NEW WESTON–GraceLynn Harter was not only named first runner-up on the 2023 Great Darke County Fair Royalty, but she is going to be spreading her leadership skills a little higher, as she has been elected to serve on the 2023-24 Ohio State Fair Junior Fair Board Officer Team.
It was her first time with the state fair board this year.
“I had such a wonderful time serving on the Ohio State Fair Junior Fair Board (OSFJFB),” she said on social media recently. “This experience meant so much to me, and I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported me on this journey. These 19 individuals have helped me grow so much in such a little time together, and I am happy to call these hardworking and determined individuals my friends. I am already looking forward to next year, and I can’t wait to serve as president on the OSFJFB; thank you for such a great opportunity.”
This young woman, who will celebrate her 19th birthday at the Darke County Fair on Aug. 22, is the daughter of Krista (Hasselback) and Jeremy Francis of Rose Hill. She is a graduate of Ohio Virtual Academy, from which she was home-schooled.
“I went to school at Mississinawa Valley until sixth grade and then was home-schooled,” she said. “I wanted a change of scenery.”
Also following in her footsteps is her brother Daxton, who is 18 months younger than her.
The two of them are close, and even share the titles of first runners-up in their respective roles on the Darke County Junior Fair Royalty this year.
She is excited that they get to do this together.
“He was on last year’s court, but I wasn’t able to compete because I was up for equine queen and got it,” she said.
Both of them represented the Darke County Junior Fair Board in this year’s pageant. And, she is the vice president of that group.
“We’re super close,” she said.
Both of them are youth representatives to the 4-H committee, are on the camp council, on the all-extension advisory committee, and Hands Across The Darke, a youth service group.
She and Daxton were planning to go to Holmes and Licking counties the day after this interview to meet people across Ohio and farther.
GraceLynn has worked at a poultry operation in Salamonia, Ind., for four or five years, packing eggs. She also likes to be involved in 4-H and the community. Her projects include showing horses for Ron and Deb Crist and sharing her leadership projects. The Blue Angels 4-H Club is her primary club, and she is also in Horse and Rider 4-H Club.
She said she got a late start in 4-H nine years ago.
She started off as a member of the junior fair board and worked as a camp counselor for two years.
“I was always more of a leader,” she said. “But, I prefer to be in the background.”
Yes, this is her last year in 4-H, but she hopes to stay in the program. She wants to do counseling.
GraceLynn is going to be attending Wright State University campus in the fall.
“It will be a challenge adjusting to the classrooms,” said the student, who is planning on majoring in psychology and then transferring to Ohio State University for her post-doctorate. “God is throwing me curve balls all of the time.”
Both she and Daxton each took two projects to the recent state fair and won ribbons for their efforts.
“At the state fair, we had to go there early morning,” she recalled. “We had to register and sign up, then we went into judging.”
She was selected in the spring to represent the State Fair Junior Fair Board.
“We met two days before the fair for training that took place,” she indicated. “The first day of the fair was kicked off by the Governor’s Cabinet meeting, which included the general managers, and, after that, was the opening of the fair.”
On that junior fair board in Columbus, she said, are 20 youths representing groups including 4-H, FFA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Tech Ed, and Farm Bureau.
On the very last day of the fair, she said a meeting was held to discuss new officers.
“I was nominated by different people and had to give an elevator speech,” she said. “I thought of something really quick.”
It worked. She was named president of the officer team.
She spends a lot of time in Columbus and doesn’t mind traveling there. Daxton is usually the passenger, but he does some of the driving as well.
“I am there (Columbus) all of the time,” she said. “I was at the fair three times this year.”
She was on the Ohio 4-H Teen Leadership Council and had to make an appearance at the Skill-A-Thon, Farm Science Review, and Spark Expo for eighth-graders.
Her visits will continue until her term as president expires next year.
“I will be doing multiple speaking events, including the OFMA (Ohio Fair Managers Association). That’s a lot of fun,” GraceLynn remarked. “I have three other great officers.”
Serving with her on the OSFJFB will be Vice President Jayden Porter, Secretary Madelyn Fannin, and Public Relations Wyatt Morrow.
What is her favorite part of both the local and state fairs?
“Serving on the fair board at a personal level and interacting with people and working on certain jobs,” she responded.
She also is enjoying serving on the Darke County Fair Royalty team this year and is proud to work with others.
“Darke County youth has talent,” she said.
Who has been her mentor?
Rhonda Williams, she replied without hesitation.
“Rhonda has provided me with so many opportunities that are available. I wouldn’t be who I am without Rhonda.”
The feelings must be mutual. Not only did Williams present her but also her brother, Daxton, with the Outstanding 4-H Girl and Boy of the Year prior to at the end of the fair last year.