Meet Mrs. Congeniality 2012 -- no, there's no connection to Sandra Bullock, the hit 2000 film "Miss Congeniality" or its sequel.
Peabody mom Kathi Syska was the second runner-up in the 42nd Mrs. Essex County Pageant at the Topsfield Fair and took home the title of Mrs. Congeniality on Sunday.
Syska and nine others competed for the crown of Mrs. Essex County and were judged on poise, general stage presence, an interview and a culinary arts submission. The overall winner of this year's pageant was Laura Sapienza-Grabski of Boxford, who will now serve as an ambassador for the fair for the next year.
The pageant is not your typical beauty contest -- rather it's open each year to married women living in Essex County who are at least 18 years old and who are judged on the four categories mentioned above.
Each contestant submits a prepared food item -- this year's theme was “Home Grown” -- and in keeping with the fair’s agricultural roots, contestants were urged to buy local and use at least one ingredient from local farms in their recipes.
“The women in this program are dedicated to the Topsfield Fair family and are now truly a part of it. We have always been so thankful for everyone who gives so much of their timeand energy to help represent Topsfield Fair and the Essex County Agricultural Society and the Mrs. Essex County pageant represents that,” said Jim O'Brien, the general manager of the fair, in an announcement.
“While all the participants in today’s event are very lovely women, rather than being a beauty pageant, first and foremost, the Mrs. Essex County pageant is a celebration of the whole woman; it is a way to honor how each participant gives to her family, community and herself,” said Cathy Carroll, co-chair of the 2012 pageant and Mrs. Essex County of 1999.
The first runner-up Sunday was Ariana McDonough of Hamilton, followed by Syska. Culinary Arts awards were given to Marcia Glassman-Jaffe of Beverly, Sapienza-Grabski and Tina Cochran of Georgetown. Lauren Frasca of Haverhill, mother of the 2012 Topsfield Fair Jr. King Ryan Frasca, received the pageant’s Beth Geddes Award in honor of the late pageant winner who died from cancer during her reign.
Other contestants were Lisa Spencer of Byfield, Jean Sacco Cormier of Salem, Patricia Babbit of Lawrence and Amanda Silva of Rowley.