By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Even at 8 years old, Meghan Svetlak dreamed of one day being chosen to represent Mahoning County in the best possible way: as 4-H queen.
The 18-year-old’s dream came true Thursday afternoon, when she was crowned queen on the Canfield Fair’s Concourse Stage — decorated with cowboy hats and bandannas to reflect a “Wild West” theme — during the Junior Fair Youth Day Program.
“It means a lot,” said Svetlak, a freshman at Kent State University. “I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned, and 4-H has made me a better person.”
Both Svetlak and this year’s king, 19-year-old Brandon Benson, have each been members of 4-H for nine years, and said they plan to give back to the 4-H community by becoming advisers for the youth organization.
Benson, a senior at TRECA Digital Academy and two-year member of the 4-H Royal Court, said he was shocked to learn that he’d been picked as king.
“I love 4-H,” Benson said. “I’d like to see more people do 4-H, and go out and have fun.”
Janice Hanna, 4-H educator at the Ohio State University Extension Office in Canfield, introduced this year’s members of the 4-H Royal Court: Tara Balsinger, Benson, Hanna Bond, Emily Erb, Joe Fagano, Wesley Miller, Christian Moore, Levi Smith, Jena Styka, and Svetlak.
“I know they’re all very talented,” Hanna said. “What’s impressive is the wide range of activities in which they’ve participated.”
Last year’s king and queen, Sam Barnhouse and Michele Awad, also were on hand for Thursday’s coronation, as was Leland Knauf, of Canfield, who was selected as the first 4-H king in 1954. Knauf presented Svetlak and Benson trophies.
Shortly afterward, 19-year-old David Corll, a 14-year member of Grange, and 19-year-old Colleen Maskarinec, an eight-year member of 4-H, won Junior Fair Outstanding Youth.
Maskarinec, a freshman at Youngstown State University, encouraged others to become involved with 4-H, and said the organization was a great experience.
“I’m sad it’s my last year,” she said. “But it was worth it.”
Though Corll, a sophomore at Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute, said he was thrilled to win, he acknowledged the hard work and contributions of others, explaining that any of the candidates would have deserved the award.
It’s a big accomplishment,” he said. “I’m proud and honored to get it.”
Junior Fair Outstanding Youth candidates were Alyssa Armstrong, Maryssa Barnett, Benson, Bond, Corll, Maggie Dangerfield, Donald Duda III, Greta Frost, Maskarinec, Logan Moff, Patrick O’Brien, Jake Smith, Styka, and Svetlak.
The Royal Court consists of only 4-H members, but Junior Fair Outstanding Youth candidates can be involved in any of the seven Junior Fair organizations: Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Camp Fire, Farm Bureau, 4-H, Future Farmers of America, and Grange.