One-on-one with the Pennsylvania State Fair Queen

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Rebekah Dunn
Butler, Pa.
2006 Pennsylvania State Fair Queen

Rebekah Dunn was crowned queen of the Big Butler Fair in May 2005, and went on to win the title of Pennsylvania State Fair Queen in January. Here, an inside look at her personality, her job as fair queen, and what makes her tick.

On being county queen:
“I knew the queen had to be a dedicated promoter and had to be someone who knew about fairs and agriculture. I’ve been going to the fair for 20 years! I knew if I didn’t get it, I wanted to be sure whoever did was passionate and competent.”

On being Pa. state fair queen:
“I had hoped to win, but certainly didn’t expect to. There were 53 other girls competing [for the award] and a lot of them really wanted it. I try to remain humble about it. Only one person in the entire state gets this; I’m doing the best job I can.”
In this role, Rebekah is required to visit three fairs in each of Pennsylvania’s four zones. She also visits other events; earlier this month, she appeared at an Altoona Curve baseball game.
“It’s about more than visiting fairs and festivals. Wherever I go, I’m a symbol of what Pennsylvania’s county fairs are. And with 116 fairs in the state, I’m always challenged to know more!”

A queen should have …
“An open mind, since with so many places to visit, you can’t ever think that where you’ve been is better than where you are.

During my reign …
“I have a year to make a mark and give Pennsylvanians a greater appreciation for farming. ‘Ag is the Heart of Pennsylvania’ is the queen’s theme, and I truly believe that. Sure the carnival and food are great, but without agriculture there would be no fairs.”

On the crown:
“It’s too big and stands out too much for me. I would rather have what I say draw attention to me than what I’m wearing.”

The most ridiculous part of the fair queen job is …
“When it stops feeling like a fair queen and more like a beauty queen. When instead of paying attention to what I’m saying or doing, they’re worried about my shoes and whether I’m wearing lipstick.”

The coolest person I’ve met since I was crowned queen is …
“Definitely Lee Robinson, president of the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs. He’s an older gentleman, but has more passion for fairs than anyone I’ve ever met! He’s been a real inspiration to me, since he always wants to promote fairs in a big way.
“He’s also made me realize how fun, but serious, my job is as queen. I’m not just a queen for a year, I have a job to do.”

My most embarrassing moment was …
Early in her reign, Rebekah forgot her tiara was atop her head. The realization came as she was getting into her aunt’s van, when the tiara hit the door frame and crumbled in her hands.
“It was the biggest event of the year, with the Secretary of Agriculture there and other important people, and there I was with a broken crown.”
Rebekah made some quick phone calls and had a replacement tiara atop her head when it was her turn to appear. Phew.

The county fair isn’t complete without …
“Animals. Animal exhibits are what brings out the exhibitors – the farmers – and really make the fair what it is.”

My favorite fair in Pennsylvania is …
“The Big Butler Fair! They’re the ones who gave me this opportunity, and with this being the 151st year, I feel good about the fair’s long-standing reputation and the values and traditions of the fair.”

On having two fairs in Butler County:
“The Big Butler Fair is earlier in the summer and a point to see your progress [with livestock projects]. The Butler Farm Show is late in the summer and is where we have the 4-H Roundup and sell our animals. That fair hasn’t been around as long as the Big Butler Fair, though. I’ve gone to both every year since I was a wee little baby.”

The projects I’ve shown at the fairs are …
“Pigs, sheep, beef and horses. I also helped show dairy cows. I guess I tried a bit of everything.”

The best entertainer or act ever performed at my fair was …
“John Michael Montgomery came in 2005, the year I got fair queen, so I got to go backstage. It was exciting and nerve-racking, since as queen I had to speak in front of thousands of people at the concert. Everyone was cheering really loud for the band, and it was something so big for me.”

I never miss …
“A day of the fair. Our fair is already nine days, but when it ends, I just want it to keep going.”

On college life:
Rebekah, 20, will be a junior at Penn State this fall. She’s majoring in accounting and finance.
“I sometimes take school too serious, like all work and only sometimes play. I know I have to get my work done if I want to come home some weekends. I try to be on task or ahead of task so I don’t fall behind [when missing school for queen-related events]. [The state queen committee] recommended I not take as many credits, but school is too expensive to just loiter around.”

On the future:
“It’s so hard to predict! After I’m done being queen, my goal is scholastics and graduation, getting married, raising a family, and having a farm. After my degree, I want to get my CPA [license]. And with my loans, probably any job will be OK!”

The one thing people would be surprised to find out about me is …
“Nothing. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I’ll say or do anything.”

My nickname is …
“Beck, or my dad calls me ‘B.’ When I was little they called me ‘Beast’ because I was really strong, and if something was in my way, I’d man-handle it to get it out of my way.”

I get around in a …
[Laughing] “I don’t have a car, so I’ll take anything anyone will let me drive!”

I’d describe myself as …
1. Stubborn.
2. Friendly.
3. Dedicated.
4. Hardworking.

My current job is …
“At the fair, in computer database management. I input exhibitors into the fair database, get judging sheets in and out, input placings, hand out checks to exhibitors, work with contracts, and do secretarial work.”

Four TV shows I try to watch regularly are …
1. The news.
2. CMT music videos.
3. Friends.
4. “I grew up on ‘regulated TV,’ so we weren’t allowed to watch television all the time. I’d rather sit on the porch and count deer down at the pond than flip through channels.”

What’s hot:
Anything outdoors: camping, fishing and quad-riding.
Country singers, especially George Strait.
The Big Butler Fair, or any fair.
Spicy foods.
Baseball and football.
Any color, but especially blues and reds.
Old western movies and comedies.

What’s not:
Shopping. “I’m too cheap, so I’d rather window-shop.”
Getting dressed up.
Traveling for longer than you’re at your destination.
Big cities. “A good experience, just not for me.”
Any food that makes a mess. “I’ve got to lean really far forward [to eat] to avoid my sash! I’ve spilled so many things on me in the last year.
Golf.
Horror movies. “I’ve got quite the imagination.”

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