WASHINGTON — Royalty runs in the Marek family. Lexi and Makenzi Marek have both been Washington County Fair Queens and their little sister, Leah, has followed in their footsteps so well, it got her all the way to runner-up at the Iowa State Fair pageant over the weekend.
Growing up, Marek said she always wanted to be in pageants because she watched her sisters participate.
“Seeing them run for county fair queen was really cool to me and I wanted to be that role model, like they were to me. They definitely influenced me to run for it,” she said.
On Sunday, July 14, Marek was crowned the Washington County Fair Queen which got her into the pageant at the Iowa State Fair. Preparing for the state fair took the same amount of time and technique as the county fair, it only required a few more outfits, she said.
To prepare, Marek performed mock interviews at home and practiced answering questions on a variety of topics. The only thing she was unable to practice for was the group interview portion, which proved to be a nerve-wracking experience for her.
At the county level, she knew all of the girls she was competing with, but at the state fair level, she only knew a handful. To get to know them better, she added them on social media and struck up several friendships.
“That really helped that you had a little background with them before you got there,” she said. “So you know what they’re involved with and you know where they’re from. It’s just easier to connect the face instead of just going in blind.”
The pageant started on Tuesday, Aug. 6, with interviews every night. Because there were 102 contestants, the interviews took all week until the coronation on Saturday.
During that time, contestants had a number of activities and workshops they could participate in such as kickboxing, etiquette and self-defense. Her favorite part was volunteering, specifically with the little hands on the farm activity because of how excited the kids were to see her.
“They think you’re so cool because you’re wearing a crown,” she said with a laugh.
The week went by in a blur, she said, and before she knew it, coronation night had come. Marek did not have her sights set on winning, but instead was just glad to be in the company of so many others.
“I really didn’t think about making it that far. I was just happy to be there with my friends. I sat in between two really great girls that I had gotten to know throughout the week, so we were just cheering for everyone else as they got their names called. It was so much fun watching the excitement on their faces, and then my name got called and it was so crazy. I don’t even remember standing up or anything; I was kind of in a daze,” she said.
The Washington High School senior beat out 99 other girls to make it into the top three in the contest. She never thought she would make it that far, but now that she has, it’s a point of pride for her.
“I was very happy with how I placed. It was so much fun, and everybody was so congratulatory, which was so nice because we all got to celebrate each other’s winnings together,” she said.