ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Residents might have seen the Winnebago County Fair Queens at events and in parades throughout this past year, but do they know it takes to earn the title?
The girls who represent the Winnebago County Fair do more than just wear a sparkly crown. They are involved in the community and agriculture education throughout the year.
“I visited a lot of classrooms through AG in the classroom as well as my own, which gave me an opportunity to not only serve as a role model to the younger generation, but also advocate for agriculture,” said 2022 Miss Winnebago County Fair Queen Lila Sloan.
Contestants compete in evening gown, speech and interview, as well as event wear, which was new for this year.
“We thought having the swimsuit portion might deter girls from competing because they were uncomfortable with it,” said Kim Mathieu, director of the Miss Winnebago County Fair Queen Pageant. “The state competition still has it, but we elected to have ‘Queen Event Wear,’ which would be what they would wear when they’re out on an event or greeting the public.”
Sloan, 2022 Junior Miss Winnebago County Fair Queen Jaydan Bartlett and 2022 Little Miss Winnebago County Fair Queen Anabel Halsted have spent the past year attending events, volunteering and appearing in parades. They are part of a sisterhood.
“Me and Lila and Jaydan judged the 4H projects, and so I was very interested in that after that,” Halsted said. “So, I decided to join my own 4H club and I made new friends by going into 4H.”
The speech portion is the favorite among the queens, because they get to share something about themselves with the audience.
“My speech is about 4H because I have rabbits myself, and they’re definitely my little pride and joy,” Bartlett said. “So, just being able to, like, tell everybody and share that with everybody made my day for sure.”
The competition gives the contestants skills that they can apply in all aspects of life.
“Public speaking is a big fear of a lot of people, but it’s also a very important skill, and just being able to go up and be confident in your own skin and rock a smile at all times is a good skill to have,” Sloan said.
Only one girl gets to take home the crown at the end of the day, but every contestant leaves with a newfound confidence.
“I like that they come back, and they come back and they’re more poised, they’re more well-spoken, and they just have the confidence that they didn’t have the first time I saw them,” Mathieu said.
The 2023 Miss and Junior Miss Winnebago County Fair Queen Pageant will be held in Moss Hall 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Little Miss competition is on Thursday.