Submitted by Nancy Engelke

For the first time in the history of Wirt County three residents from the county will be competing for the title of Miss West Virginia Association of Fairs and Festivals this week-end in Charleston. Over 45 people will attend from the Wirt County Fair, the Ripley 4th of July Fair and the Beef Industry Council to support the young women as they vie for the crown.

The first contestant is 18 year old Ashlee Small of Newark, W.Va. Ashlee is the daughter of Carol Burns and Michael Small and is representing Wirt County as the 2003 Wirt County Fair Queen. A freshman at Fairmont State College, Ashlee is studying marketing. In addition to attending school full time, Ashlee is employed at Sears and Pacific Sunwear in Bridgeport. She is an active member of the Newark Baptist Church.

The second contestant is 20 year old Melissa Offutt of Elizabeth, W.Va. Melissa is the daughter of Lention and Karen Offutt. Miss Offutt will be representing the West Virginia Beef Expo. Melissa is a Junior at Marshall University majoring in Public Relations. While at Marshall, Melissa is involved in Campus Crusade for Christ and Public Relation Student Society of America.

The third contestant from Wirt County is 21 year old Jennifer Baileys of Elizabeth, W.Va. Jennifer is the daughter of Charles and Susan Baileys. Jennifer will be representing the Ripley 4th of July Festival. A Junior at Marshall University, Jennifer is majoring in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Psychology. Jenny is on the sports staff of Marshall's Radio Station WMUL 88.1 FM and volunteers at the Ronald McDonald house in Huntington.

Each girl will compete in four phases of competition for the title. The first competition is their 30-second commercial for their particular fair or festival. The second phase is street wear and the third phase is the personal interview with the five judges and the final phase is evening gown which is held following the banquet at the Civic Center in Charleston.

They are expecting around one thousand people at the banquet and 66 queens from around the state competing for the West Virginia Fairs and Festivals Queen title. For further information on the pageant visit www.wvfairsandfestivals.com or call toll free 1-888-982-3247.