MELVIN -- Before becoming a contestant in Monday's Ford County Fair Queen Pageant, Evie Ellis was already a frequent visitor of the county fair.
“Each year, I try to come to the fair at least once," Ellis said. "I love seeing the community come together. Sometimes, I don’t see people that I know until it is fair week, so it’s fun for me to come and talk to people I haven’t seen for about a year.”
Ellis was crowned as the 2019 Ford County Fair Queen on Monday, giving her a chance to participate fully in this year's fair.
“I’m feeling pretty excited. I love coming to the fair, so to be able to be a role model to the youth is something I’m really looking forward to.”
The fair will continue through Saturday. Among the activities Ellis said she was looking forward to is the lumberjack show, which will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“I’m super-excited," Ellis said. "I’m looking forward to the lumberjack show, especially, because I’ve never been to a lumberjack show, so I’m excited to see what comes with it.”
Ellis is the daughter of Sally Ellis, whose influence was mentioned by Evie during the pageant's speech competition.
“I learned how to be a strong, independent woman and to not rely on a man in life," Ellis said. "I’ve never had anyone but my mom, so I’m just very thankful that she taught me those life lessons.”
Evie Ellis, 17, of Paxton, is a 2019 graduate of Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School. She ran for the school's cross country and track and field teams during her four years at the high school.
Ellis said during her speech that her involvement with the cross country team influenced her as well.
“I learned a lot about teamwork," Ellis said. "Even though cross country’s more of an individual sport, you all have to come together to create the team aspect.”
Ellis said she also learned a lot about determination from being a part of the cross country team.
“I wouldn’t be the person that I am without cross country," Ellis said. "I learned how to set goals and how to achieve those goals through cross country.”
Connections with family and friends were key to Ellis's success at the pageant, Ellis said.
“Thank you to all the people who supported me along the way," Ellis said. "I wouldn’t have been able to do it if it wasn’t for my friends and family who were there with me every step, whether it be practicing my speech in front of them or having them ask me random questions on the spot. I’m just so thankful to have everyone.”
Ellis will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall and majoring in food science and human nutrition.
“I have always wanted to go to UI," Ellis said. "It was just a matter of finding out what I wanted to study. In the past couple of years, I figured out that I wanted to study food science, so I’m even more excited to go now.”
Kaitlyn Harders was named the first runner-up.
Harders, 20, of Melvin, is a 2017 graduate of Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School. She is a 2019 graduate of Parkland College. She will be attending the University of Illinois this fall, majoring in eastern Asian languages and cultures. She is the daughter of Sherry and Andrew Harders.
Cheyenne Wise was selected as the second runner-up.
Wise, 18, of Loda, is a 2019 graduate of Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School. She will be attending Parkland College in the fall and majoring in business administration. She plans to transfer to the University of Illinois after obtaining her associate’s degree. She is the daughter of Traci Wise and the late Mike Wise.
Daiton Piatt was chosen as the pageant's Miss Congeniality.
Piatt, 18, of Paxton, is a 2019 graduate of Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School. She will be attending Loyola University at Chicago in the fall, majoring in biochemistry. She is the daughter of Denver and Jamie Piatt.
Emma Yates, Deanna Diesburg and Samantha Groover also participated in the pageant.
Yates, 17, of Paxton, is going to be a senior at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School in the fall. She plans to attend cosmetology school after graduation. She is the daughter of Robert Yates and Ashlee Cage and Kerri Yates and Pat McNally.
Diesburg, 19, of Paxton, is a 2017 graduate of Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School. She is attending Parkland College in Champaign, where she is double-majoring in agricultural communications and leadership and animal industry management, with a minor in agriculture. She plans to transfer to Illinois State University next year. She is the daughter of Bob and Ann Diesburg.
Groover, 18, of Melvin, is a 2019 graduate of Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School. She will be attending Parkland College this fall, majoring in elementary education. She plans to transfer to Illinois State University after obtaining her associate’s degree. She is the daughter of Angela Groover.