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When crowning becomes tradition

Skardas become fourth set of sisters crowned Union County Fair Queen

AFTON — If you’ve heard of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” a series of novels for young adults by Ann Brashares, Allivea Skarda’s path to becoming the 2020 Union County Fair Queen last week was more of a story about a sisterhood of a traveling dress.

Perfect dress

Allivea’s sister, Madison, was crowned fair queen July 18, 2015. One thing Allivea remembers about her sister’s coronation was what Madison wore – a sequined red dress she had also worn for her junior prom.

When spring break came around this school year and COVID-19 became a concern, Allivea halted any efforts of finding a prom dress, instead deciding to wait until after spring break. But, when school never returned after the break and prom never happened, Allivea thought about the dress her sister had worn to coronation five years ago. She then thought it would make the perfect dress to wear to coronation.

“I decided to wear the dress Maddie wore on coronation night to see if it would give me good luck, and it did,” Allivea said. “I didn’t know there were only four sister pairs to be queen, but it’s an amazing feeling. It makes me feel like I can make my parents and my family proud when it comes to both of us being a queen at the Union County Fair.”

Skarda was crowned fair queen July 18 at the fair in Afton. Winning second runner-up honors was Mikenna Cass and first runner-up was Mallory Raney.

Skarda is the daughter of Ron and Mindy Skarda of rural Afton. She graduated in May from East Union High School, where she was involved in cross country, track and FFA. She is a nine-year member of the Highland Highlights 4-H Club, Union County 4-H Youth Council and is active in many other ways in the community.

Family affair

This is not the first time Allivea has been royalty at the fair.

Allivea was crowned fair princess July 18, 2009, under then queen Kilee Kralik (Nelson). She is the first queen contestant to have won both crowns.

The Skardas are also the fourth sister duo to be fair queens in the contest’s 56-year history. Other sister duos include Deanna and Dawn Freemyer in 1975 and 1977; Kathy and Rhonda Bennett in 1983 and 1986; and Emily and Sarah Cheers in 1990 and 1992.

There are also two mother-daughter duos who have been fair queen: Betty Gordon in 1969 and her daughter, Ashley Hartsook, in 2006; and Diane Hartsook in 1985 and her daughter, Taylor Sorrell, in 2018.

Pressure

This year’s queen contest wasn’t supposed to be July 18, but due to the Creston Panthers advancing in the regional softball tournament and that game being postponed due to inclement weather, a domino-effect ensued and the queen contest was pushed back two days to a Saturday night in the ISSB Show Arena.

This year’s queen contest wasn’t a for sure endeavor from the beginning, but Allivea is glad organizers went on with the event. Some counties chose not to have a queen contest due to the cancellation at the Iowa State Fair.

As a prospective contestant, Skarda admits she felt pressure both before and after she learned there would be a queen contest this year.

“The board who runs the princess and queen contest were really pushing for all of us to do it and participate, so we applied back in June. I did have a lot of pressure,” Allivea said. “Maddie got it, and I was worried that people were going to think differently of me or Maddie if I didn’t get queen, too, along with my family. There was pressure but I tried to make the most of it.”

Looking back

Allivea remembers when her sister was crowned queen and when she was crowned princess. Three of the Skardas were on their way back from a national cattle show in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when Madison was crowned queen.

Madison remembers being queen well.

“During my time as the Union County fair queen, I loved running around with my sweet little fair princess, interacting with all of the phenomenal 4-H and FFA members as they proudly presented their exhibits,” Madison said. “The Union County Fair was the backdrop to many of my favorite and most cherished childhood memories with my friends and family which made my role as queen extra special.”

Family bond

There’s at least one person Allivea made proud — her older sister, Madison.

Allivea plans to follow in her sister’s footsteps by finishing her associates of arts degree this fall before moving on to Northwest Missouri State University where she’ll be studying to be a teacher.

“I am so incredibly proud of my sister for being crowned fair queen,” said Madison. “Like all of the candidates, both of us had the privilege to run ... Allivea has worked very hard to be an outstanding citizen and leader of our community through her activities, 4-H and FFA involvements and community service.

Madison said she and her sister have always been close, so sharing the experience made their “bond that much stronger.”

“We certainly have to credit our amazing parents and family because they offered tremendous amounts of support to both of us throughout our entire lives and we certainly would not be where we are today without them,” said Madison. “Our family has taught us to work hard, give and be gracious to others.”

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