BAZETTA - Keeping their poise while wearing high heels - or in one contestant's case, cowgirl boots - is difficult enough, but to do it in the midst of a thunderstorm took some extra gusto for the nine teenagers competing in the Miss Trumbull County Fair Pageant on Tuesday night.
No sooner had the contestants been introduced than the weather took a turn for the worse. High winds brought down a deluge of water that had pooled on the top of the tent and drenched the judges who were seated beneath it.
Plans were made to move the competition to the photography building, but after a call to the fire station and a momentary delay in the competition, Chairman Ken Kubala decided to carry on the event at the Historical Stage.
The young women, all aged 15 to 19, shared about their personal lives and answered interview questions ranging in topic from reducing crime rates to legalizing medical marijuana.
In the end, LeAnn Penn, 17, of Cortland was named 2013 Miss Trumbull County Fair. First runner-up was Victoria Meade, 17, of Warren, and second runner-up was Ashley Wolanzyk, 16, of Cortland.
"I feel overwhelmed because she did this all on her own," said Jeff Penn, LeAnn's father.
He said that LeAnn is not only a senior at Maplewood High School, but also a sophomore at Kent State University's Trumbull Branch. She also works a part-time job at Panera Bread and is involved in other extracurricular activities.
LeAnn wore a bright, marigold-colored dress and answered a question about how to reduce physical and emotional bullying among children. She said she thought it would help solve the problem if children learned at a young age that everyone is equal.
"I think it went really well, despite the rainstorm," pageant judge Erica Bristor said. "The winner was a clear standout. She was always smiling on stage and was so genuine."
Also congratulating the girls was Miss Ohio Heather Wells, who encouraged the contestants to "be persistent" in their goals, noting that it took her several tries before she was crowned Miss Trumbull County Fair in 2008 and several more tries before earning her current title a few weeks ago.
Second runner-up Wolanzyk said she would heed Wells' advice and hopes to return next year to compete again.
"It was a great experience," Wolanzyk said. "Like Miss Ohio said - 'persistence.'"