'Cornucopia' is first appearance for local student

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HEGINS - Described by many as "the girl next door", Rhonda Carl hopes to bring a strong message of support for agriculture to every Pennsylvania household.

Carl, named the 2013 Pa. State Fair Queen, prepared for her first public appearance this week after being crowned January 26 in Hershey. On Tuesday, Feb. 5, the Hegins teen was slated to appear at "Cornucopia" at the State Capitol building in Harrisburg.

The Cornucopia event is organized along with the Pa. State Council of Farm Organizations to bring state agriculture groups together with legislators, offering a reception and sampling of local food products.

"I really want to address the public, and go into the schools across the state and tell them about fairs in their area and encourage them to go visit them. It's an easy way to introduce them to agriculture," said Carl, 17, a daughter of Robert and Carla Mae Carl. She's also the granddaughter of Anna Neumeister, Ashland, and the late Roger Neumeister. Her family owns a 350-acre farm in Barry Township that's rented out for corn and soybean production.

Carl, the 2012 Schuylkill County Fair Queen, put together a photo display for Cornucopia, showing her personal history and eventual state title win. She also must complete a scrapbook of her activities in order to receive a scholarship at the end of her year-long state reign. (See related story, page 18.)

Home Sweet Home

She used a "Home Sweet Home" theme during her state title bid and introduction, where she was one of 55 total contestants.

"I wanted to have something to stand out and I wanted them to remember me," she said, noting she also created a cardboard house for display.

"Home Sweet Home is what I call the Schuylkill County Fair," she said. "The fair is like home to me. I've been involved with the fair ever since I can remember. I know all the people that work there and when I go there, I feel comfortable and look forward to it every single year," she said.

Those who know Carl report she's shown a positive attitude in all her pursuits.

Girl Next Door

"We, as members of the Schuylkill County Fair Association, are so pleased with Rhonda for representing the best of what Schuylkill County has to offer and that is our youth," said Kim A. Morgan, Vice-President/Secretary FARM/Schuylkill County Fair.

"Rhonda is a gracious, humble, down to earth girl next door. Her personality is one that every parent would hope that their daughter or son would develop. Her vivacious personality engages those around her as well as the general public as she interacts with others. Rhonda will be one of the best State Fair Queens because she is the type of youth that we want as our leaders of tomorrow," Morgan said.

"It's a perfect win for us to promote our 30th anniversary. As we celebrate, we ponder the theme of 'If you dream it, and you build it, they will come. Come Harvest Your Dreams!' We are very proud of her and can't wait to support her over the next 12 months in whatever assistance she may need," said Paul T. Kennedy, Schuylkill County Fair Board President.

Planting the seeds

Tri-Valley teacher Kate Kline had worked with Carl as a previous coordinator at the county fair.

"I just have to tell you, Rhonda is a very hard worker. I had the pleasure of working with her in 2009-2010 as the Fair Princess, along with getting to watch her crowning moment at our Fair this past year and gain the title of Schuylkill County Fair Queen. I have known Rhonda, personally, for a long time. She has such ambition and drive to get out and do things! With all 3 Schuylkill County Fair Royalty titles under her belt, and now this new title of PA Fair Queen, Rhonda will continue to develop her knowledge about Pennsylvania and it's agriculture rich history.

"She has always had an interest in agriculture and learning more about it by participating in our Royalty contest. She is truly able to understand the hard work that goes into planting the seeds to putting it on a consumer's table. There is no doubt that she will make Schuylkill County proud as an advocate for agriculture, as well as her county fair. In my eyes, she has put Schuylkill County on the map in regards to the State Fair Convention and Queen competition. I look forward to watching her grow even more throughout her experiences with our Fair, as well as the other county fairs she will visit this year," Kline said.

Teaching others

Carl has been a student of Bonnie Kupp's School of Dance & Baton, Tremont, since she was 3-years-old and today works part-time as a dance/baton instructor. As an individual twirling competitor, Rhonda has acquired numerous trophies and multiple titles.

"I watched her come to the studio as an adorable little girl and watched her become the beautiful young lady she is today," said Kupp.

"She has always loved dance and baton and (it) helped her aspire to be a featured twirler and cheerleader for the school band. Being in front of an audience has always been a favorite of Rhonda's. She always has a smile on her face when performing which has been required since she was 3-years-old. Now she has entered a new phase in life. She is teaching what she loves to other students. She teaches ages 3-14. She has a great rapport with the students and can handle dealing well with the parents. The students look up to her. She is a great role model."

"Wonderful choice, and I knew she could do it," said Kupp, in regard to when she first heard the news that Rhonda won the state title. "She will represent her state with beauty, grace and intelligence. She is a very smart girl and will carry these things (with her) in her college and future life," said Kupp.

Wrestling duties

Carl has also been the wrestling manager and statistician for the Tri-Valley wrestling team for the past five years. She recently was seen "multi-tasking" in the hallway outside of the auxiliary gym where the athletes were practicing at the high school.

"While they're practicing, I do my homework," she said. "Wrestling has helped me really communicate with people, because of the referees and the parents. I have to help take care of the boys, with water, cleaning the mats, and listening to them when they're not feeling well. I do whatever they need me to do," Carl said.

Follow through

A family friend, Carol Masser, can attest to Carl's helpful demeanor.

"We watched her grow from a baby to the lovely young woman she is. She calls our daughter, Beth, her big sister, and we call her our third daughter," said Masser.

"When she was old enough she went with me to my job at Broad Mt. Nursing and Rehab and volunteered in Activities. She helped me with my Storytime program at the Tri-Valley Library. She does follow through on things. She attended Storytime as a little girl, and did a Storytime program as a volunteer in later years.

"We are so happy for her in this newest win, and know she will go far."

Sticky notes

For Carl, keeping organized is a must. She said during the summer months, she'll have an appearance about once a week as state fair queen. Sarah Irvin is her Events, Media and State Chaperone for her year-long reign.

Presently, she juggles her new queen duties with managing her senior year of high school courses, including AP English, German 4, Physics, Calculus and Chemistry II.

"I put sticky notes on my mirror and rip them off when I'm done," she said.

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