“I have senior pictures in the fall, so [the gift card] will help with that,” Marek said.
As for the scholarship, it will go toward her tuition at Iowa State University, where she will study biology and global resources after high school graduation next spring.
Marek spent her final days at the Iowa State Fair relaxing and eating plenty of fair food – her favorite being Nitro Ice Cream — before heading home to Washington County.