A 16-year-old Athens Area High School junior has been crowned the 2012 Troy Fair Queen.

Mara Tate, the daughter of Bryan and Pam Tate of Athens, was chosen by a panel of judges over nine other contestants at Sunday's 19th annual Troy Fair Queen Pageant. The candidates were judged following an interview, prepared speech and a response to an impromptu question asked during the pageant.

Tate, who Troy Fair Queen coordinator Jamie Hall said the girls jokingly referred to as "Tater Tot," was also chosen as Miss Congeniality by her fellow candidates.

Tate, a member of the Troy Fair Junior Board, said she has entered her quilts in the fair for the past two years. After one of her creations won a blue ribbon, she became more interested in becoming involved in the fair, she said Sunday while reading her speech about her favorite Troy Fair experience.

Tate said she enjoys being a part of the junior board because of the people she meets from all over Bradford County. The fun she has on the board inspired her to run for fair queen, she said.

When asked the pageant's impromptu question - "Why do you think the Troy Fair has lasted 137 years?" - Tate said the fair has something for everyone, citing arts, agriculture, amusements and antique displays as examples.

At Athens Area High School, Tate is a member of the National Honor Society, volleyball team and the Future Farmers of America chapter.

Alane Neal, 19, was chosen as first alternate Troy Fair Queen. Neal served as second alternate in 2011.

Neal, a 2011 graduate of Canton High School and student at Penn State Altoona majoring in animal science, said she shows dairy cows at the fair. Her favorite fair experience was when her cow, Belle, won the reserve junior linebacker champion award. Neal said her involvement with the fair "helps my love for agriculture grow."

Lindsey Horning, 17, who will be a senior at Troy Area High School in the fall, was chosen as second alternate Troy Fair Queen. Horning said she felt the Troy Fair has lasted so long because of the community who attends it. "We all love to come together at this time," she said, adding that the fair is "something to look forward to every year."

The other candidates for Troy Fair Queen included Vanessa Bonnell, Hope Raezer, Samantha Randall, Debbie Jennings, Gracie Johnson, Lonnie Watkins and Karissa Shedden.

In her farewell speech, 2011 first alternate Hannah Jackson said the Troy Fair Queen program has helped her to share her passion for agriculture. "In my opinion, the Troy Fair gets an A+" in teaching its attendees "the ins and outs of agriculture," she said.

Lu-Anne Antisdel, 2011 Troy Fair Queen, explained as she retired her crown how the queen's duties go beyond the fair. She and her alternates participated in parades, festivals and even started the Troy Fair Queen's Coat Closet this year to collect coats for those who needed them after September's flood, she said.

Calling her one-year reign "the experience of a lifetime," Antisdel said the program "helped me grow into a polished young lady."

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.