Melissa Zimdahl
2008 Fairest of the Fair

Melissa Zimdahl Crowned 2008 Fairest of the Fair

Melissa Zimdahl proved Wednesday night that everyone has a second chance at being a winner. The 21-year-old Campbellsport native was crowned this year's Fairest of the Fair at the Fond du Lac County Fair. Kayla Schraufnagel of Brownsville was first-runner-up, and Katelyn Santy of Fond du Lac was second runner-up. Zimdahl was awarded a $750 scholarship, while Schraufnagel took home $250. The seven contestants braved cloudy skies and large crowds for the 40th annual competition, which was held in front of the Grandstand at the County Fairgrounds. Among those in attendance were past winners, including Sue (Kottke) Boyke, the first Fairest of the Fair, and Kristin Natzke, the 2007 Fairest of the Fair. Zimdahl's family and friends cheered as Natzke placed the crown on her head. Several fans held a red sign that read: "Melissa is Our Favorite." Even though she's been on stage before, Zimdahl said she still experienced a whirlwind of emotions. She took first-runner-up in 2007 and wasn't sure how she'd rank this year. "There were so many girls up there who were so qualified," she said. When the emcees called her name, Zimdahl's hands flew to her face in shock and elation. "I'm really excited and honored to be the 40th Fairest of the Fair," she told the audience. Nerve-wracking test The seven women discovered that there's more to Fairest of the Fair than crowns, dresses and flowers. Before this week's ceremony, each contestant wrote and read a public service announcement promoting the Fond du Lac County Fair. The ads were aired over the radio, and the contestants recited them for the crowd Wednesday. Competitors also had an interview and dinner with the judges. During the contest, emcees asked the women how they would console a new 4-H member who had started crying from receiving a pink ribbon. The question brought back painful memories for Zimdahl, who has been in 4-H for 10 years. During one County Fair, she said she showed a horse that was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. "I knew it would be our last Fair," she recalled. That year, she was hoping for a happy final hurrah but ended up ranking last and taking home a pink ribbon. She said she would have told the 4-H member her story to show that one bad moment doesn't mean the end. Schraufnagel said she would have told the child to cherish the experience. She said she has learned much from her County Fair projects, even the ones that finished last. "The color of the ribbon is not what matters," she said.