Two Warrick County best friends win big at state pageants

Photo courtesy of Jessica Bradford

Newburgh best friends and pageant queens Jessica Bradford and Kendall Johnson are pictured.

A pair of 18-year-old best friends and neighbors, from Newburgh, made a splash at the state pageants in Indianapolis this weekend, with one bringing home a coveted crown.

Miss Labor Day 2018, Kendall Johnson, of Newburgh, was crowned the 2020 Indiana State Festival Association Queen, while Miss Warrick County 2019, Jessica Bradford, of Newburgh, was named a top 10 finalist for the 2020 Indiana State Fair Queen Pageant at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds & Event Center on Sunday, Jan. 5.

Although Johnson and Bradford, who have been glued at the hip since second grade, did not technically compete against each other this weekend like they did at the Warrick County Fair Queen Pageant last summer, the two still found time to enjoy preparing together.

“Competing in a pageant with my best friend an experience like no other,” Johnson said. “You always have someone there to calm your nerves and cheer you on no matter what. When Jessica won Miss Warrick County, it felt like I won also because her dream came true.”

Johnson was also crowned second runner-up and Miss Congeniality at the Warrick County 4-H Fair Queen Pageant last year. She is also a Castle High School student and is into food science and nutrition.

“I am so excited to travel and learn about Indiana’s diverse history and culture,” she said. “Also, since this was a scholarship pageant, I am very grateful for the Indiana State Festival Association for the scholarship to help with my education.”

While Bradford was crowned the county queen this past July at the fair, after winning runner-up the previous year.

In November, Bradford attended the Indiana State Junior Leader’s Planning and Bonding meeting where she was awarded the Healthy Living, Food & Nutrition Science Scholarship. In December, she represented Warrick County and Indiana at the National 4-H Congress in Tennessee.

“I got the opportunity to meet 4-Hers from 43 different states, and I can confidently say we (all came) home with a thick southern accent,” Bradford said. “I also met the kindest delegates from Puerto Rico, teaching them my favorite line dances, and learning the 4-H pledge as stated in Puerto Rico. Thank you National 4-H Congress for your dedication to our youth.”

At the state fair pageant over the weekend, Bradford met girls who inspired her, while also catching up with old friends.

“Thank you to my family for putting so much time and effort into helping and supporting me in being my true self throughout this process,” she said. “Thank you Adrienne Rudolph for mentoring your twin here and helping me zip up my dress when I needed it.”

While neighboring Miss Vanderburgh County, Claudia Duncan, was crowned the 62nd Indiana State Fair Queen.

“Duncan is the 4th representative from Vanderburgh County to be crowned Miss Indiana State Fair following Karen Kosester in 1974, Tate Fritchley in 2016 and Becca Lax in 2017,” said Indiana State Fair communications director Sharon Smith. “Miss Indiana State Fair 2020 was selected over 83 other contestants after three days of judging. The Indiana State Fair Queen plays a key role in promoting the Indiana State Fair by traveling at least 10,000 miles during June and July to approximately 45 counties in preparation for the great Indiana State Fair, Aug. 7-23, 2020.”

The Top 10 Finalists include:

1st Runner-Up: Grace McCoy, Miss Elkhart County; 2nd Runner-Up: Devin Hindes, Miss Newton County; 3rd Runner-Up: Catherine Hall, Miss Shelby County; and 4th Runner-Up: Danielle Perry, Miss Posey County.

Other finalists include Elyona Dobrodt, Miss St. Joseph County; Ellen Rohr, Miss Parke County; Abbigail Sprong, Miss Delaware County; and Riley Lamb, Miss Boone County. Devin Hindes, Miss Newton County, was crowned Miss Congeniality.

“Miss Indiana State Fair 2020 Claudia Duncan from Evansville graduated as valedictorian of Mater Dei High School and currently attends Purdue University majoring in Data Science,” Smith said. “She is involved in the Honors Mentor Program, the Women in Science Mentor Program, and is a Peer Consultant at the Center for Career Opportunities. In her hometown, she is a parishioner of St. Joseph Catholic Church and gives back to 4-H as a Project Superintendent. Claudia is a 10-Year 4-H Member and recipient of the Tenure Award.”

For more information on the 16 semi-finalists visit

Although Bradford did not take home the prized headpiece over the weekend, she is honored to wear Warrick County on her sash.

“Thank you Warrick County for being the community I call home and couldn’t be more proud to represent at the Indiana State Fair Pageant,” Bradford said. “I truly believe I come from the best county in Indiana and representing them and being awarded a top ten finalist mean I have achieved my goal of showing the great state of Indiana how unique and supportive Warrick County is.”

Marisa Patwa is a graduate of the University of Evansville with a degree in journalism and minor in political science.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.