Shenandoah fair queen moves focus to state pageant

Jensen Hoover

WOODSTOCK – In her final year of pageant eligibility, 23-year-old Woodstock resident Jensen Hoover managed to steal the show – and the crown – at the Miss Virginia Association of Fairs Scholarship Pageant last weekend.

Judges named Hoover Miss Queen at the Shenandoah County Fair pageant in August, after which pageant directors Tiffany Painter Newland and Bridgette Fisher began mentoring her in preparation for the next level.

For the Virginia Fairs Association pageant, Hoover needed to have a community service platform to present. Having graduated from Randolph College with a double major in psychology and sociology and working at Crossroads Counseling in Woodstock, she said her platform of “Thinking Out Loud – Mental Illness Awareness” came to her naturally.

“I kind of work in my platform…so I kind of use that as a method of education, too,” she said. “I know a lot about it; why not continue to educate others about it.”

It was a heartfelt cause that the association pageant judges at the competition could clearly see, and Hoover will be able to take that platform to the state level now that she’s been crowned.

“When you take out a platform, it has to be something you’re passionate about. The question is, when you’re speaking about something, can you speak with passion and conviction?” Newland said. “This group, in terms of public speaking, was one of the most competitive groups I’ve ever seen.”

In line with the cause, Hoover is co-emceeing at the Miss Abilities 2016 pageant in Winchester on Friday.

Another factor that Newland said they emphasized was Hoover’s involvement with the fair, having exhibited there for 15 years. While the association doesn’t require active fair participation of its pageant contestants, Newland said Hoover’s experience made her a well-rounded candidate. Hoover said she found it unusual that many of the other fair queens didn’t really participate in their fairs.

Despite labeling herself “pageant-ish,” she said not agonizing over rehearsal and fraying her own nerves as a result made the experience more genuine and set her apart from the rest.

“I think that might even be what helped me so much…that I wasn’t necessarily worried about winning,” she said.

Shenandoah County Fair Miss Queen Sarah Grace Fitzsimmons made it to the Virginia pageant in 2013, when she was named second runner up at the Virginia Association of Fairs pageant but the other two winners were unable to attend. Before that, Rebecca Gogue was named queen of the association’s pageant in 2010 and moved up to the state level.

According to its website, the 2015 Miss Virginia pageant awarded $20,000 in scholarship money to the Miss winner and more than $26,000 in other categories. Looking toward a master’s degree in developmental psychology, Hoover said she would find good use for any award she could win, but added she doesn’t really expect to come out on top at Miss Virginia.

“I want this opportunity – I think it’s a wonderful opportunity that really, nobody can say they’re going to have. I’m just really excited to be able to just go, I think that’s incredible,” she said. “As far as preparations, though, its going to be a little stressful again – probably worse.”

Until the Miss Virginia pageant begins in June, Hoover will be working with the Virginia Association of Fairs’ director as well as with Newland and Fisher to plan for new competitions, like the talent and lifestyle and fitness portions – as well as put together an entire wardrobe of outfits for the week-long event.

She’ll also have the chance to visit various Virginia fairs this year with her newly won title, speaking to other pageant participants and trying to further her cause.

Follow Jensen Hoover on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/jey3npg.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com