MENDON, Ill. — For an ever-so-brief moment late Wednesday night, Lynsey Whitaker said she was overcome by what the future might actually hold by the time she took her next deep breath.
Whitaker was one of the two finalists in the 49th Adams County Fair Queen Pageant. She and Ashlyn May stood together, awaiting the announcement by emcee Matt Schmidt that would let the crowd of 1,000 know which girl would wear the crown.
“This could be me,” Whitaker said she remembered saying to herself.
Indeed, it was.
The next few minutes became little more than a blur after she was named the winner.
“All I could do was thank the Good Lord, my family, my friends, the judges ... this has always been a dream of mine,” Whitaker said.
The 20-year-old Quincy woman hopes to some day be a motorsports reporter and will be attending the University of North Carolina-Charlotte this fall, majoring in communication. The title of queen earned Whitaker a $2,000 scholarship.
Whitaker is the second straight Quincyan to win the title, following Kayla Bunch. The back-to-back queens from Quincy represents only the second time in the past 18 years the winner was from the same Adams County town. Randi Mixer (2005) and Kari Miller (2006) were back-to-back winners from Camp Point.
Whitaker said she was much more prepared to make a run for queen in her second try.
“I ran when I was 16, but I have matured since then,” Whitaker said. “I come from a strong agricultural background and realize how important that is to this area. I look forward to representing this county.”
Whitaker will next compete Jan. 14-18 in the Miss Illinois Fair Queen Pageant in Springfield.
Whitaker credited 2011 fair queen Erica Mitchell of Paloma for helping prepare her for this year’s pageant. Whitaker said Mitchell was especially helpful getting her ready for the all-important interview with pageant judges.
“She gave me the confidence I needed,” Whitaker said.
The interview is worth 35 percent of a contestant’s score. Speech and stage presence are worth 30 percent, the swimsuit competition 20 percent, and evening gown wear 15 percent.
May, 19, of Camp Point, earned a $500 scholarship as first runner-up.
The rest of the top five were Megan Scheiter, 19, of Camp Point, as second runner-up; Francesca Boewe, 17, of Payson, as third-runner-up; and Paige Lewis, 19, of Quincy, as fourth runner-up. Scheiter ($400), Boewe ($300) and Lewis ($200) also were awarded scholarships.
Fourteen girls competed for the crown, matching the highest total in the past eight years.
Torie Conover, 18, of Paloma, was voted Miss Congeniality and awarded a $50 scholarship.
The first Don Russell Memorial Award and the $200 scholarship that accompanied it went to Boewe.
Joining Schmidt as an emcee for the evening was Kelle Bunch, who was named fair queen 31 years ago.
Kayla Bunch is her daughter, and both were part of a tribute prior to Whitaker being named this year’s queen.
“Some of my favorite memories started the night that crown was placed on my head,” Kayla Bunch said. “I realized I was representing one of the greatest counties in the state of Illinois. Being the fair queen was my favorite part of last year.”
Kelle Bunch had special words for the outgoing queen.
“I feel like a year ago I watched a young girl receive the crown,” she said. “Now, I feel like I’m seeing a young woman (return the crown). I’m very proud of her.”
Other award winners Wednesday night among the nonfinalists were Lauren Allen of Quincy (interview), Liz Cepeda of Quincy (speech and stage presence, evening gown) and Roza Panos of Quincy (swimsuit). The winner of each category received a $50 scholarship.
The Little Mr. and Miss Adams County Fair Pageant preceded the Fair Queen competition. Kason Humke, 5, of Quincy was named Little Mr. Adams County, and Aubrey Williams, 9, of Fowler was selected Little Miss Adams County.The Heinze Dance Academy entertained the crowd during several intervals with a variety of numbers.