MEGAN ERVIN is a small-town woman with a big-time smile.
Ervin had much of West-Central Illinois glued to television sets Saturday night, rooting her on in the Miss America Pageant. Ervin was crowned Miss Quincy in 2012 and then won the Miss Illinois pageant in June to earn the right to compete in the most famous beauty pageant of them all. And she did us proud.
The 23-year-old Ervin finished in the top 10 in a field of 53 contestants, which probably did not surprise anyone who has come in contact with her. Her unique, down-home effervescence makes it practically impossible not to like her and her family, who hail from Rushville, population 3,192. The Ervins live just a couple of blocks off the town square, near the Presbyterian church, and everyone there seems to know them.
"The Ervin family is a good Christian family. They're just good people," longtime friend Jerry Wynn told The Herald-Whig. "They help out a lot with sports at the high school and other things. It's exciting to have something like this, and we're all proud of her."
Ervin may not have won the crown, but to say she will always be a winner in our eyes would be an unnecessary understatement.
Mary Lee Inzerello Noonan is a former Miss Adams County who went on to be Miss Illinois 1966 and appear in the Miss America Pageant. She knows what the coming years will hold for Ervin.
"Quincy will be proud of her for years and years ... she obviously is a dynamic young woman," Noonan said. "I can tell her that in 40 years people will remember and know she is beautiful."
Those who think this is the last we will hear from Ervin -- that this was her 15 minutes of fame -- may want to think again. Ervin is a well-grounded young woman who graduated last spring from Western Illinois University and already has been laying the groundwork to one day own and operate her own business in West-Central Illinois, possibly in Quincy.
Cathy Redshaw is another friend of the Ervin family who has been involved with Megan since she began the quest to reach the Miss America pageant.
"I knew Megan was special when I first started working with her," Redshaw said. "There's nobody else quite like Megan."
Redshaw also may have captured the region's sentiment toward Ervin.
"Megan will always be our queen," she said.