Each August during the opening ceremony of the Kent County Youth Fair (KCYF), a new Royal Court is named. Those named to the Court spend a year taking part in a variety of activities and community service projects representing the KCYF. The process of being selected as a member of the Royal Court covers months and concludes with a committee making the final selection based on responses received on an application and during an in person interview.
Royal Court Selection
The Royal Court has been in existence for decades. “We are not exactly sure [when the Court started], but we have seen pictures from the 70’s!” says Christine Frey, member of the Royal Court Committee. The current Royal Court consists of four members – Karleigh DeWitt, Bella Cramer, Paris Hatheway, and Judi Reagan. The girls began seeking a seat on the court by filling out an application. The new Court’s coronation took place during the opening ceremony for the KCYF in August.
While the Royal Court is currently made up of females, it’s not gender exclusive. Boys are welcome and encouraged to seek selection to the group by filling out an application. There are three sections of the Royal Court, each based upon age. Those on the Senior Court must be between 15-19 as of December 31 of the current year, must have exhibited at the KCYF for at least three years, and cannot be a past Senior King or Queen. The Junior and Prince/Princess Courts have age requirements of 12-14 and 9-11 respectively. Applications are typically due in June and reviewed by the Royal Court Committee. This group then performs interviews with the applicants in July, at which time each applicant also gives an introduction speech before a panel.
Judging and being selected for the Royal Court is based upon applications, speeches, and interviews. Those interested in the Senior Court have an added layer to being selected. The older applicants to the Court also give a senior speech. This presentation is based on a subject mailed to applicants after review of their application. An optional final question can also be posed by the committee at the conclusion of the speech if desired.
Being part of the Royal Court includes responsibilities such as hosting events, community service, and representing the KCYF. Hosting duties includes princess tea, pancakes with Santa, and painting with princesses. Helping with Kids’ Food Basket and at a local horse barn called The Barn are part of community service efforts throughout the year. Attending events like area parades and expos in Lowell and the greater Grand Rapids area help promote the KCYF. Members of the Royal Court also take part in “princess teas with princesses from other cities, princess training events to work on etiquette and speaking, radio and TV interviews to promote the fair and we work at the fair all week handing out ribbons and being available for whatever else is needed” according to Bella Cramer who is current Court member.
Meet the Royal Court – Karleigh DeWitt
Karleigh DeWitt is a 10-year-old 4th grade student at Murray Lake Elementary School. This is her first year being part of the Royal Court. While noting it was difficult having to talk in front of everyone during the selection process, it was worth it to know what it feels like being part of the Court.
DeWitt enjoys representing the KCYF. “One thing I like best is being in all the parades and meeting other girls on different courts.” she says of some of the responsibilities she has as a princess on the Court. She also shows goats during fair week and you’ll find entries in still projects which include stepping-stones, baking, and photography. DeWitt sees herself as a role model. She hopes to be a good example, saying, “I hope one thing others learn from me is to be kind and friendly to others.”
Meet the Royal Court – Bella Cramer
Cramer is an 11-year-old student at Lowell Middle School. She is in her second consecutive year as a member of the Royal Court. “I wanted to be on the Royal Court because I wanted to impact the community by helping out and doing community service.” she comments on her motivation to join the group. “It is important to be a part of the Royal Court because is a great learning experience. I love helping the community and having fun with the other royal court members no matter what we are doing!”
Fair visitors will find Cramer showing cavies during fair week, “which most people call guinea pigs” she notes. She also enters still exhibits in arts, crafts, and writing entries. This year she also was on stage performing with her younger sister Lindsey singing a duet and performing a skit.
Cramer also considers herself a role model. “I hope others will learn from me that being a princess is about more than just being pretty, it is who we are on the inside that really matters.” she says of being looked up to by others. “I am a daughter of the King.” she concludes, citing a Bible verse 2 Corinthians 6:18. “So I was already a princess before I became a princess for the Royal Court which means all of you are princes and princesses as well! I hope all of you know how precious you are to the Creator of the Universe.”
Meet the Royal Court – Judi Reagan
Senior Queen Judi Reagan was first selected in 2012 and is currently in her second year in a row as a member of the Court. While this is her third year on the Royal Court, the 17-year-old senior at Lowell High School, has spent over a decade showing at the KCYF. She has shown rabbits and still exhibits in addition to performing arts and taking part in the talent show. “I applied to be a member of the Royal Court because the Kent County Youth Fair has made a tremendous impact on my life, and I hope to help impact others as the fair has done for me.” says Reagan of her interest in serving on the Court.
The senior member of the group enjoys handing out awards because it provides an opportunity to meet leaders of the various fair departments while learning about animals other than the rabbits she is familiar with from her own experience. She also loves the service opportunities members of the Court participate in as a means to give back to those involved with the fair and beyond. However, the ability to have a positive influence on others is one of the most rewarding things according to Reagan. She says, “I hope that my time as a member of the court inspires other exhibitors to continue their participation in the Kent County Youth Fair, and encourages them to give back to their communities through service. I also hope to be a friend and a mentor to any younger exhibitors at the fair when they need help or kindness.”
Finally, Reagan enjoys the community feel surrounding the KCYF and by extension the Royal Court. She loves “seeing kids help other kids” as friendships and mentorship begin thanks to the fair.
Serving on the Royal Court
Those who participate in the KCYF showing animals, participating in still exhibits, or other competitions typically spend weeks and months preparing for one week in August. Those on the Royal Court have an additional layer of commitment, serving as ambassadors of the fair for an entire year. Past and current members of the Royal Court learn lessons in friendship, leadership, mentorship and more as they navigate the various responsibilities bestowed upon them.
Due to all of the responsibilities of being on the Court, the process of being selected is not always an easy one. But it helps indicate that those who have a desire to be named understand the duties which come with the role. Being a queen/king or princess/prince does not mean just dressing up and appearing in a handful of parades. Members host events, promote the fair, and learn about being a role model.
Remember next time you see members of the KCFY Royal Court, or those from other cities and organizations, the kids involved have chosen to spend some of their weekends and evenings serving the community and helping others.
Photos courtesy of the families of the Royal Court members and used with permission.