By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
A dream came true Saturday night for Rushville resident Megan Ervin, who was crowned Miss Illinois in her second straight try at the pageant title.
The 22-year-old daughter of Jeff and Cindy Ervin of Rushville, defeated 24 other contestants from across the state in this week's pageant at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center. She now advances to the Miss America pageant in January in Las Vegas.
Ervin, who was first runner-up in the 2011 Miss Illinois pageant, qualified for the 2012 contest by winning the Miss Quincy Scholarship Pageant in March. Celeste Niemann of Quincy also qualified for the Miss Illinois pageant by winning the Miss Gem City title in the same March pageant. Both women took part in the weeklong festivities this week in Marion, culminating with Saturday's final competition.
On Wednesday, Ervin won the award for lifestyle and fitness in swimwear in a preliminary competition. Then on Saturday she was selected as one of 10 finalists who advanced to the final competition phase of the pageant.
Ervin told The Quincy Herald-Whig earlier this week that she wanted to give the Miss Illinois pageant one more try after coming excruciatingly close in the 2011 pageant.
"If my heart wasn't in it, I definitely wouldn't have decided to come back again. But it's definitely where my heart is," she said. "I want this more than anything, and I decided to come back and give it one last shot."
Ervin graduated in May from Western Illinois University with a bachelor's degree in exercise science with a minor in dance. She performed a jazz dance in the pageant's talent competition.
Ervin is a Rushville native and a graduate of Rushville Industry High School.
Since winning the Miss Quincy title in late March, she has spent time promoting her personal platform, preparing for the state competition, and representing the Quincy area at local parades and festivals. Ervin's platform is "eCHANGE," which stands for Everyone Choosing Healthy Activities and Nutritional Goals. The platform represents her efforts to fight childhood obesity and inactivity.
In recent months Ervin has partnered with Quincy Medical Group to begin a health and fitness series in Quincy schools and with Miss Quincy's Outstanding Teen, Mackenzie Mahsman, to begin a free monthly fitness series for children in the Quincy community.
According to the Miss Illinois website, Ervin will spend the next year touring Illinois speaking at schools about "CHARACTER COUNTS!," a platform espoused by the Miss Illinois pageant. She also will appear at a variety of community and charitable events; serve as Illinois' goodwill ambassador for Children's Miracle Network, the official platform of the Miss America organization; and serve as spokesperson for East Aurora-based Triple Threat Mentoring. She also will spend time promoting her personal platform.
Ervin will compete with 52 other titleholders from across the country for the title of Miss America at the 2013 Miss America Pageant next January at Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Ervin is the first Quincyan since 1948 to win the Miss Illinois title. Viola Suits Palumbo, who was born Viola Hutmacher, won a local pageant sponsored by the Quincy Jaycees and went on to win the Miss Illinois pageant.
Palumbo went on to become an active beauty pageant organizer for decades.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Megan Ervin lived in Quincy and that her parents, Jeff and Cindy Ervin, also lived in Quincy.