Tate Fritchley never considered herself a pageant girl.
She could speak in front of a group, sure. Carrying on a conversation, the bubbly 18-year-old says, had never been
But the walking — it was always the walking that tripped her up.
“Growing up in 4-H, I always looked at the older girls and thought, ‘Man, I want to be like them!’” Fritchley says excitedly. “But I just never thought I could do it. I mean, being on stage, giving a 3-minute speech, the interview, the walking. I always thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t do all that!’
“And then during my first pageant, I messed up. I messed up so much,” she said offering an infectious giggle. “But I still got fourth-runner up. I was so excited I figured I’d give it another try.”
The next year, in the summer of 2015, Fritchley, a senior and three-sport athlete at North High School, once again traded in her cowboy boots for a pair of strappy sandals and shocked herself by being crowned Miss Vanderburgh County.
In January, she represented Vanderburgh County in the Miss Indiana State Fair pageant in Indianapolis, and the girl who couldn’t walk — the girl who never thought of herself as the queen type at all — walked away with the coveted crown once again.
“I mean, there were 87 other queens,” says Fritchley. “I didn’t think I had a chance, not at all. I thought, ‘What’s the point? These girls are so much older.’ But I knew I needed to be positive. I went into it thinking, ‘Whatever happens, God has a plan for me.’
“And when they called my name, that moment was crazy. Oh my goodness, was it crazy! I could hear my little sister screaming from the audience.”
Fritchley, the daughter of Paul and Jane Fritchley, joined 4-H 10 years ago, an active member in the Horse and Pony Club. She and her horse, Champ, have competed in a variety of events, including barrel and pole racing as well as western pleasure and trail class competitions.
She also is a member of the 4-H Color Guard and Drill Team, one of 12 horse-backed girls who post the American flag each night of the county fair before grandstand events.
She is the captain of North’s cheerleading squad, plays soccer and tennis, is a member of the National Honor Society, a senior member of an organization aimed solely at making freshmen students feel welcome, and also has a part-time job at Graceful Lady Glam, a formal dress store in Fort Branch, Indiana.
But this summer, she will embark on possibly her most thrilling adventure yet. She will begin her responsibilities as Miss Indiana State Fair in June, visiting as many as 50 county fairs before spending 17 days at the state fair in Indianapolis Aug. 5-21.
“I’ll be the face of the state fair,” she says, her voice filled with child-like excitement. “I’ll get to promote Indiana’s bicentennial year, meet cool people, talk to little kids, eat fair food, and just have a good time.”
After graduation, Fritchley says she wants to attend the University of Evansville to study physical therapy. Her dream is to work with athletes like herself, being a “positive influence” in their lives.
For more information about the Indiana State Fair Pageant, visit indianastatefair.com.