Homer's Gracyn Allen wins crown at Champaign County Fair Queen pageant

Homer's Gracyn Allen wins crown at Champaign County Fair Queen pageant

CHAMPAIGN — As Gracyn Allen prepared for Sunday's Miss Champaign County Fair Queen pageant, the 17-year-old Homer girl attached an American flag to the back of her blue swimsuit for good luck.

The flag must have worked, as Allen emerged from a field of seven young women to be crowned the 2018 Miss Champaign County Fair Queen at City Center in downtown Champaign.

Allen appeared to be fighting back tears as she received a sash and had a tiara placed on her head.

"I was so surprised," grinned the new queen, the daughter of Greg and Tami Allen of Homer. "Becoming queen shows me that I have grown a lot and that I can be a role model for other people. I'm really happy."

Allen said the biggest challenge for her was delivering her talk about how she overcame her fear of public speaking.

"I believe in the future of agriculture," she said. "When I was a freshman, I was chosen to recite the FFA creed at the chapter banquet. Being a freshman, I was so nervous to get up and speak in front of so many people. Being in FFA has helped my confidence. It has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and to experience new things. And that is why I am able to stand here today giving a speech to all of you."

She said serving as fair queen is extra special to her because the Champaign County Fair honors agriculture, which happens to be the family business.

"I have developed an interest in agriculture, just like my grandpa, my dad and my two brothers have. Growing up in the country I watched my dad and brothers apply fertilizer to fields, and I watched farmers harvest and plant their crops."

She said that she originally never pictured herself pursing a career in agriculture.

"But after attending many FFA events, I realized there is so much more to the agriculture industry than just farming. There's animal science, business, communication and education. Now, I not only understand the future of agriculture, but I believe in my future in the agriculture industry."

The new queen, who also won Miss Congeniality, will be a senior this fall at Heritage High School, where she slams kills as an outside hitter for the volleyball team and fires strikes as pitcher for the softball team.

After she graduates from Heritage, Allen plans to study either agricultural business or nursing at the University of Illinois.

She has this advice to little girls who would someday like to follow her footsteps at county fair queen:

"You can do anything that you want if you put your mind to it," she said.

Joining Allen next week at the fair will be the newly crowned Champaign County Little Miss, Addilyn Bent-Perzee of Fisher, who emerged from a field of 11 girls.

One of the biggest rounds of applause was reserved for the first Champaign County Fair Queen, 1958 winner Lois Wood. She wasn't allowed to keep her crown back then, so the pageant presented her with a new crown she could keep. She received a standing ovation as she proudly walked down the runway once more.

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