Even though they have passed on their crowns to others, Benton County Fair Queen Payton Sash and Princess Bobbie Hilmer plan to continue doing through their college years and future careers what they have done for the past year: Advocating for agriculture and passing their love of life and farming to future generations.

Both of the 2017 Union graduates plan to continue working with local organizations and community service projects, as they have through their high school years.

Bobbie told the audience at last Thursday’s Queen crowning that one of the best parts of being the 2016 Benton County Fair Princess was getting to work with one of her best friends, Payton.

Payton, who represented Benton County at the 2016 Iowa State Fair Queen contest, said that she and Bobbie have been almost inseparable throughout high school, and especially the past four years.

But one thing will be significantly different for Payton and Bobbie: They will no longer be working side-by-side every day. In a few weeks they will find themselves 100 miles apart.

Payton plans to major in Agriculture & Society at Iowa State and become an advocate for the livestock industry, educating the community and nation about the importance of livestock and responding to critics of agriculture.

Bobbie plans to study elementary education at UNI.

I know I want a a future working with children, because that’s where my passion is,” she says. “I have a job in the department of education office and I’m really excited to begin my journey.”

Their friendship began in Kindergarten. It would have started a year earlier, but one of them was assigned to morning pre-school while the other attended the afternoon sessions.

At Union High School, where Bobbie was the 2017 Valedictorian, the pair were involved in many classes and projects together. Both were 4-year members of the Union FFA under long-time teacher Louis Beck, who earned a Regional Career and Technical Education Teacher of the Year award in 2015. Payton and Bobbie have also performed together during Union theatrical productions as well as the Union band’s flag corps.

During last Thursday’s occasionally tearful evening, when they passed on their titles to 2017 Fair Queen Katy Ward and Princess Macy Arbuckle, Payton and Bobbie took a few moments to talk about their past year, and their long friendship.

Bobbie can always make me laugh,” said Payton, as she and Bobbie stood outside the Fair office, wearing their sashes and crowns for the last time.

Payton is my rock,” says Bobbie. “She helps me be strong when I feel like I am about to melt down.”

The two worked together on their speech during the coronation, sharing with the 2017 Queen candidates the importance of representing the Fair, and listing the many activities they participated in together over the past year.

When you put on that crown, you become a role model,” Bobbie told the candidates as they stood on the flatbed trailer stage in front of the grandstands.

As Queen and Princess, they passed out trophies at a variety of shows during last year’s Fair.

Throughout the past year year, they appeared at community events, including Party in the Park, and rode in the parades throughout the area.

Last week, they arrived at the Fairgrounds early Wednesday morning to help the 4-H project judges and to speak to the young Clover Kids who brought their projects and visited with judges. Then, on Thursday, they prepared their speech for the moment they would hand their titles to someone else.

After their coronation last year, Payton and Bobbie each recalled their very first meeting with a Fair Queen as young girls, and how that encounter inspired them.

Payton was in 4th grade when she met a State Fair Queen; Bobbie was six or seven when a County Fair Queen rode a lap in her father’s race car. As royalty Bobbie remembers that little girls look up to her as she did the Queen she met a decade ago.

Both said last week that it will be strange not being in the spotlight, or having local photographers take their photo at events.

It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said Payton on Sunday, as she watched the livestock auction. “I cried a little on Thursday.”