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York Fair Queen takes lessons from the farm to the classroom

Abby Wurzbach poses as the 2019 York Fair Queen alongside the runner up queen.

There was an issue with the sound system. That was Abigail “Abby” Wurzbach’s first problem. It made it hard for the audience to hear her as she spoke into the microphone. Then there were the fans, loudly blowing to beat the heat in the cavernous space.

But Abby, a first-year student at York College of Pennsylvania, wasn’t fazed. She stood tall in her blush pink full-length gown and heels, passionately speaking to the crowd gathered around her. If it weren’t for the occasional “moo” from one of the many cows around her, you might have forgotten this wasn’t your typical pageant — this was the competition to become the York Fair Queen.

Life on the farm

Abby grew up on her family’s working farm in Brogue, York County. As long as she can remember, she’s been a part of raising, caring for, and eventually harvesting animals. “We grew up with it,” she says. “We grew up knowing this is how we make our food.” 

The York Fair, just like the Mason-Dixon Fair, was always a part of her life. She’d show cattle, walking her animals around the ring in a show shirt, jeans, and her Twisted X cowboy boots. 

Standing in that same arena in a gown, heels, and tiara after being crowned York Fair Queen this year was definitely a different experience. She wants to use the platform to advocate for her family’s way of life. “No farms, no food,” she says. “I want to use this as a way to advocate for farmers.”

Teaching others

Abby has always wanted to be a teacher. She and her sisters spent hours playing school as a kid, using two old desks and a white board as their classroom. She spent time at the fair teaching others about where their food comes from. “Education is a part of everything,” she says, whether it’s in a classroom or at the fair.

This fall, she took the first step to becoming a teacher, studying Secondary Education/Social Studies at York College. The professors in the Education department have already won her over. But it’s been an adjustment, leaving the farm. “You don’t think you’ll miss your cows until you’re away from them,” she says.

But, Abby says she’s learning to love it at York College. It helps that she’s still able to go to her grandma’s house for dinner on Monday nights and church on Sunday with her family. “I can be as close or as far from home as I want to be at York,” she says. 

Giving back

Abby’s favorite thing about York College, so far, has been giving back to the community. As a Graham Scholar, she and her classmates are working on a project looking at the neighborhoods in York City. The goal is to establish what those neighborhoods already have, and what they, as students, can do to improve and contribute to those neighborhoods.

Through that work, she’s gotten to learn from teachers who work in education in the city. “It’s just opened up a lot of opportunities for me to learn about York,” she says.

Farm to classroom

Abby is just beginning her education as a teacher. But, she’s taken lessons from the farm that have helped her to succeed so far. When she was just six years old, she would practice walking a calf to show at the fair. Her dad told her she couldn’t act nervous—the animal would sense those nerves and they’d be nervous, too. “I’ve just taken that into every position I’m in,” she says.

If she’s focused, confident, and ready, others around her will pick up on that energy and be the same. It’s a technique she uses in group projects and when she’s trying to teach others. “Even though they’re not cows,” she says with a laugh, “it’ll still work.”