July 21, 2024

2024 Clarke County Fair Queen candidates

Three vie for 2024 Clarke County Fair Queen

Three young ladies are in the running for the 2024 Clarke County Fair Queen. The queen crowning event will take place at 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 14 at the Clarke County Fairgrounds Event Center. The 2024 queen will be crowned by the 2023 Clarke County Fair Queen, Kelsey Benda.

The bios of each candidate follows in alphabetical order.


Elli Blackford

Elli Blackford is the 18-year-old daughter of Ty and De Blackford of Weldon. She is a 2024 graduate of Clarke Community High School, and will be attending Iowa State University in the fall to pursue a double-major in Animal Science and Agricultural Business.

In high school, Elli was a member of the National Honor Society, Student Council, color guard, concert and pep bands, theater productions, Osceola Big Chief FFA, volleyball team for four years, softball for three years and track for two years.

In the community, Elli is a member of the Osceola Go-Getters 4-H Club, Iowa Junior Simmental Association, Iowa Junior Beef Breeders’ Association, Junior Iowa Meat Goat Association, American Junior Simmental Association and is active at LifePoint Church.

Awards earned by Elli include the Iowa FFA South Central District Reporter (2023-34), Iowa Junior Simmental Association President (2024-25) and Secretary (2023-24), Iowa FFA Star Over Iowa finalist (2024), Iowa FFA State Diversified Livestock Proficiency Champion (2023), Iowa FFA State Extemporaneous Speaking runner-up (2023), Sammi Long Memorial Showmanship Award recipient (2023), Iowa FFA South Central District CDE Day Novice Livestock Evaluation Champion (2019 and 2022), Clarke High School Class of 2024 Top 5 in Class and Class of 2024 graduation commencement speaker.

Hobbies for Elli are showing Simmental cattle and meat goats at local, state and national levels alongside her younger sister and closest friends. Elli can be found spending time with her friends and family when not in the show ring or the barn. She looks forward to being able to continue to give back to the community and junior associations that she has been a part of post-high school.

Elli is sponsored by the Osceola Go-Getters 4-H Club and will be escorted by Creed Ruby.


Hannah Russo

Hannah Russo is the 19-year-old daughter of Danise Garrett and Mike Russo of Osceola. She is a 2024 graduate of Clarke Community High School, and will be attending Southwestern Community College in the fall.

In high school, Hannah was a member of the bowling team her freshman and sophomore year, and played tennis all four years. She is active in helping with bible school and kids’ club at her church.

Hobbies for Hannah are walking her dogs.

Hannah is sponsored by Simco, and will be escorted by Easton Brokaw.


Kierstin Smith

Kierstin Smith is the daughter of Carrie Smith of Osceola. She is 17, and will be a senior this year at Clarke Community High School.

In school, Kierstin is a member of concert choir, the musical, IHSSA Individual Speech, IHSSA large group speech, National Speech And Debate Association, and National Art Honors Society. She is also a member of 4-H.

Awards that Kierstin has received include Project Scholarship Award (2023), State 4-H Youth Council (2024), To Make the Best Better Award (2021) and the Matear Award (2023).

Hobbies for Kierstin are creating art, photography, shopping, and working with little kids on how to show their animals.

After high school, Kierstin plans to attend college and study either marine biology or veterinary sciences, with a minor in visual arts.

Kierstin is sponsored by the Hiatt Family and will be escorted by Hunter Parmer.

Candra Brooks

A native of rural Union County, Candra holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Simpson College and an Associate's Degree in Accounting from SWCC. She has been at the Osceola newspaper since October 2013, working as office manager before transitioning to the newsroom in spring 2022.