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For Mekayla Diehl, the Elkhart County 4-H Fair has always been about family.
Being crowned 2007 Fair Queen just meant her family got a little bigger.
Diehl is not shy when talking about the dysfunction in her own family. Her parents separated when she was 9 years old, forcing her and her little brother to move in with their grandparents.
"My parents made some bad choices and eventually, my grandparents adopted us," she said.
Her grandparents' marriage ended up dissolving as well.
But Diehl, 19, is committed to keeping her family close.
Although she does not see her mother, Diehl said they talk about once a month. She talks to her father and sees him on a regular basis and still spends time with her grandfather as well.
Her strained relationship with her parents has led to a tight bond with her 13-year-old brother, Chip.
She remains extremely grateful, despite a less than ideal situation.
"We may be a little dysfunctional, but I think it turned out for the best," she said. "I would have never had the relationship I do with my father and grandmother if things had been different."
Family a-fair ties ...
Diehl has strengthened her family ties through the fair.
As a 10-year 4-H member, she enjoyed showing her horse and supporting her brother, Chip, as he showed their dog, Chloe.
Her grandmother, Katie, met her second husband, Ted Sautter, at the fair and they were married on the fairgrounds. The family plants and waters the flowers around the clock tower every year.
When she won the 2007 Fair Queen crown, Diehl said she had no idea how much her family would grow.
Royal relationship ...
Fair Queen Mekayla Diehl and Senior Fair Queen Rachel Maurer have become especially close. Diehl considers her another grandmother.
Winning the crown also gave her the opportunity to step outside the Saddle Club and build relationships with members of the other clubs in 4-H. She also had a chance to speak at events and get to know people from all over the county.
The friendships she's made have been one of the most rewarding aspects of the experience, Diehl said.
After the reign ...
Diehl's sad to see her reign as queen coming to an end and her 4-H days behind her. But the Albion College student knows family is forever.
"You are always going to have them, no matter how bad things get," she said.
And she counts on always having the fair as well. The Bristol resident has plans to serve on the fair board and maybe help with the queen contest one day.
"The fair is the one thing I look forward to every year. I have done it two weeks out of the year for 10 years, and I will always be involved," Diehl said.
"I just love it."