BERRIEN SPRINGS — Berrien County Youth Fair week will be extra special for six area youth who were crowned 2019 fair royalty Friday night. They will spend the week representing the fair as they hand out ribbons and trophies to other exhibitors while still showing their own entries.
The 74th annual fair runs Monday through Saturday, with a full slate of competitions, exhibits, entertainment and activities on tap each day. This year’s fair theme is “Country Nights and Carnival Lights.”
Matthew Carpenter, 19, of Eau Claire is the 2019 fair king. He is the son of Mark and Nancy Carpenter and a 2018 graduate of Berrien Springs High School, and has been showing at the fair for 13 years. He is showing dogs and rabbits this year.
Matthew will be a junior at Southwestern Michigan College this fall and plans to graduate from Ferris State University with a degree in computer science.
Samantha Pankratz, 18, of Stevensville is the 2019 fair queen. She is the daughter of Paul and Karla Pankratz and a 2019 graduate of Lakeshore High School. She has been showing at the fair for several years, primarily in the flower, horticulture and craft barns.
She plans to attend Franklin College in Indiana this fall to major in biology and pre-medicine. She will also be playing basketball in college.
The king runner-up is Jackson Hall, 17, of Dowagiac. Jackson was also last year’s king runner-up and is the son of Chris and Missy Hall. He is a homeschooled senior and plans to attend college to study music and drama. He has shown for 12 years, primarily in the goat and rabbit barns.
Morgan Gruss, 18, of Benton Harbor is the queen runner-up. She is the daughter of Monica Gruss and is a senior at Coloma High School. She plans to attend college and later medical school. She has been showing at the fair for 10 years, mainly in the rabbit and home economics barns.
Wyatt Baker, 12, of Niles, is the 2019 fair prince. He is an eighth-grader at Buchanan High School and the son of Dave and Kristin Baker. He has shown at the fair for several years, bringing his feeder calf, pigs and rabbits and taking part in the tractor pull.
Megan Bryant, 11, of Niles is the 2019 fair princess. She is homeschooled and the daughter of Jeff and Jeannie Bryant. She’s been showing at the fair since she was 5, primarily in the home economics and craft barns.
Other prince and princess contestants were Brielle Berberick of Niles, Evelyn Furst of Buchanan, Kyra Krieger of Coloma, Brayden Lawson of Galien, Torey Robbins of St. Joseph, Abiageal Smith of Watervliet, Michael Steinke of Coloma, Jessica Thornton of Niles, Mattalyn Weinberg of Niles and Gracie Worley of Benton Harbor.
Other queen contestants were Allison Crites of Niles, Annette Donner of Three Oaks, Kathleen Krieger of Coloma, Sydney Melton of Baroda, Alexandria Smith of St. Joseph and Karen Smith of Stevensville.
Judges for the contest were Elizabeth Coulston of Niles, Elizabeth Stockwell of Dowagiac and Allen Weich of Bridgman. Tracy Wise was the mistress of ceremonies. Wise noted that next year will be the fair’s 75th year and the royalty committee wants to invite back past royalty for the 2020 fair.