The 113th Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs Convention, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield from January 12-14, 2024, was a showcase of beauty, talent, and community spirit. The convention’s highlight was the Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Pageant, where Natalie Evans of Jacksonville emerged as the new queen.
About the New Queen: Natalie Evans
Background: 19-year-old Natalie Evans, representing Morgan County, was crowned the 64th Miss Illinois County Fair Queen. A student at Murray State University, Evans is majoring in pre-veterinary studies with a minor in chemistry and aspires to become a large animal vet.
Duties and Aspirations: As Miss Illinois County Fair Queen, Evans will work as a summer employee for the Department of Agriculture, visiting around 30 county fairs. She’ll be the official hostess at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield and the DuQuoin State Fair. Her role includes emphasizing the significance of agriculture and county fairs in Illinois.
Personal Life: Evans is passionate about cattle farming, family, faith, and community service. She is self-employed at Natalie’s Pet Services and an active 4-H member. She graduated from Routt Catholic High School.
Finalists and Award Winners
Top 16 Finalists: The pageant saw strong competition with finalists including Morgan Binder of Macon County, Ella Luna Drone of Champaign County, and others. The first runner-up was Tessa Sargeant of Hancock County, followed by Audrey Moran of Clinton County, Elaina Kessler of Clay County, and Maci Kingren of Ford County.
Non-finalist Awards: Kaitlyn Banning of Marion County won the Ruby Crum Memorial Award and People’s Choice Award. Other awardees included Ella Sievers of Calhoun County for Best Personal Interview, and Hailey Durham of Pana Tri-County for Best in Stage Presence.
Talent Show Highlights
The pageant also featured a talent show with remarkable performances.
Senior Division: Macy Waters and Avery Wyatt of Calhoun County won with a jazz dance duet. Lexi Willms of Livingston County secured second place with a piano solo.
Junior Division: Jaycee Bates of Sangamon County was the winner with a contemporary dance solo, followed by a dance group from Morgan County.
Impact of the Pageant
The pageant was more than a display of beauty; it was a celebration of talents, aspirations, and community representation.
Personal Stories: Contestants like Matti McCartney of Pike County shared personal stories, like living with dyslexia, impacting young audience members.
Community Representation: Contestants like Miss Cass County Belle Carlock and Miss Brown County Klare Flynn expressed pride in representing their counties.
Leadership Changes and Attendance
New Leadership: Dave Hake of Washington County and Gary Mielke of Stephenson County were elected president and vice president of the IAAF, respectively.
Attendance: The convention attracted more than 2,500 attendees, demonstrating the enduring appeal and importance of agricultural fairs in Illinois.
Queen’s Ambitions and Community Impact
Beyond Pageantry: Evans plans to use her platform to unite communities and promote agricultural education. Her goal is to continue showing cattle while serving as queen.
Inspiration and Empowerment: The pageant was a platform for young women like Avery Lewis from Baylis, Miss Western Illinois Fair, who described her participation as fulfilling a lifelong dream.
The 2024 Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Pageant was not just a celebration of beauty; it was a testament to the hard work, dedication, and community spirit of young women across Illinois. Natalie Evans, as the newly crowned queen, embodies these values and is set to make a significant impact in promoting Illinois’ agricultural heritage. Her journey, along with that of her fellow contestants, highlights the diverse talents and aspirations that enrich the agricultural communities of Illinois.
For more information on the pageant and its impact, visit the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs website here.