Shining moment: Fair contestant adds a crown to her collection of ribbons

Shining moment: Fair contestant adds a crown to her collection of ribbons

CHAMPAIGN — One of the greatest thrills of Claire Smith's life was the first time she baked cookies to show at the Champaign County Fair.

Now, the 2017 St. Joseph-Ogden High grad will get to present the ribbons.

Smith, 18, an incoming freshman at the University of Illinois, was crowned the 2017 Champaign County Fair Queen on Sunday afternoon.

She grinned from ear to ear while the reigning queen, Jada Burr, placed the tiara on her head at City Center in Champaign.

"Becoming fair queen is a thrill because it allows me to be an ambassador for our county and a role model for young girls," Smith said.

Smith longed to be the county fair queen, but she said she never considered herself to be "the pageant type." In fact, Sunday's was the very first pageant she has ever entered.

"Who doesn't love the fair?" she said. "A few of my favorite things about the fair are helping out in the livestock barn and going to the motorcycle races with my dad.

"I can remember the summer I turned 8 years old. I was so excited because I was finally old enough to make baked goods to exhibit at the fair."

Showing baked goods at the fair was a family tradition started many years ago by her grandmother.

"Pulling my first all-nighter to bake cookies with my mother and my sister is the first memory I have of the fair," Smith said. "Year after year, I would compete against the same people in my age group. I would spend hours trying to determine what to bake to ensure myself a blue ribbon at the fair. Our kitchen was covered in flour, floor to ceiling.

"After we packed up the best cookies from each batch, we picked them up and took them to the fair to be judged. And then we waited for what seemed like forever, although it was only a few hours.

"I do have quite the collection of ribbons, but what seems more special to me than that is being able to take part in this tradition that my grandmother started."

Smith compiled the most points among nine contestants after delivering a speech, competing in physical fitness wearing her blue swimsuit, answering an impromptu question by talking about going to state in the "Star in Agribusiness" competition, and donning a Sherri Hill evening gown with blue sparkles.

"I'm most looking forward to handing out ribbons in the livestock shows and meeting a bunch of new people," she said.

Serving alongside Smith will be the new Champaign County Little Miss Fair Queen, Jordynn Huskisson of Fisher.

The 6-year-old Fisher Grade School student said she loves eating cotton candy and going on rides at the county fair and longs to become a doctor some day.

"The most fun part of the pageant was winning," Jordynn said.

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