The Great Jones County Fair finished the second day of events with a new one Monday, July 19, with a new title and tiaras on the line.

On the eve before the longest-serving Great Jones County Fair royalty were set to relinquish their crowns, the fair crowned their first ever Great Jones County Fair Miss Cowgirls, with Dani Gravel taking home the junior title and Jaelynn Kraus the senior.

Contestants were divided into two age categories. The junior class accepted entries from age 10-15 as of Jan. 1 the year of the fair. The senior class contestants could be aged anywhere from 16-26. Contestants must either reside in the county or be active in county activities. For their competition, the classes took the ring in the Equestrian Barn, seniors first, for a quick western pleasure display. Then, one-by-one, the competitors completed a pattern, went over to the judges for an interview and did a cowgirl salute on their way around the ring before coming to a fast halt in front of the judges.

As coordinator Heidi Hall explained to the crowd, things for the inaugural event developed quite quickly as the idea was just brought up a couple weeks prior. Hall, who herself was royalty as 2011 Miss Rodeo Iowa, had hoped to get the event started at the 2022 fair, but when she approached Great Jones County Fair General Manager John Harms, he encouraged her to get the competition going for 2021.

With such little time between the event even being announced and the actual event, it didn’t leave too much time for the contestants to prepare. Gravel said she went riding every day the previous week to work on rail work, practice patters and even got some work in at the Equestrian Barn.

In addition to making sure the horse was well practiced in the necessary maneuvers, Kraus, whose horse Kate is white, also had to make sure the coat was spotless. Kraus also mentioned that contestants also had to make sure they had their wardrobe ready.

It might be a new event, but the atmosphere was there immediately, according to both newly-crowned queens.

“I loved every second of it,” Gravel said. “I’m so excited to continue this.”

“I couldn’t keep my smile contained,” Kraus said. “I’m sure it’s going to be the same at the state fair.”

Hall, too, was encouraged by the 11 contestants that they managed to draw on short notice.

“I couldn’t be more happy with how this came together,” she said. “I was honestly expecting like two or three contestants. So, to have 11 girls come here and compete, I think was absolutely amazing.”

Hall wasn’t the only one impressed, as the judges asked the winners of each the individual categories, rail work, patterns and interviews, to be announced prior to the announcement of the queen because they were so impressed by how well the contestants represented themselves.

Having won the county crown, just like the county fair competition, both Gravel and Kraus will be competing at the state fair to try to earn the state title.

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