WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WTVO) — Contestants for Winnebago County Fair Queen will no longer need to compete in the swimsuit competition, as the organization has axed the event from this year’s program.

The fair, which runs August 16-20, 2023, is an annual event that showcases the county’s agricultural past, present and future, with young women competing for Miss (ages 16-21), Junior Miss (ages 10-13), and Little Miss (ages 5-9) pageants.

The swimwear competition has traditionally been a part of the Miss division, in keeping with the tradition of the Illinois County Fair Queen organization.

“While the purpose of the swimsuit competition has evolved, the history of the pageant industry’s swimsuit competition is rooted in for-profit spectacle,” representatives said in a statement. “For this reason, among others, many pageant systems are moving away from the swimwear tradition in favor of other means of assessing confidence, composure, and wellness.”

“We believe we can effectively highlight candidate poise and posture in other ways. I also recognize this portion of the pageant may deter high-potential candidates from entering the competition for a variety of personal reasons. It is my hope that with this change, more young women will give the pageant a try and benefit from the personal growth and reward of participating,” said pageant director Kim Mathieu. 

In 2018, the Miss America pageant dropped the swimsuit competition, saying it would no longer judge contestants on their beauty in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

Beauty pageants have been falling out of favor worldwide as research has also shown younger girls to be suffering a mental health crisis while trying to achieve an idealized standard of feminine beauty.

In 2019, plus-sized singer Lizzo told Glamor magazine her body was “the beauty standard” of the body-positivity movement, which seeks to change society’s concept of “beauty.” However, critics argue that the body positivity movement ignores the health risks associated with carrying excess body weight and still “implies a person’s value is at least somewhat based on their appearance.”

While contests judging the most ideal human physique have been conducted for centuries, beauty pageants began in earnest in the 1920’s as part of the rise of the cosmetics industry, and were even held in high schools to “make students more interested in personal care.”

“What makes them important to many people worldwide is the somewhat mysterious process by which an individual woman can become a symbol of national identity, group values and pride,” a PBS documentary explained.