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Jasper County Fair Queen Pageant coordinator says ‘fairwell’ to contest

After five years at the helm, Tobi Nearmyer, left, stepping is down as the coordinator 
for the Jasper County Fair Queen pageant. Her replacement will be Amanda Knight, 
who was the first fair queen crowned under Tobi’s leadership.
After five years at the helm, Tobi Nearmyer, left, stepping is down as the coordinator for the Jasper County Fair Queen pageant. Her replacement will be Amanda Knight, who was the first fair queen crowned under Tobi’s leadership.

Meeting with the Jasper County Fair Board, helping contestants into their formal wear, finding convertibles for parades and the list goes on. These and many other duties will soon be a thing of the past for Tobi Nearmyer.

Tobi, 26, has dedicated nearly a decade of her life to the Jasper County Fair Queen pageant. In 2006, as a student at Newton Senior High School, she won the crown — which was her redemption of sorts after falling short the year prior.

After her reign ended, Tobi served on the pageant committee and in 2010, she took over as the coordinator.

“Before I took over, my cousins were the coordinators and they had been running it for awhile,” Tobi said.

Tobi was still a student at Iowa State University when she first started to organize the pageant, which isn’t an easy task when you are attending class, studying and attempting to enjoy the college experience. Most people don’t realize this is a nearly year round job.

“Early in the beginning of the year, like January-ish, I meet with the fair board ... I don’t know if that’s required or not, but I like to, to kind of get the idea of what they are looking for in that particular year,” Tobi said.

“About March-ish, I get the applications ready for the year, which I typically do the same thing but change all the dates and stuff. Then, (I create) the list of events for the girls. So, I have to figure all the parades they have to be at, the times they would have to be at the county fair, and if they’re crowned queen, the time they would have to be at the state fair.”

Her duties vary month by month until the new queen is selected in July during the county fair. Once a new queen is in place, she helps them prepare for the state fair in August. After that, she finally has a bit of a break although she makes herself available for the queen, princess and fair board year round.

Once she graduated from ISU, Tobi accepted her first teaching position at the Newton Community School District. After her initial year, she went on to teach in Marshalltown for the next few years of her career, all the while still running the pageant.

With a new school year right around the corner, Tobi has taken a new position in West Des Moines’ school district and that is the reason she has decided to step away.

“Because it’s so far away, I’m not going to stay around,” Tobi said. “Since I’m moving away and kind of starting that new life, I wanted to pass it on to someone who could be here more often and give it the attention that it needs. I’ll still stay on and help, but I’m done leading I guess.”

Amanda Knight, the 2010 Jasper County Fair Queen, will take over for Tobi starting with next year’s pageant. While planning and implementing this year’s ceremony, Amanda served as Tobi’s right hand and was soaking up everything she could.

Tobi believes Amanda is the perfect person to replace her. The two actually had a relationship prior to this year — Amanda was the first queen crowned under Tobi’s leadership.

“She was the first queen that I was there to help,” Tobi said. “I think she is going to do really well. She has been asking the whole time, ‘What can she do to help?’ and ‘What she can take over this year?’

“It’s been great. She’s been camping at the fair this year, so anything I need — if I’m not over there at that minute — she’s been doing (it) for me. She got a lot of things organized for the night of the coronation, did the decorations and has just been checking in on the girls.”

Working and living in new city, and decreasing the amount of time she spends at the fair, will be a new experience for Tobi, but it seems to be one she’s ready to face. She’s also grateful for the unique opportunity being the coordinator afforded her.

“It’s kind of bittersweet, because it’s a lot of work. I think sometimes I get frustrated when I’m planning everything out and I think, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to be done with this.’ But now that my job is basically over, I’m kind of stepping back and missing it a little bit,” Tobi said.

“It was kind of nice. I learned a lot from the experience. I was doing things that I would never have the opportunity to learn elsewhere.”

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