In a well-attended pageant Wednesday evening, Morris resident Bailey McArdle was named the 2013 Miss Grundy County Fair Queen.
McArdle, who is studying physical education at Illinois State University, said she was shocked to win.
“It was definitely a surprise,” McArdle said. “I was so happy.”
McArdle took the sash and crown from a field of six, each of whom seemed a good fit for queen.
“It was a really close field this year,” said Stacy Sanders, director of the pageant. “It was a toss up.”
Lizzie Mladic, of Seneca, was the first runner-up, and Courtney Kenyon, of Channahon, was the second runner-up.
The Fair Queen pageant was one of the first major events of the Grundy County Fair, which began Wednesday and runs through Sunday.
The evening began with the Cutest Baby and Princess contests.
Grace Becker was named cutest baby and Luxx Whillock was named princess. Each won the “best personality” side award.
Then it was time for the Little Miss, Junior Miss and Miss Grundy Fair contests.
The Little Miss contestants, who ranged in age from 6 to 10 years old, were to give a fact about Grundy County and answer a question, such as, “What is your favorite restaurant?”
In the end, Palmer Whiston was named Little Miss Grundy County Fair, succeeding 2012 winner Bailey Snyder.
Taya Roe and Macy Shell were first runner-up and second runner-up, respectively.
Whiston won the “best personality” and “best speech” side awards. Roe won “best dressed” and Shell won “best eyes.”
Each Junior Miss contestant had to give a short speech describing what makes them special before doing a word association game.
Baylee Newman, who won the “congeniality,” “stage presence,” “personality” and “interview” side awards, was named the 2013 Junior Miss Grundy County, succeeding Madison Schlegel.
Mackenzie Mantia, who won “best dressed” and “best speech,” was the first runner-up, and Madilyn Payne was the second runner-up.
The Miss Grundy County Contestants wore one-piece swimsuits that best displayed their physical fitness, gave a speech and answered three pop-questions.
McArdle, who won side awards for “best swimsuit” and “best stage presence,” spoke about her family’s agricultural heritage.
She was crowned Fair Queen by outgoing Miss Grundy County Fair Erica Weinreich, who described her yearlong reign as “life-changing.”
“A sash and crown shouldn’t be necessary to show people you’re a role model,” Weinreich said. “Your actions should be enough.”
“This past year has been life-changing,” Weinreich added, tearing up. “These are memories I’ll cherish forever.”
Sanders said the girls are excited when they win, but also nervous for the responsibilities that follow.
The Fair Queen is responsible for appearing at other events, as well as competing against other county fair queens in Illinois and attending a governor’s luncheon in Springfield.
“It’s a lot of work, but I think they’re excited,” Sanders said.
McArdle, for her part, is looking forward to her year with the crown.
“I think it’s going to be a great year,” McArdle said, adding that it’s been a lot of work to get to this point.
She began training in January, she said.
The title comes with a number of prizes, including cash prizes, an expenses paid trip to the Illinois State Pageant, a wardrobe allowance, and a one-month membership to Morris Athletic Club.
But for Sanders, it’s about more than the title and gifts.
It’s about the life lessons they learn along the way.
“We teach them they have to be role models even if you’re not wearing the crown,” Sanders said.