10-year 4-H veteran and Plainfield graduate Kyla Smith earns queen crown
By Stephanie Dolan
After a decade of showing animals in the Hendricks County 4-H Fair, Kyla Smith earned the coveted crown at the 2020 Hendricks County Queen Contest.
With Hendricks County 4-H Fair activities limited to participants and the carnival and public portions canceled, the queen contest still went on as planned with safety precautions in place July 11.
A graduate of Plainfield High School, Smith, 19, has been a 4-H participant for 10 years, the longest time frame allowed to participate. She was inspired to take part thanks to an older cousin who showed Smith the ropes.
“I got to help with her projects a year before I started,” Smith said. “I did swine for 10 years and cattle for two. Over the last two years cattle has been my favorite. I’ve been begging to show cattle since we started 4-H, but I played travel basketball and weekends were super busy. The last two years just fit better with my scheduling.”
She plans to continue her hoops journey at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, where she plans to go in the fall and study pre-law and social justice, incorporating history in her major since it’s her favorite subject.
At Plainfield High School Smith participated in several clubs and played volleyball, softball and basketball. She’s also been active in youth leadership groups through St. Susanna and Plainfield Christian Church.
“All the teachers I’ve had for that have been really awesome,” she said. “Because I’m an athlete, I’ve always enjoyed gym and weightlifting and physical activities.”
While Smith’s cousin gave her a taste of 4-H at a young age, her grandfather originally inspired her to start showing pigs.
“My grandfather was a 10 year member as well,” she said. “I was kind of just born into it. Out of all the grandkids, I’m the only one who has stuck with it for 10 years.”
As Smith prepped to enter the show ring for the final time, her grandmother Patty Hazelgrove couldn’t help but feel emotions stirring.
“It’s not the ribbons I will miss but instead the time spent together, project discussions over dinner, time management challenges and so many wonderful 4-H families,” Hazelgrove said. “4-H has been a good experience for Kyla, and we have no doubt that she will encourage others to participate.“
Sticking with 4-H has meant a lot of hard work for Smith both in and out of the ring.
“For cattle, because of how we want their hair to look, you normally have to wash or rinse them every day,” she said.
Smith always had animals to take care of either before or after doing her schoolwork.
“In the springtime, [for cattle] we have to put them in the barn before it gets too hot, and then we let them out when the sun is down,” she said. “For pigs, we have to feed them twice a day, and when it gets hot we have to spray them down.”
And becoming a fair queen wasn’t something Smith expected.
“When I was little, I always looked up to the queens handing out my ribbons and that kind of stuff,” she said. “As I grew older, I grew out of my princess stage. My grandma and my great-grandma really wanted me to be in the contest. As we started meeting, I got really excited about it. I felt like I had found a group of people at the fair I could start a conversation with.”
The best thing about the contest for Smith was the camaraderie with her fellow contestants.
“When we were all standing backstage, we all kept asking each other if we were looking okay and asking each other how we were supposed to walk and everything,” she said. “We were all competing against each other, but we were all still rooting for each other. We wanted to see everyone succeed in every way.”
The biggest surprise about the queen contest were some last minute changes made the day before the contest for safety, she said..
“They had changed what we were going to be allowed to do and not do,” she said. “Having that thrown at us so soon before the contest flustered a lot of us, but we recovered from it.”
Smith didn’t feel that she missed out on anything due to COVID-19 with regard to the queen contest, but she was sorry to miss this year’s 4-H Round-Up.
“Every year they have the ‘battle’ among the 4Hers,” she said. “It’s a time where all the 4Hers go down to the stadium and they do a slip and slide with shaving cream. They’re doing a substitute this year though where they have 4Hers do it at home.”
In a year where nothing happened as expected, Smith is still enjoying it.
“Although it’s my 10th year, I’m still learning,” she said. “I can’t complain because it’s my 10th year. Although I wanted to win, I’m happy that other 4Hers are winning. I had my fair share of winning last year.”
She was awarded Champion Angus and third overall steer in 2019 and said the best thing about 4-H is the way people help each other.
“Being in the swine barn you have pigs that don’t want to cooperate,” she said. “It’s fun to see parents or other 4Hers jump in and help get that pig to the ring or the pen — whatever you’re trying to do. It’s a real sense of community, and I think that’s what 4-H is really all about.”
Getting to know Kyla Smith
Do you have a favorite book? I really, really like “Little Fires Everywhere.”
What are your favorite TV shows? “Friends” and “Grey’s Anatomy”
What is your favorite movie? I’m not a big movie watcher because I get distracted very easily.
Do you have dogs or cats? I have a Shih Tzu miniature poodle mix, Charlie.
What is your favorite Hendricks County charity? I think it would have to be the food bank. At the auction they give us the opportunity to send our animals straight to the food bank, or we can take them through the auction and then we would receive the check.
Who or what inspires you? I’d probably say my dad and my grandpa because they are the most hardworking men I’ve ever met. They would do anything for me, along with my family. They’re awesome role models. I hope one day I have a husband who’s just like them.