Lost Youths Remembered at Clay County Fair
For members of the Clay County Fair Board, and Junior Fair Board, the 2018 edition of the fair is a sad one as they mourn the loss of two of their own. In response, a number of memorial efforts have been planned to remember two young ladies from Clay County who were lost much too early.
Early this year Hannah Blankenship, of Corning, died in a two vehicle accident east of the city. She was a member of the Junior Fair Board, and active in both the Corning High School chapter of the FFA and as a participant in area pageants.
More recently, Junior Fair Board member Rachel Ballard died when a train struck the vehicle she was driving at a crossing north of Corning. Also killed in the crash was another CHS student, Bethany Renee Stormes, of Knobel.
“It has really had an impact on all of us,” Fair President Marty Conley noted. “They were great kids, and we'd had a chance to get pretty close to them—it's tough.”
Those visiting the Clay County Fair this week might notice a number of memorial remembrances.
“Each of the ag departments in Corning, Piggott and Rector took on a project and we'll have a number of things around the fairgrounds to remember the girls,” Conley explained.
A bench is also being constructed by the PHS chapter of the FFA in remembrance of Gage Dodd, an incoming senior at Piggott High School who died in a single vehicle crash north of Corning earlier this year.
Blankenship, who was the reigning Junior Miss Clay County, was also remembered Saturday as the traditional pageants were held in the industrial building. In her memory, the Piggott High School agri department constructed an all-steel throne for the pageant winners.
“They finished it up last week, and I took it down to Piggott Collision and they put a beautiful pearl white paint job on it,” Conley explained. “That's what color Hannah's truck was.”
A plaque was also placed on the throne, which included a quote and dedication to Blankenship.
As the outgoing Junior Miss Clay County, Hannah would have reigned over this year's pageant and had the honor of crowning her replacement. Instead, her family brought her crown, trophy, bouquet of flowers and sash from the previous year which were placed on the throne prior to the event.
In her memory, Hannah's brother Trey was asked to crown the new Junior Miss Clay County. And, although they were unaware of the situation, it was only fitting that the judges picked a winner from the Corning School District-- Elizabeth Ennis of Success.
Organizers of the annual pageants also conducted a “people's choice” contest for each of the events, allowing the public to “vote” for their favorite with a donation. They report some $650 was generated, with the funds earmarked for the Hannah Blankenship Memorial Scholarship Fund at Corning High School. The scholarship is awarded each spring to a female graduate of CHS who plans to enter the field of agriculture. Donations to the scholarship fund may be made at any branch of First National Bank in Northeast Arkansas.