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Lodi’s fair queen named 2017 Fairest of the Fairs

January 14, 2017

WISCONSIN DELLS -- DeForest native Rebecca Starkenburg is the 2017 Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs, Wisconsin State Fair officials announced Friday.

Starkenburg, 21, representing the Lodi Agricultural Fair, was selected from a field of 39 contestants from throughout the state at the 94th annual Wisconsin Association of Fairs Convention in Wisconsin Dells, held on Wednesday.

She will immediately begin serving a one-year term, which involves making appearances at fairs throughout the state and promoting the importance of Wisconsin’s fair and agriculture industries.

“It’s an incredible honor,” said Starkenburg, a 2014 graduate of DeForest High School. “For me to be the Fairest of the Fairs, I’m so excited for the position and can’t wait to get this year started.”

Starkenburg is a junior at South Dakota State University, majoring in agriculture communications and minoring in animal science and meat science. She hopes to be in public relations in the meat industry.

Starkenburg has participated in the Lodi fair since she was 8 years old. She started out showing rabbits, then chickens, then sheep, also showing photography and school projects. While in college, Starkenburg traveled from South Dakota each summer to participate in the Lodi fair, she said. Her last year of eligibility was 2016.

“I look forward the most to being able to travel and see other fairs,” Starkenburg said. “I’m so excited to see how everyone else functions. You get to meet so many people and to hear them explain how they do things differently.”

“Whether for food or agriculture in general, it’s important to participate (in fairs) because you learn so much from exhibitors and judges. It’s about learning something new and passing it on to the next generation.”

“It’s my career. It’s what drives me, it’s what inspires me,” Starkenburg said of agriculture. “It’s absolutely amazing how broad it’s become and I can’t wait to be a part of it more and more.”

What surprise people the most about agriculture, Starkenburg said, is how advanced farmers and ranchers have become today. “Now we use robotics to milk cows, there’s biosecurity for hog farms -- it’s (impressive) how advanced we are to do our jobs, to provide the best quality food we possibly can for consumers.”

Starkenburg works for the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, volunteers at the Sioux Falls Sertoma Butterfly house and hosts a yearly free event on her family farm allowing the community to see and learn about their farm animals.

Starkenburg will serve as hostess of the 2017 Wisconsin State Fair, set for Aug. 3-13.

“Rebecca has proven she will be an excellent ambassador for Wisconsin’s fair industry,” Kathleen O’Leary, CEO of Wisconsin State Fair Park, stated in a news release. “I would like to congratulate all of the 2017 contestants, who showed great passion for fairs and the agriculture industry in Wisconsin, and wish them the best of luck in future endeavors.”

Charitee Seebecker, 21, representing the Juneau County Fair, was named third runner-up. She’s a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville pursuing a degree in agriculture business.

The Wisconsin Association of Fairs represents all 76 Wisconsin county, district and state fairs. This year marked the 51st crowning of the Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs.