ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs (IAAF) says other events played in to the decision to release County Fair Queen Alexi Bladel of her duties, not her decision to enlist in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Bladel, who is from Rockford and served as Miss Winnebago County in 2018, was crowned the 60th Miss Illinois County Fair Queen in January 2019.
Now, the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs (IAAF) has relieved her of her duties.
State Rep. Joe Sosnowski released a statement Friday afternoon, criticizing the IAAF for doing so after Bladel’s decision to join the U.S. Army Reserve.
Sosnowski (R-Rockford) blasted the decision to relieve Bladel of her duties as Fair Queen, saying, “Alexi fulfilled her responsibilities this summer traveling across the state to county fairs, promoting Illinois agriculture. She is now being unduly punished for her decision to enlist in the U.S. Army Reserve.
“I call upon the Illinois Association of County Fairs board of directors to reconsider their decision and allow Alexi to participate in the January 2020 pageant,” he said.
“I don’t know why they’re claiming that, because that was never stated to her,” said IAAF Queen Pageant Chair Bill Jennings. “It was, in fact, considered by most of the board to be a positive that she was going into the military.”
Jennings says Bladel’s enlistment was not the reason for the board’s decision.
According to Jennings, “The events that resulted in that action occurred prior to our knowledge of her enlistment.”
Jennings says the IAAF is preparing a press release to clarify their position.
Bladel earned an associates degree in fire science at Rock Valley College, and had been accepted into the U.S. Army Reserve to become a firefighter.
Bladel notified the IAAF that she was due to attend basic training in February 2020, but was given a “quick ship” date of September 10th.
In a letter dated September 25th, Queen Pageant Director Cathy Redshaw attributed the Board’s action to “recognition of the challenges you have had, and will have, in meeting the terms and conditions of the Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Contract.”
According to the IAAF board of directors, Bladel will be able to keep her title, but will not be able to participate in the Miss Illinois County Fair Pageant coming up in January, to crown the 2020 Fair Queen.
The Bladel family says they are seeking council with the Illinois Attorney General’s Military and Veteran’s Rights Bureau. They released a statement Friday evening questioning the IAAF’s timing.
“If there was an issue that warranted a release of her duties that was in breach of contract, it should have been discussed at the time it happened and she should have been relieved of her duties then. Throughout her 8 month reign, Alexi served her title and state with professionalism, there was no indication of her having done anything wrong let alone something that would warrant her being released from her duties. The only communication received from the IAAF was dated September 25, 2019 in response to Alexi’s letter she sent via email, at their request, on September 6, 2019. The board did not state any other specific reason behind their decision, other than “the recognition of challenges you have had, and will have, in meeting the terms and conditions of the Miss Illinois County Fair Queen contract”. Of which was their response to Alexi informing them of her enlistment and quick ship. Timing is all too coincidental.”Heather Bladel, Alexi Bladel’s mother
An online petition to reinstate Bladel’s duties has garnered over a thousand signatures so far.
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