By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
For Megan Ervin, Saturday night marked the end of the road of sorts.
It was a year ago on the Quincy Community Theatre stage that Ervin captured the title of Miss Quincy. That victory proved to be a springboard to the Miss Illinois title and ultimately a top-10 finish in the Miss America Pageant in January. She had to pass on her crown on Saturday, which she said was "a little bittersweet."
"I have such an emotional tie to this community and the West-Central Illinois area in general," Ervin said. "This is where I got my start and led me to winning that prestigious Miss Illinois title."
Quincy now has another Miss Quincy to get behind after Christina Hanna of Pittsfield was crowned Miss Quincy 2013 by Ervin on Saturday night to wrap up a busy day. Hanna beat out a field of nine contestants for the crown in front of a packed house.
"I've been thinking about and preparing for this pageant for well over a year," said Hanna, a 20-year-old animal sciences major at the University of Illinois. "For me to win this is an incredible accomplishment. It's really a dream come true, and I'm happy that I'm going to be able to promote agriculture through this platform."
Hanna said that Ervin was an inspiration for her.
"As a small-town girl, she made me realize that I could do more and I didn't have to stay in the county pageant system and that I could branch out and be successful," Hanna said.
Other winners on Saturday night were Miss Gem City Kelsey Peters, Miss Quincy Outstanding Teen Angelica Niemann, Miss Quincy Outstanding Pre-teen Ailaa Ippensen and Little Miss Quincy Emma Sparrow. Mackenzie Mahsman, who served as Miss Quincy Outstanding Teen last year, was named Miss Gem City Outstanding Teen, a new title.
"I've been working for this for such a long time," said Peters, a 22-year-old musical theater major at Western Illinois University. "I am so excited to go out and promote my platform (dance therapy for children with special needs) and have a great year of service."
Though her reign as Miss Quincy is finished, Ervin won't be done with her duties as Miss Illinois until the end of June when the state pageant is held in Marion the weekend of June 27-29. The Miss Quincy and Miss Gem City winners will compete for the Miss Illinois title in Marion, while Miss Quincy Outstanding Teen, Miss Gem City Outstanding Teen and Miss Quincy Outstanding Pre-Teen will compete for state crowns in their categories in Marion.
As she has traveled her journey, Ervin has never forgotten where it started.
"During my reign as Miss Illinois, I've done a numerous amount of activities here in the Quincy area," she said. "That's because they're so supportive of me. This community has made a noise that was heard by everyone out in Vegas. They have just booked me and booked me and booked me so I can be at home, and I'm so thankful for that."
Before Saturday's pageant, Ervin worked the room outside the theater. She signed a few autographs while wearing a stunning blue evening gown with a tiara on her head and the Miss Illinois sash draped across her right shoulder. She was a picture of calm, a far cry from how she felt before last year's Miss Quincy Pageant.
"I remember being very, very nervous," she said. "I was the first runner-up the year before in Miss Illinois. Coming into a preliminary (competition) not only as a contestant, but everybody knowing that you were the first runner-up to Miss Illinois, is a lot of pressure. There is a lot of pressure to win the prelim after being first runner-up.
"This is what I wanted. I wanted to devote my entire year to really chasing that crown, and I had a feeling that (Miss Quincy) was the best chance that I had at that pursuit."