Sarah Stump, the 2014 Elkhart County 4-H Fair Queen, is proud to be 'imperfectly perfect'

    Born without a full left arm, Sarah Stump embraced the notion that all people are “imperfectly perfect.”

    Posted on July 22, 2014 at 5:00 a.m. | Updated on July 24, 2014 at 3:16 p.m.

    GOSHEN — Sixteen-year-old Sarah Stump is sitting in the fair office, still in her purple evening-wear dress. Two young girls sheepishly approach, peeking out from behind their mother.

    “They wanted to come meet you,” says the mother.

    The girls and Stump exchange compliments, their young eyes fixed on her tiara. Sarah graciously thanks the girls as they turn to leave. She tells each of them how they are very beautiful.

    This is hardly the first encounter that Sarah has had since being crowned 4-H Fair Queen 2014 with young girls in awe of her princess-like garb. Sarah loves to tell these young women how we are all “imperfectly perfect,” a phrase she has held near and dear from a young age.

    During the queen competition, judges asked Sarah what her parents, Andrew and Brigette Stump, have taught her.

    “Everyone on this earth is made imperfectly perfect by God, so try your best and be yourself,” Sarah said with a smile.

    Sarah was born missing the lower part of her left arm, something that is an intrinsic part of her story, but is hardly all of it. Everyone who has worked with Sarah all say the same thing — that her personality is infectious.

    “She is beautiful on the outside but she is more beautiful on the inside,” said Cindy Metzger, one of three fair queen judges. “That is exactly what we are looking for.” 

    Senior Fair Queen

    Rosalie Bontrager won the Senior Fair Queen title in her second attempt. The first was in 2008.

    The Elkhart County competition holds a very special place in her heart. “You feel like a queen even before the judging begins,” said Bontrager explaining what a good experience those putting on the event make it, something that hasn’t changed over time.

    Bontrager, though only competing twice, has been a part of the contest for years. She recalls hand-making the evening attire dress for Deb Ash, an Elkhart Fair Queen in the ’90s. 

    The tradition of having a Senior Queen is an artery of the queen competitions. “When ladies reach a certain age, they feel like there is nothing for them anymore,” said Bontrager. “That just isn’t true.”

    The defining factor for Metzger was Sarah’s personality. Metzger wants someone who can talk to people of any age, as the queen is seen as a 4-H ambassador to the community. It’s “not only a 2- or 4-year-old looks up to them (queen contestants) but an older person does too.”

    “I wish I would have seen more girls like me that are different,” Sarah said of watching pageants on television when she was younger. “Then it shows that you don’t have to be what we call in society ‘perfect.’ That doesn’t exist. Each person is beautiful exactly as they are … I want to take the word ‘perfect’ out of this world. In today’s society people are understanding that everyone is different and everyone is beautiful.”

    Sarah was recently featured on a Skype commercial that has landed her spots on talk shows such as Katie Couric’s show. The commercial depicts the close friendship she shares with Sara Paige of New Zealand, who has the same condition as Sara. In the future she hopes to work in media and host her own show someday.

    Metzger feels Sarah showcases the power of 4-H leadership. Metzger doesn’t want someone who is fake or inauthentic. For Metzger, genuine is what gets high marks on the score sheet. “She can bring so much to the table because of what she has been through,” said Metzger. “Any number of those girls could have done that but because Sarah looks for the inner beauty in other people, she is going to do fabulous (as an ambassador).”

    For Metzger, a true fair queen is someone who can function as an ambassador to the community, representing the heart and soul of 4-H. 

    “It’s like what one 4-H’er told me, you can go into the ring and comepete against each other but still come out friends,” said Metzger. 

    Sarah, who has been a member of the Swine Club for eight years, has found the friendships and leadership to be a key part of her growing up. 

    “It’s an amazing experience all around,” said Stump. “You make great friend of all ages. It teaches you so much about leadership and responsibility.”

    On Wednesday, July 23, Sarah showed her two pigs, Jack and Frankie, in the Swine show. She received third place. 

    4-H is not the only activity that demands Sarah’s time, she is also very active in choir and sports at school. Sarah will be a junior at NorthWood High School in the fall. She is in a choir program called Dawning Generation and the general choir at NorthWood. She also runs track and cross country, making it to regionals last year. Stump is also a Scholar Athlete, due to her good grades and active participation.   

    Looking forward in her studies, Stump wants to attend Purdue for either electrical engineering or communications and media. But in the more immediate future, Stump is looking forward to getting her driver’s license in October. She also enjoys riding four-wheelers with her brother, archery and shopping in her free moments. 

    Sarah has a beaming personality that caught the judges eye but more than that, she exhibited what it means to be a 4-H member — leadership, responsibility and dedication to her community.

    “There was just something about her that radiated out,” said Senior Fair Queen Rosalie Bontrager, recalling the queen announcements. “I wasn’t surprised when she was chosen.”


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