ASHLAND — A pre-COVID tradition reigned again Tuesday when two senior citizens became the king and queen of the Ashland County Fair.
Mickie McWilliams, 76, of Brethren Care Village swooned the judges with her answers to questions ranging from her favorite dish to cook to advice she has for the next generation.
Frank Harned, 92 — the oldest of the nine contestants — represented the Inn at Ashland Woods as the fair’s newest king.
The contest came during Ashland County Fair’s Senior Citizens Day, when activities at the fair revolved around honoring the wisest among us.
Amy Noel, senior care program director for the Ashland County Council on Aging, said the fair’s senior queen and king contest has been around for years. But this year was the first contest since 2019.
“We paused it through the pandemic because of the dangers of spreading COVID with our older folks,” Noel said.
There were nine contestants this year from five care facilities. To qualify, contestants had to be at least 62 and not have been royalty for the last two or three years. They were judged on their personality, responsive to questions, self presentation and originality, and appearance.
Ashland County Juvenile and Probate Judge Karen DeSanto Kellogg, Ashland County Common Pleas Judge David Stimpert and Ashland Municipal Judge John Good served as this year’s pageant judges.
Ashland Mayor Matt Miller and his wife, State Rep. Melanie Miller, served as emcees. They each took turns questioning the contestants.
Before diving into the questions, Melanie Miller — a pageant veteran — offered some advice to some of the nervous contestants.
“Just be yourselves,” she said.
Karen Shaw took Melanie Miller’s advice.
Shaw, a resident of Kingston of Ashland, finished as runner-up. She’s been married for 60 years to James Shaw, whom she lives with at Kingston. He also joined her on stage as a contestant.
When asked to share advice on how to make a marriage last for six decades, she offered a candid response.
“Well, shut your mouth and smile a lot. So you should be just fine — you have a nice smile,” she said, addressing the belly-laughing Ashland mayor.
“If there was any advice you could give to the younger generation, what would it be?” Melanie Miller asked.
David Jacobs’ answer drew some laughter. A veteran, Jacobs used to serve as a paratrooper.
“Not really,” he said. “I’m not really good at giving advice.”
Frank Harned, the eventual king, said “vote.”
“Always vote. But use your head. They’re always going to want to make you believe something crazy. So yeah, use your head. That and love. Love your family and your wife,” he said.
Betty Krajcik’s advice was to be kind, a mantra she lives by even after experiencing tragedy.
She married twice. Her first husband died while in church, two days after seeing a doctor and one day before a follow-up. Her second husband, a vegetable farmer, died of Agent Orange — a tactical herbicide used during the Vietnam War.
“But I always say I was lucky to have two good husbands. A lot of people never get one,” Krajcik said.
McWilliams, after being crowned queen, said she never thought she’d be royalty.
“I’m very happy right now,” she said, teary-eyed.
The Life section is supported by Brethren Care Village in Ashland.