EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 14, 2013

Judging pageant a challenge

Peabody woman crowned Mrs. Essex County from field of seven

TOPSFIELD — Crowning Amelia DiGregorio, a young mother of two young kids from Peabody, as the 2014 Mrs. Essex County at the Topsfield Fair yesterday afternoon was no easy feat.

Being one of four judges, I got to interview the seven women who competed on the quilt-flanked stage in Coolidge Hall yesterday, and got a behind-the-scenes look at the 43rd annual pageant.

The panel of judges also included Peter Gibney, a member of the fair’s executive board; Kelly Schetzsle, associate publisher of Northshore Magazine; and Kim Mello of Boxford, Mrs. Essex County 2007, someone who helped guide us through the judging process.

Mello said the contest is more than a beauty or homemakers pageant — it’s a celebration of women who can do it all.

The judges gathered at 11 a.m. and we were greeted by Mrs. Essex County 1992 Carrie Crouch and Mrs. Essex County 1999 Cathy Carroll, co-chairwomen for the pageant who both live in North Andover.

The criteria to be eligible to be Mrs. Essex County is simple: You must be a married woman living in Essex County with her husband, be at least 18, and enter a prepared food for a cooking contest. This year’s category was “your favorite dessert.” Unfortunately, the contest judges did not get to taste these entries. DeGregorio happened to win the cooking contest with her Amelia’s apple crisp recipe.

All seven women, we found, had competed in the past, and they all made convincing presentations. They came with a long list of service to the community or agriculture, deep personal reasons why they would make a great “face of the fair,” and good ideas how to improve the fair’s outreach. Picking a winner was not easy.

The contestants also professed a willingness to represent the fair at the fair, not only today, Columbus Day, but for two weeks next year.

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