GREENFIELD — Claire Bishop is having quite a good year.
The 17-year-old high school senior was crowned queen at last weekend’s Indiana State Festivals Association pageant after winning the crown at both the Riley Festival and Hancock County 4-H Fair pageants earlier this year.
The accomplished teen won her latest crown, along with a $1,000 scholarship, in front of a hometown crowd at the Greenfield-Central High School auditorium. She will graduate from the school in May.
Claire bested 16 other contestants at Saturday’s pageant, which features young women ages 16 to 21 who have won pageants at fairs, festivals and other community events throughout the state over the past year.
She is the only contestant to have won both the Riley Festival and Hancock County 4-H Fair pageants in the same year, and is only the second Riley Festival queen to win the statewide ISFA pageant. Mary Erickson won the dual honor in 1996.
Doug Weisheit, coordinator for ISFA, said Claire is among the youngest contestants to take the crown in the statewide pageant’s 31-year history.
“It’s a rare day that a young lady who is still in high school is crowned,” he said.
Weisheit said it’s common for the contestant who wins the interview portion of the ISFA pageant to go home with the crown, which is exactly what Claire did.
Although he wasn’t part of the judges’ panel last weekend, Weisheit recalls being impressed by the young woman’s poise and presence at last month’s Riley Festival, where she presided over the festival in her crown and sash.
“I was very impressed back when I met her in October at how easy it was to talk to her and how knowledgeable she was about James Whitcomb Riley and the Riley Festival,” said Weisheit. “She’s obviously a very intelligent and very well spoken young lady, no question.”
In the coming year, Claire will travel to at least 15 festivals, fairs and events throughout the state as the association’s newly crowned queen for 2023.
“I’m really excited to just explore the state of Indiana because I’ve been all over the state but not for long enough to really observe the culture in the different cities,” she said. “Now I’ll be able to go to a lot of different places and learn about their towns and history, which is really cool.”
Claire said it will be an honor to represent her hometown throughout the state, as she’s done locally as queen of the Riley Festival and the Hancock County 4-H Fair.
Saturday’s third consecutive win marked just the fourth pageant for Claire, who first competed in the Hancock County 4-H Fair pageant in 2021. That year she was crowned a 4-H fair princess, serving on the queen’s court, but was too young to be crowned queen.
She said it was an honor to be crowned the winner of the ISFA’s pageant on Saturday among a field of so many kind and talented young women, representing fairs, festivals and other events throughout the state.
“My favorite part was definitely the community that was created in just a couple days,” said Claire, the daughter of Jim and Nicole Bishop of Pendleton.
Even though she had never met any of her fellow contestants, “all of the girls felt like friends. There was no tension, no strife. We were all just having fun with each other,” she said.
The group spent Friday evening at Greenfield-Central High School practicing for the pageant before shifting to party mode, playing games and sharing dinner together.
“It was so cool to create those friendships and those relationships,” said Claire, who exchanged social media and phone contacts with her new friends.
The contestants took to the stage at 7 p.m. Saturday, starting out in casual wear and later changing into formal wear.
For the festival wear category, Claire wore a Riley Festival T-shirt and carried a Riley Festival bag and bouquet of flowers, in tribute to the festival’s annual Parade of Flowers. She also carried a book of Riley’s poems.
“She did a wonderful job of representing the Riley Festival,” said Nancy Alldredge, a longtime board member for both the Riley Festival and the ISFA.
Despite her success, Claire doesn’t foresee entering other pageants in the future.
Next year is shaping up to be busy, as she’ll transition from high school to college and travel the state as ISFA queen.
Claire hopes to attend Purdue University in the fall, where she’d like to double major in brain and behavioral science and interpersonal communications. Although career plans may change, she’d like to become “something along the lines of an organizational psychologist or child development specialist.”
Despite a flurry of activities, Claire still prioritizes time working with animals on her family’s Pendleton farm, where she cares for a number of animals as she’s done throughout her 10 years as a Hancock County 4-H member.
Now matter where the future takes her, Bishop will be back on stage at the Greenfield-Central High School auditorium next November, when she hands over her crown to the next ISFA pageant queen.
Until then, she looks forward to making many happy memories as she travels the state in the coming year.
Alldredge, who has worked closely with the Riley Festival for decades, can’t imagine a better person for the job.
“Claire did an amazing job at (Saturday’s) pageant and has many great qualities,” she said. “She will be a great person to represent not only Greenfield but the Indiana State Festivals Association as she travels the state.”