The Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs conducted its 110th annual convention at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield, Jan. 17-19.
One of the highlights of the annual event is the Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Pageant, conducted Jan. 19, according to a news release.
Kelsi Kessler, 18, of Carmi was crowned the 61st Miss Illinois County Fair queen. Kessler represented White County at the 110th Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs Convention on Sunday. She is currently attending the University of Illinois, Champaign, majoring in accounting.
Kessler will be a summer employee of the Department of Agriculture. She will travel to about 30 county fairs, and will be the official hostess of the Illinois State Fair in Springfield and the DuQuoin State Fair. As queen, Kessler’s main duty is to emphasize the importance of agriculture and county fairs to Illinois.
Maya Marcacci of Macoupin County was named the first runner up, Shayna Phillips of Effingham County was named the second runner up, Samantha Pokoray of Lake County was named third runner up, and Grace Beavin of Marion County was named 4th runner up.
“I had no idea,” said Kessler, after being crowned. “I prepped for so long. I’ve been so lucky to be able to compete. I just can’t believe it. I was incredibly shocked.”
Kessler’s grandfather operates a farm in Carmi, and she got her start in agriculture with FFA. Her father is plant manager of Champion Labs of Albion and her mother is a banker.
Kessler’s goal as the 2020 Illinois County Fair queen is to be a voice for agriculture and role model. She has her own video series on You Tube called “Crowned with Confidence,” where she encourages young people to have confidence in whatever they attempt.
“I’m excited about having a much wider audience outside of White County,” Kessler said.
Other top winners in the competition were:
Fourth runner up. Miss Marion Co. Grace Beavin
Third runner up, Miss Lake Co. Samantha Pokorny
Second runner up, Miss Effingham Co. Shayna Phillips
First runner up, Miss Macoupin Co. Maya Marcacci
The top 15 finalists were: Sierra Brown of Henry County; Alivia Lantz of Hancock County; Toby Giganti of Sangamon; Keely Epplin of Perry County; Sydney Killey of Warren County; Natalie Demos of Winnebago; Shayna Phillips of Effingham County; Tiffany Thompson of Okawville Fair; Maya Marcacci of Macoupin County; Brittany Smith of Cass County; Grace Beavin of Marion County; Samantha Pokorny of Lake County; Makenna Green of Moultrie-Douglas County; Adilyn McCray of Shelby County.
Non-finalist awards went to: Natalie Demos of Winnebago County, Ruby Crum Memorial Award; Deepa Dhillon of McHenry, Best Personal Interview; Cassidie Parker of Vermillion County, Best in Communication Skills; Carson Robinson of Champaign, Best in Stage Presence; Brianne Miller of Iroquois, Best in Beauty and Physique competition; Shelbi McCray of Bond County, People’s Choice Award Winner.
Earlier at the IAAF annual convention, Talent Show winners were chosen. First place in the senior division went to Anna Parmentor of Iroquois County for a piano solo; In the Junior Division Talent Show competition, first place went to Christian Gibbs of Lake County for vocal solo.
In total, this year’s convention had more than 3,000 in attendance.