SPRINGFIELD — The winners of the county fair queen pageants held last summer in Ford and Iroquois counties will be competing this month in the 60th annual Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs State Queen Pageant.

Miss Ford County 2018, Kaiti Zbinden of Gibson City, and Miss Iroquois County 2018, Lyndsey Neukomm of Cissna Park, will be among 71 county fair queens competing in the state pageant from Thursday, Jan. 17, through Sunday, Jan. 20, at the Crowne Plaza Convention Center in Springfield.

The winner will receive the title of Miss Illinois County Fair Queen 2019. The winner also receives cash prizes and the honor of hosting the Illinois State Fair and DuQuoin State Fair this summer.

The state pageant will include a personal interview, a prepared 1-minute speech and swimsuit and evening gown competitions. Contestants are judged based on the personal interview, their stage presence, beauty of face and physical condition, and speech and communication skills.

Personal interviews are conducted off stage on Friday, Jan. 18. Contestants will then compete on stage in Saturday’s preliminaries beginning at 1 p.m. in the Ruby/Diamond Room on the second floor of the Crowne Plaza. The preliminaries are open to the public with a $15 admittance charge; children under age 10 enter for free.

Finals will then be held on Sunday beginning at 4 p.m. in conjunction with the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs’ annual banquet. Fifteen finalists will be chosen at that time to compete for the title of Miss Illinois County Fair Queen.

Zbinden is the 19-year-old daughter of Kelli Zbinden of Gibson City. Zbinden received her high school diploma through homeschooling in 2017.  She then earned her associate’s degree through Parkland College in Champaign in 2018. Zbinden is currently a junior at Illinois State University, where she is pursuing a double major in agribusiness and agriculture communications and leadership.  

Neukomm is the daughter of Walt Neukomm and Charlene Neukomm. She is a 2016 graduate of Cissna Park High School and is currently attending Parkland College, where she is studying ag business management.

The title of Miss Illinois County Fair is currently held by Samanatha Hasselbring of Cissna Park.