The selection of the Lake County Fair Queen has been a tradition for over 60 years, but according to those girls and women that participate in the event, there is nothing standard about it.
For instance, Adriana Demos, the 2017 Miss Lake County Fair Queen, also happens to be a starter on the Warren Township High School wrestling team.
“I have my sporty athletic side and I hang out with all the guys on the wrestling team and I have my pageant side with all my sisters and everything,” Demos said, explaining why she says she has the best of both worlds.
Last year’s winner, Teaghan Callaway, is now a rising junior at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. She flew in for the 2019 Lake County Fair from New York City, where she has an investment banking internship on Wall Street.
“This pageant has given me so many working skills and professional skills,” Callaway said.
Several former Lake County Fair Queens told NBC 5 they are proof the pageant, that dates back to 1956, isn’t what it used to be.
“Before it was just you put on a bathing suit and parade across the stage,” said Brittani Martinelli, Lake County Pageant Director.
“But it’s more about confidence and portraying yourself on stage and feeling happy in your own skin,” Callaway said.
It’s the contestants’ communication and interview skills that help them win the crown and succeed in life.
“I have moved on to be a mortician, so you deal with a lot of families a lot of different situations, hard situations,” said Bethani Jacobsen, Miss Lake County Fair Queen 2015.
“I feel like when I do pageants it makes me more confident,” said Jenna Marasco, 9, Little Miss Lake County Fair Queen 2018.
Besides the carnival rides, games and livestock competitions, there are a total of three Fair Queen pageants, organized by age group: Little Miss, Jr. Miss, and Miss Lake County Fair. Last year’s Jr. Miss winner Lily Troyan says even though she wants to be a trauma surgeon one day, there’s still a stigma about pageants.
“I’ve definitely lost friends over it, because it’s like your diminishing yourself to your looks, and really that’s not what’s it’s about at all,” Troyan said.
Miss Lake County Fair Queen 2017 Grace Keller is now studying communications at the University of Iowa, hoping to become a broadcast journalist.
“I kind of broke out of my shell and became the woman who I am today and I totally credit pageants for doing that,” Keller said.
“You know what? Crown or no crown, they come out of this a better version of themselves,” Martinelli added.
The 2019 Miss Lake County Fair Queen Pageant will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. The 2019 Jr. and Little Miss Lake County Fair Queen Pageant will take place at 6 p.m. on July 25, 2019. The Lake County Fair runs through Sunday.