WOOSTER, Ohio — Royalty are a common sight at county fairs, as most tap a king and queen every year, and sometimes a prince and princess. But this year, the Wayne County Fair in Wooster, Ohio, went a bit further and invited a national figure — Miss America 2009.
Katie (Stam) Irk, of Indianapolis, spent a couple days at the fair promoting the dairy industry and visiting with 4-H exhibitors, who were intrigued to meet such an accomplished young woman.
Irk grew up on her family’s dairy farm in south central Indiana and is an outspoken advocate of the dairy industry. She exhibited dairy cows at her own county fair — Jackson County, Indiana — and relied on her 4-H and farm values as part of her platform for Miss America.
“I really made it a goal of mine through my title as Miss America 2009 to really give back to the agricultural community and specifically speak on behalf of dairy farmers all across the country,” she said.
Some of the things agriculture gave to her was an appreciation for hard work, responsibility and time management.
On a dairy farm, “you wake up first thing in the morning, you go to the milking parlor, you milk the cows, you go take care of the baby calves, you come in and have a cup of coffee then you head out in the fields and it’s just constant,” she said. “And I think that work ethic (was) just really instilled with me as a youngster and it stayed with me. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t know how not to be busy.”
By “busy,” Irk is referring to her time spent authoring children’s books and hosting the Indiana television program called Indiana Weekend. She also runs her own business — Katie Stam LLC. — which allows her to give public speeches, many which involve agriculture. And, she is a consultant for New Sunshine, a salon products company in Indianapolis.
With all her success, Irk says it still goes back to her time in 4-H and the lessons learned.
“I love everything about the dairy community and I love everything about the ability with 4-H and with county fairs for kids to get involved and take care of their animals,” she said. “It just teaches them so much responsibility and time management. It’s just a fantastic opportunity for these youngsters to come out and grow life lessons that will stay with them for the rest of their life.”
She spent time at the fair Sept. 10 interacting with young 4-H members and also helped hand out awards and serve ice cream.
Wayne County was a fitting place for her to visit — ranking as the top dairy county in Ohio. Irk said the fair board and the visitors made her feel at home.
“It’s a fabulous place to be,” she said. “I’ve got to say, you’ve got a really special event here.”
Irk is married to Brian Irk and her parents and grandparents still operate the family dairy farm. She was brought to the fair with help from fair board member Tom Stocksdale, the Wayne County Dairy Service Unit, Wayne County Dairy Promoters, Commodity Blenders, Gerber Feed and local dairy farmers.