By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Ambassadors welcome community to fair

If attendance is up this year at the Yamhill County Fair & Rodeo, credit Kayla Davis of Yamhill, Joanna Kubes of Dayton and Tia Piscitelli of Newberg. They’ve been working hard all summer to spread the word about the county’s biggest event, which runs Wednesday through Saturday, July 30 to Aug. 2.

Everyone should come to the county fair, said the teens, all of whom have years of experience showing at and attending the event.

“I really look forward to the fair every year,” said Joanna, a senior at Dayton High School. “Nice weather, people watching, watching dressage and other horse exhibits.

“And I love the concerts — Ely Young this year! And the animal exhibits, the lambs and pygmy goats, rabbits and turkeys. And the carnival.”

Kayla, a June graduate of Yamhill-Carlton High, also revels in the fair. “I like to get together with friends from 4-H and FFA, show off my projects and just spend time seeing everything,” she said.

And so does Tia, who just graduated from Newberg High. She likes the fact everyone in the county can take part. She enjoys the vendors, the animal exhibits and the nightly rodeo and concerts.

The fair also provides a chance to sample a variety of great food, she said. For a snack on a hot day, she suggests the chocolate-dipped frozen bananas.

Tia, Kayla and Joanna’s love of the fair led them to apply to become ambassadors.

High school juniors and seniors with GPAs of 2.5 or higher are eligible. They write essays and undergo interviews with a panel of judges before being chosen. 

“I wanted to represent my county,” Tia said. “I love my county.”

Each ambassador received a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by Cascade Steel Rolling Mills, United Steelworkers Local 8378, the Yamhill County commissioners and the Yamhill County Master Gardeners. 

With the help of former commissioner Leslie Lewis, their advisor, they’ve been riding in parades, attending events and speaking to service clubs.

“You need to be able to communicate how wonderful the fair is,” said Joanna, explaining the ambassadors’ job. “You also need to recruit future ambassadors. And you need to get businesses to come to the auction so they can see how dedicated 4-H and FFA kids are.”

Joanna, daughter of Joseph and Julie Kubes, had speaking experience prior to becoming an ambassador. She participated in public speaking and took part of DHS’s state champion ag sales and ag marketing teams.

She is now president of Dayton High’s FFA chapter, in addition to participating in her school’s National Honor Society and volunteering for activities such as the Dayton Easter egg hunt and the local soup kitchen.

She also has had animal projects in FFA. That’s taken her to the show ring at the fair several times, once with a lamb and more recently with market hogs.

“Hogs are smart,” she said. “They kind of know what you want.”

She gave this year’s hog a dramatic name, Hamlet.

From the start, she said, she raised him as a means for earning money, knowing he would be auctioned off for meat. Still, “as a little piglet, he was like a pet,” she said.

Tia also shows animals at the fair each year. In fact, she started more than a decade ago.

“My first show was when I was 7, showing a horse on a lead line. I won a little trophy and was so proud,” she said, recalling the beginning of her lifelong love of the fair.

Tia has been a 4-H member since second grade and active in FFA since seventh. She was the 2012 Yamhill County 4-H girl of the year and was chosen to be a delegate to the National 4-H Congress. She has won state and national FFA contests. She spearheaded an effort to create blankets for children in need, “Tia’s Tie Blankets,” and was recognized by the Shriners’ Hospital for her efforts.

Currently, Tia shows horses in showmanship, saddle seat and Western classes. The horse arena is her favorite part of the fairgrounds, she said.

She also shows dogs, rabbits, dairy cattle and cats. The latter is a fun challenge, she said.

“You show cats’ different sides,” she said, explaining how judges look at the felines’ health, body confirmation and other characteristics. In addition, cat owners can enter costume competitions and action classes, in which they play with their cats using toys or laser pointers.

She shows her own cat, Squirrel, a female that likes preening for the judges. “She thinks she’s pretty,” Tia explained.

Tia is junior superintendent of the cat department, helping her mother, who is the superintendent.

Following the fair, Tia, daughter of Vito and Wendy Piscitelli, will get ready to start college at Portland State University. She plans to major in communications.

Like Tia, Kayla spends a lot of her time in the horse arena.

She has ridden Liberty, her 6-year-old mare, as part of Oregon High School Rodeo Team events and 4-H projects. The pair participates in showmanship, Western equitation and pleasure classes, in English riding, and in poles, barrels, figure eights and flag races.

But Libery’s favorite event is team penning. “She’s super happy when we do that,” Kayla said.

As fair ambassador, Kayla rode Liberty in the Fourth of July parade at the St. Paul Rodeo.

She has done most of Liberty’s training herself.

When Kayla first met the breeding stock paint horse about a year and a half ago, Liberty was running free in a pasture with cattle. She’d had only 30 days of basic training. “I got her under saddle,” Kayla said.

This summer, she’s leading guided trail rides at the Flying M Ranch west of town.

Daughter of Don and Darcy Davis, Kayla will attend Willamette University this fall, majoring in pre-veterinary science. She wants to be an equine vet.

She has also served as president of her 4-H club, Boots N Spurs. 

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