Long Hours Can’t Keep Smiles Off the Faces of Fair Court Princesses

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Umatilla County Fair Court Princesses Annikah Perez, left, Ashlynn Cutburth, center, and Selena Cuellar signed autographs Thursday at the Umatilla County Fair. A fourth princess, Ainsley McCann, was showing her market swine Thursday afternoon. (Photo by Michael Kane)

The life of a Umatilla County Fair Court princess is a hectic one with a 12-month commitment and wide-ranging duties throughout the year.

And then there’s fair week when they put in nearly 16-hour days. So why would Ashlynn Cutburth want to do it a second straight year?

“I felt like last year wasn’t quite enough,” she said. “I wasn’t really ready to say goodbye.”

Cutburth and two other fair court princesses took some time out of their day on Thursday at the Umatilla County Fair to sign autographs and talk about their role on the court. A fourth princess, Ainsley McCann, was busy showing her market swine.

All four are Hermiston High School students.

Cutburth said their day gets started at 8 a.m. and doesn’t end until 9:30 p.m.

“And that’s just their princess duties,” said Fair Court Chaperone Rebecca Manning.

“We’re up at 4 a.m. to take care of our animals,” said Cutburth. When asked how they make through the day, Princess Selena Cuellar said, “Adrenaline and excitement.”

“And a lot of organization,” added Manning.

All four are showing animals at this year’s fair, on top of their responsibilities as fair court princesses. Princess Annikah Perez is showing her market steer, Cuellar is showing her market steer and a dairy cow. Cutburth is showing her market hog.

Without a doubt, fair week is the busiest time of the year for the members of the fair court, but their responsibilities last throughout the year. They represent the county and fair at events around the region including a lot of parades in places like Elgin, Joseph, Dayton, Wash., and Waitsburg, Wash., among others.

“We take part in about 20 parades,” said Cutburth.

They also sign a lot of autographs – hundreds and hundreds of them. Other duties include handing out showmanship ribbons, introducing the concert headliners each night and much more.

The hardest part of the job?

“The long days, getting up so early and keeping a smile on our faces all day,” said Cutburth with a laugh. The highlight, she said, was fair week.

“Our fair is the favorite part of the year,” she said. “It’s our fair and I love interacting with the public – especially the young girls.”

Cuellar said she got her interest in the fair, in part, from her aunt, Sue Cuellar, who was queen of the Fair Court in 1979.

“She definitely encouraged me,” Cuellar said.

Perez said she’s been a fan of the fair since she was little.

“I’ve always been around the fair as a kid and I would see the princesses at the fair and I wanted to be a part of that,” she said.

The fair continues today and wraps up on Saturday. Gates open to the public at 10 a.m. For more information, see the fair website.

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