MacKenzie Willmert is one of many young girls in Winnebago County eagerly anticipating the Little Miss 2021 competition at this year's county fair in Thompson.
She has been active in Winnebago County and ISU Extension activities, including Clover Kids and camps, at a very young age. The 6-year-old is eligible to participate in Little Miss for the first time this year and her mother, Cassie Willmert, said she can hardly wait.
“She thinks it is really, really super fun to dress up,” Cassie said. “She’s really into everything 'fair' this year.”
MacKenzie knows all about the fair because of her involvement in 4-H Clover Kids and because her mom is a Winnebago County Extension board member. MacKenzie enjoys arts and crafts projects and camps that are offered through the local Extension office.
MacKenzie was too young to attend camp last year during the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she participated in virtual crafts, books, and culture offerings through Clover Kids. She eagerly anticipated receipt of boxes with passport stickers and items correlating to places around the world that she discovered.
Cassie said her daughter has already taken an interest in science-, technology-, engineering-, and math-focused curriculum and skills in summer camps this year. That is where she and her friends learned all about fish during the past week.
“She loves camp and she loved those boxes,” Cassie said. “That was just for her.”
Cassie brings a family history of competing in the Little Miss contest and queen contest at the Winnebago County Fair. She competed in the Little Miss contest in the late 1990s and was crowned Winnebago County Fair Queen in 2008. Native to Thompson, Cassie and Logan Willmert (MacKenzie’s father) have lived in Buffalo Center for the past four years.
“I loved competing in Little Miss when I was her age,” Cassie said. “She saw her really good friend Bailey Newton of Buffalo Center compete in it two years ago. She has been asking, ‘when can I do it?’ ever since.”
MacKenzie successfully completed kindergarten in the North Iowa School District last year and will be starting first grade this fall. She has had just the right dress for Little Miss selected for a while. It is a teal, sort of cyan-blue and green colored, dress with sparkles. It is her favorite sparkly dress.
“It’s a baby blue color with green, blue, and pink sequins,” MacKenzie said. “I’ve worn it, but only a few times. It’s like a Christmas dress that I get to wear about once a year.”
Mom and dad originally purchased the dress for her to wear at the Little Bison Daycare Daddy-Daughter dance in February, which was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. She last wore it for her spring concert at school. Now, young MacKenzie will have the opportunity to wear it on a big stage.
She will join many friends at the Little Miss event, knowing at least 10 of the other competitors from Buffalo Center, including Bailey, now 8 years old, who is still eligible to participate.
“I’ve been interested in this for almost two years because my other friend (Bailey) was doing it,” MacKenzie said. “Now, I’m old enough to do it. I’m a little bit nervous, but really looking forward to it.”
MacKenzie said that in the future she hopes to compete for the Winnebago County Fair Queen crown like her mother did. In the meantime, her full focus is having fun with her girlfriends at Little Miss 2021.
Girls ages 6-8 from across Winnebago County will compete in the Little Miss 2021 competition between 4:45 and 6 p.m. on July 15 in the Winnebago County 4-H building. The Winnebago County Fair runs from July 15-18.
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.