EAST COUNTY — Fifteen-year-old Beth Ciemniecki would much rather walk barefoot than don high heels, or even tennis shoes.
She grins mischievously as she and her sister, Katie, 17, dart barefoot out the front door and onto the front sidewalk toward the backyard. Their cousin Sammy Hyatt, 16, wearing white lace-up canvas shoes, keeps up.
The girls don’t get together as often as they did when they were younger — or as much as they’d like. But this time of year creates a special opportunity for the girls, who grew up down the street from one another off Upper Manatee River Road.
As they have since elementary school, the girls helped one another with makeup and their outfits Jan. 11 as they competed in the Miss Manatee County Fair Pageant, at Braden River High School.
And this year’s results made the annual pageant extra special: Each girl captured a top spot in her respective competition.
Judges named Beth Ciemniecki as Miss Manatee County Fair Junior Queen.
Katie Ciemniecki placed as first runner-up in the Miss Manatee County Fair Queen division, while Hyatt placed as second runner-up for Miss Florida Outstanding Teen.
“Sammy and I are both so proud of Beth,” Katie Ciemniecki says. “She deserved this so much.”
Hyatt adds: “I was standing on the side of the stage (when they announced Beth had won). Everybody backstage said I was more excited than she was (because I was cheering so loudly).”
Beth Ciemniecki’s fair duties require her to be at the fair several nights per week to greet fairgoers and for special events, including a cheerleading competition and the Little Miss and Mini Miss Manatee Fair pageants, among others.
For now, she’s borrowing clothes for those events from Hyatt, who also stands at 5 feet, 8 inches, and whose wardrobe better suits the role.
“The other queens have nice stuff, and I have jeans,” Beth Ciemniecki says, noting her role representing the fair will continue until the 2015 fair season. “I have to go shopping.”
Katie Ciemniecki and Hyatt quickly pipe in.
“We’ll go shopping; we’ll help you,” Katie Ciemniecki says.
“Good,” Beth Ciemniecki chuckles.
But, on most days, Beth Ciemniecki dons her barn-friendly clothes, as she heads to the fair’s livestock arena to help her mom, Karen, the FFA adviser at Haile Middle School, with whatever tasks need to be completed that day.
“It’s been long days, but it’s been really fun,” Beth Ciemniecki says of her new role. “I’m already at the fair every day (to take care of) my pig.”
Katie Ciemniecki and Hyatt plan to be at the fair as much as possible, even though busy schedules keep them from attending as frequently as usual this year.
The three girls, who used to dress alike for special occasions when they were pre-kindergarten age and attended both Freedom Elementary and Haile Middle School together, began participating in fair pageants together in elementary school, after the Ciemniecki sisters’ horseback riding instructor recommended it.
“Our instructor told us to get out of our boots and into heels,” Katie Ciemniecki said, noting pageants teach poise, posture and etiquette. “I thought it was really strange to go from getting dirty in the barn to wearing eyeliner. It was a big change.”
Hyatt, who loves finding excuses to dress up, eagerly joined in the fun.
The girls say participating in pageants has taught them about public speaking and has given them confidence in other areas of life, as well.
They get along well, rarely fight and make sure to encourage one another — whatever the circumstance.
Katie Ciemniecki, who is practicing for Lakewood Ranch High’s upcoming performance of “The Wedding Singer,” adds: “Sammy and Beth come to all my shows. We support each other.”
Miss Manatee County Fair Junior Queen:
Miss Manatee County Fair Queen:
Miss Manatee Outstanding Teen:
Miss Manatee River:
Miss Manatee County Fair:
Mini Miss Manatee County Fair:
Little Miss Manatee Fair:
Beth Ciemniecki: “Riding the rides and eating the foods.”
Katie Ciemniecki: “The Amish pretzels. I love walking through the arts and crafts (exhibit) for ideas, too.”
Sammy Hyatt: “I really like the rides. And, I always try something new at the fair.”
Katie Ciemniecki — theater; president of the 4-H club’s Hoofprints in the Sand Horse Club; adoption counselor at Nate’s Honor Animal rescue; Marching Mustang band manager; and volunteer with special-needs children
Beth Ciemniecki: Lakewood Ranch High Marching Band member; 4-H Club member; 4-H Youth Council delegate for Manatee County; and FFA member
Sammy Hyatt: Color Guard member; Latin Club treasurer; and Junior Advisory Board member
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].