Thirteen-year-old Rachel Cox holds her cat, Millie, up during a cat costume contest Friday, July 25, at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair. Rachel and Millie emerged as the grand champions for their spaghetti and meatball costume.(J.C. Lee / The Elkhart Truth) Ten-year-old Nichole Klase hugs her cat, Squeekers, before a cat costume competition Friday, July 25, at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair. Nicole and Squeekers were the reserve grand champions for their french fries and ketchup costumes.(J.C. Lee / The Elkhart Truth) Millie explores her surroundings before the cat costume contest Friday, July 25, at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair. Millie is dressed up as a ketchup bottle.(J.C. Lee / The Elkhart Truth)
Cats claw way to the top in Elkhart County 4-H Fair costume contest
Nine cats clawed their way to the top to become the Elkhart County 4-H Fair’s best food-themed costumed feline on Friday, July 25.
This is the first year that 10-year-old Nicole Klase has ever competed in the contest. From afar, she looks like a container of french fries with two legs. Her costume is made up yellow pool noodles and a red box that swallows her small frame.
But like the cooking oil that cooks the potato, she hopes her cat can sizzle and burn an impression in the judges’ minds.
Squeekers, her cat, is dressed up as a bottle of ketchup. She wears a small red coat with the words ‘Catsup’ on the back in white letters and dons a ketchup bottle cap between its ears.
Nicole said she made the costume with a family friend because she “likes dunking french fries in ketchup.” She thinks her costume will win over the judges, because who doesn’t like french fries?
“Everyone likes french fries,” she said confidently.
Nicole’s cat paces restlessly around the edges of the building as other owners and cats put on their costumes.
A young girl is dressed as spaghetti, wearing a bowl on her head and a self-made wig of yellow yarn that reaches to the floor. She carries her cat in a red rolled-up cat carrier, which looks like a giant meatball.
But unlike her angel hair, the competition is stiff.
Carl Walker is dressed in a white chef’s uniform. His cat, Smoke, is dressed as a lobster and rides in a black pot that he carries with him. Walker and Smoke won the parent class category, edging out his wife, Stacy Walker, who is dressed as a large bag of Meow Mix cat food.
Some contestants even made up stories to go with their costumes. Sixteen-year-old Lacey Pamer is dressed as an apple with a leaf sticking out from her hair. She serves her cat, Millie, who is the leader of the Capples (a combination of cat and apples). Millie rides around in a woven basket surrounded by shiny, red plastic apples and strawberries. Pamer was the champion of the 16 - 19 year old category.
Not all of the cats are as relaxed as Millie though. Jared Schuetz tries to get his cat to follow him around the stage by tugging on its leash, but all it wants to do is sit and rest. He tries to lure it by tossing kernels of popcorn on the ground, but Jared’s cat anchors itself to the floor.
Nicole holds Squeekers in her hands. Her arms reach out around the yellow pool noodles of her costume, hugging her cat tightly. Nicole is competing against Bethany Kulczar and her cat, Bella, in the 9 - 10 year old category. Kulczar’s cat is dressed as a fish.
Nicole and Bethany walk around the stage, showing their cats and costumes off to fairgoers seated on fold-up chairs around them. They ’paws’ in the middle of the room for the judges. Squeekers has mellowed out after his earlier excitement and sits calmly in the cradle of Nicole’s arms.
Nicole later admits that Squeekers is usually upset when she has to wear a costume, pawing at the bottle cap on its head to get it off. If she had to guess what Squeekers is thinking, it’s probably asking ‘why am I wearing this?’
But on stage, Squeekers is steady as a rock.
The judges talk among themselves, leafing through each contestant’s blue application letters. After several minutes, one of the judges announces that Nicole and Squeekers are the champions.
Nicole would later go on to become the reserve champion of the whole evening, second to Rachel Cox and Millie the cat. Cox and Millie were the competitors dressed as spaghetti and meatballs.
Yet Nicole still grins ear to ear at the end of the contest, a large purple ribbon pinned to her shirt. When asked how she is going to reward Squeekers, Nicole said she’s “probably going to give him some cat treats.”
And then the box of french fries and ketchup made their way home.