‘Excited that I get to represent my community.’ Centre Hall teen crowned Grange Fair Queen

·4 min read

A Centre Hall teenager stood Wednesday with her right hand over her left, a bouquet of flowers resting in her left arm as she hoped to hear her name called at one of the events that defines her hometown.

Ella Smith, 19, then dropped her hands, grabbed her floral evening gown and went to receive her sash. The Penns Valley Area High School alumna turned elementary education major was named Centre County Grange Fair Queen.

“I am just excited that I get to represent my community,” Smith said after becoming the second teenager from Centre Hall to be named queen in the past three ceremonies. “... It’s really important that I get to show what I’ve grown up knowing to other people and all the little kids. I’m just excited to keep learning more about my community.”

Smith bested four others to win the competition, which featured an essay, an interview, a speech and an answer to an impromptu question.

Remington Weaver, 16, of Port Matilda, was named first alternate. Makenzie Peters, 17, of Milesburg, won the Miss Congeniality award. Jocelyn Weaver, 17, of Howard, and Hailey Zeigler, 19, of Milesburg, also competed.

“She’s always been involved with Grange Fair ever since she was little. She’s done the talent show as many years as she could, did the marching band, helped work in the buildings and she sold lemonade,” Smith’s mother, Amy, said. “So being here and being at her family tent, it didn’t surprise me.”

Added her father, Jason: “It means a lot because my family was one of the founding families of the fair. They started coming when it was just the one-day picnic and we’ve been here ever since. I remember my grandmother making fried chicken in the tent, so just seeing the generations through the years and then having her become the fair queen is a great honor.”

The 2021 Grange Fair Queen Mattee Stoicheff, left, hugs Ella Smith after she is named 2022 Centre County Grange Fair Queen during the coronation on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.
The 2021 Grange Fair Queen Mattee Stoicheff, left, hugs Ella Smith after she is named 2022 Centre County Grange Fair Queen during the coronation on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.

Smith’s fluent, eloquent speech lasted slightly longer than three minutes. It served as a ringing endorsement of the more than century-old fair, which Peters described as “one of the hidden gems of central Pennsylvania.”

Looking for a laugh? Smith invited the more than 150 people who attended the ceremony to Friday’s animal dressing contest, where you may see a cow in a grass skirt or a goat in pants.

Poultry, horse, dairy, goat, beef, sheep and swine shows serve as part of the fair’s foundation, giving hundreds of children an opportunity to showcase their animals. The fair’s grandstand acts, amusement rides and arcade games are also highlights.

And Smith didn’t miss an opportunity to stump for the fair’s food. Cactus Taters — made by first putting a spud on the end of a drill — are one of her favorites.

Ella Smith introduces herself during the 2022 Centre County Grange Fair Queen coronation on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.
Ella Smith introduces herself during the 2022 Centre County Grange Fair Queen coronation on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.

Smith took the reins from 2021 Grange Fair Queen Mattee Stoicheff, who also doubles as a State College Area High School student. She racked up more than 166,000 steps during last year’s fair and went on to travel more than 2,000 miles, about the distance from the fairgrounds to Salt Lake City, Utah.

Being named Grange Fair Queen, Stoicheff wrote in an August letter, was “one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.”

“I got to represent Centre County and that was something I always wanted to do. I go to State College Area High School, where the Grange Fair is not heard of as much,” Stoicheff said after Wednesday’s coronation. “It’s almost like a negative thing if you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m going to the Grange Fair.’ So I made it my goal to kind of get rid of the stereotype.”

Smith won $500 and is set to enter the State Fair Queen contest in January. Remington Weaver won $300. The remaining three contestants each won $100.

The fair is scheduled to open Friday and continue through Aug. 27.

“I’ve had some time to really think about why I would want people to come to my fair and I think my final answer is: Why wouldn’t you want to come to my fair?” Smith said during her speech. “Except the fair isn’t mine, it’s everybody’s. We welcome people from all over Centre County to experience a wonderful, adventurous nine-day fair.”

The 2022 Centre County Grange Fair Queen Ella Smith is surround by Grange Fair queen contestants Jocelyn Weaver, Hailey Lyn Ziegler, Remington Weaver and Makenzie Peters during the coronation on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.
The 2022 Centre County Grange Fair Queen Ella Smith is surround by Grange Fair queen contestants Jocelyn Weaver, Hailey Lyn Ziegler, Remington Weaver and Makenzie Peters during the coronation on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.