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Gurley and Kozak enjoy their final days as Holmes County Fair royalty

Jillian Gurley was crowned during last year's Holmes County Fair. She was a tremendous spokesperson for Holmes County and was excited to be able to do so as the first-ever queen to reign over the fair at Harvest Ridge.

Dave Mast

Never let it be said that Jillian Gurley doesn’t enjoy serving her community and representing all that is wonderful about Holmes County.
 
Gurley is a rarity in that she has served Holmes County three times as a queen, having won the crown first at Killbuck Early American Days, next at the Holmes County Antique Festival and finally last year as the queen of the 2016 Holmes County Fair. That has kept the outgoing Gurley quite busy throughout her teen years.
 
Gurley served her final days of royalty as the Holmes County Fair queen this past week from Aug. 7-12, and it was a bittersweet time for her, considering how much she has cherished the chance to represent her community and the fair.
 
“I have been in the queening world forever, and this is my last hurrah,” Gurley said. “It has been a lot of ups and a few downs, but it was such a wonderful experience. The biggest downside is that I made my mom cry because she is sad to see it end, as am I. It has been an incredible experience to represent Holmes County and the fair, and I have grown so much through the experience.”
 
Gurley said one of the biggest honors she can think of is being named as the very first Holmes County queen at Harvest Ridge. With the new fairgrounds coming into play last year, Gurley received her tiara and sash and realized what a huge role she had to play in promoting the new fairgrounds.
 
“At first I didn’t realize the importance of that role until I was at last year’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, where I got to join [Holmes County Fair Board President] Kerry Taylor in the grand-opening event,” Gurley said. “I don’t think it was until that moment that it really all sunk in that I was the first queen to reign over the Harvest Ridge grounds. That is something I will always cherish.”
 
A sophomore at Walsh University, Gurley continues to garner roles that will help her develop her leadership skills. She recently found out she was elected as the Walsh University student government senate clerk.
 
“It’s a huge, descriptive title that basically means secretary,” Gurley said with a laugh. “But it is a big role for me to perform, and I am honored to be elected to perform that role.”
 
With her pageant days now behind her and her school life in focus, Gurley said all of the experiences of serving her county in the capacity she did has helped shape her life as she pursues a degree in nursing.
 
“I am excited about what lies ahead for me, and I am thrilled for new Queen Tallie Troyer and what she will experience,” Gurley said. “I know she is a going to do a fantastic job because we traveled a lot together this past year and she was awesome.”
 
Outgoing King Brandon Kozak agreed with Gurley in that representing Holmes County's new fairgrounds was a huge honor. He said as the year went on, the significance of that role became clearer.
 
Kozak’s year was filled to the brim with activities and school. He dedicated a ton of time to being an integral part of the Denison University men’s soccer team. With a hectic schedule that included an internship in Chicago, Illinois, Kozak said it left less time than he would have liked to represent the fair throughout Ohio.
 
He did, however, give high praise to Gurley and their court, whom he said were unbelievable in their effort.
 
“I look back at this group and I realize what a great group of people they were and how supportive they were and the job they did,” Kozak said. “I feel collectively we were very passionate about the experience and getting to share this wonderful new fairground. I thought Jillian in particular did an unbelievable job of sharing the idea that the Holmes County Fair is really changing for the better, creating a new culture and updating our grounds. I felt bad that I couldn’t join her more often than I did, but I thought she was such a great representative for our county and our fair. She carried the torch well.”
 
When Kozak could attend events in Ohio, he said he enjoyed the chance to share about Holmes County with as many people as he could. He went on to note that in addition to the royalty of 2016, the Holmes County junior and senior fair boards were incredible in their effort to make sure the county had a wonderful, new fairground to showcase.
 
“A lot of work went in to making Harvest Ridge what it is, and you can’t imagine the effort that the boards put into this whole process,” Kozak said. “We owe them a lot of gratitude.”
 
Kozak went on to say that 4-H and FFA have always been a big part of his life and that it was something his entire family could enjoy. Kozak has always shown dairy cows, and one of the things of which he is most proud is that he and his sister Courtney have always shown Holmes County-bred animals that came from their family farm.
 
“Raising an animal for 4-H is a demanding thing, and if you can do that the way you are supposed to, it means you can do just about anything you put your mind to,” Kozak said. “We always showed animals from our farm, and part of the joy was raising the animals the right way, in a way that represents you rather than having to win a grand-champion ribbon. I’ve never bought a cow for show. We will find one from our own herd and break them to lead, feed them, brush and clip them, and take them to fair. Bringing in a cow that was raised in Holmes County was important to us.”
 
Kozak spent some of the past year traveling to Nicaragua in mission work as part of his effort to graduate with a degree in health exercise and sports science.
 

Published: August 11, 2017
New Article ID: 2017170819992