La PORTE — Last year, Wanatah’s Sarah Smoker came up just short of earning the coveted title of Miss La Porte County Fair Queen.

On Saturday, with her cousin, the inaugural Miss La Porte County Fair Queen, standing just a few feet away from her onstage, Smoker made the most of her second chance.

Judges named her the 2019 Fair Queen during the pageant, one of the annual pre-fair events at the Pioneer Land Tent at the La Porte County Fairgrounds in La Porte. The Purdue University student emerged victorious from a field of eight teens vying for the crown.

Clutching a bouquet of roses, tiara placed firmly atop her head and sash dangling across her frame, the South Central High School graduate described the excitement she felt moments earlier when her cousin announced her name.

“I couldn’t smile big enough,” Smoker said. “I feel such overwhelming happiness, knowing that all the work I put into this has paid off.”

Smoker came just shy of winning last year, when judges named her First Runner-Up to fellow Wanatah resident Janelle Mitzner, who crowned Smoker on Saturday.

The new queen is the third member of her family to earn the title. Her cousin, Melissa Smoker, won the inaugural Miss La Porte County Fair Queen contest in 2014; and another cousin, Madison Wolff, won in 2017.

“It’s so cool,” she said. “They helped me a lot. It’s cool to have that family connection.”

A former 4-H Grand Champion, Smoker will enter her sophomore year at Purdue this fall, where she is studying nursing. She plans on becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner after graduation. 

Along with the title of Miss La Porte County Fair Queen comes a $500 scholarship, a lifetime pass to the fair, and the chance to compete in the Indiana State Fair Pageant in August.

This week, though, Smoker and her court will carry out their royal duties at the fair, which runs through Saturday. Among those responsibilities are participating in the pie eating contest, handing out ribbons to winners at various 4-H shows and serving as the face of this year’s fair, she said.

What she is looking forward to most is the beef show, where her brother, Trent, will be competing.

“I hope I can give him a big prize,” she said.

Smoker also came away with the title of Miss Photogenic during the event.

Other winners Saturday included:

• Morgan Township High School student Joli Hunsley, named Miss La Porte County Fair Princess

• Michigan City High School graduate Meghan Miller, named Miss Congeniality

• La Porte High School graduate Madeline Fleshman, named First Runner-Up

• South Central High School graduate Maggie Thomas, named Second Runner-Up

• New Prairie High School student Kennedy Troche, named Miss People’s Choice

• LaCrosse High School student Sami Vance, named Miss Community Service

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