Madeline Sheldahl said her grandfather, Arlin Sheldahl, a longtime 4-H leader who was big into livestock, wanted her to try to be the Story County Fair Queen.
Arlin’s death just a week before this year’s queen judging made the moment of her being crowned, Madeline said, "bittersweet."
"But I know he was proud of me," said the Huxley girl, 17, who is now the reigning Story County Fair Queen and will head to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines Aug. 5-9 to compete for the State Fair Queen title.
Madeline, who will be a senior at Ballard High School this fall, said even though her grandfather didn’t get to be there, it was an awesome moment when she was crowned during this year’s Story County Fair in Nevada. "I had a large cheering section that night. I had a lot of support from family, friends and members of my 4-H club."
Madeline, the daughter of Rick and Lisa Sheldahl of Huxley, said her parents were both at the crowning (her dad serving as her escort for the evening), along with her sister Mollie and brother Marshal. The fifth Sheldahl family member, sister Mallorie, couldn’t make it since she lives in California now.
As for being crowned, Madeline said the announcement that she was queen caught her by surprise. "All the girls (running for queen) were so incredibly sweet and genuine, and I can say, on behalf of myself and both of the past two years’ queens who were there, that none of us knew who would be crowned. We were all happy for each other. We weren’t the type who were in it to win it; we were all there for the experience and to have fun."
Throughout her 4-H career, which started with Clover Kids before becoming a member of the Palestine Peppy Pushers club, Madeline has focused her attention on the project areas of clothing and fashion, food and nutrition and home improvement. She has also served her club as vice president twice. In school, she has been active in student council, cheerleading, dance and National Honor Society, and she has been a member of her church youth group.
She’s most proud of being involved in the queen contest, because it was a chance to set a goal and accomplish it, even though she said winning wasn’t the most important part. "It’s knowing if you really stick with something and try your best, you will be happy with whatever happens." And to the younger 4-H’ers she advises, "Take every opportunity you can get. Put yourself out there and go out of your comfort zone, because you never know what might happen."
During the county fair, Madeline enjoyed handing out ribbons at multiple shows and particpating in the horse fun show, where she actually won one of the classes. She also enjoyed walking around with her sash and having young kids come up to her, wanting to meet her and take a picture with her. "I really was treated like royalty by everyone there; everyone was really nice."
You’d never know with her confident smile and ease of conversation that this girl could be nervous about anything, but Madeline admits being nervous about the upcoming State Fair competition. She also feels excited and honored. "I’m most excited for the opportunities to meet new people and have fun. Winning would be awesome, but there’s a lot more to be gained than just winning when you do something like this."
Madeline, who said she is thinking of pursuing a career in elementary education after she graduates from Ballard, thanked Twila Longnecker, who organizes the fair queen contest, for all she does to make it happen, and she thanked the former fair queens and queen court members who helped her. Also important to thank are the members of her 4-H club and her leaders, who have supported her. And last, but not least, Madeline extends a big thank-you to Blumsters on Main, the Huxley business that sponsored her.
As for her family, who was always there when she was getting ready for the competition, "I want to thank them for supporting me," Madeline said. "It was a very memorable experience."