Adorned with crowns and sashes, Miss Heart of Illinois Kristy Maag and Outstanding Teen Aleigha Welty were taking in the smell of victory – and in the Midwest, it smells a lot like manure and fried foods.
Welty, a 15-year-old from Washington, and Maag, a 24-year-old from Morton, will be spending the next week helping out around the 61st annual Heart of Illinois Fair, which began at Expo Gardens on Friday afternoon. It runs through July 17.
After the duo cut the ribbon at the opening of the fair, one of their first duties was to bestow ribbons to the competitors at the draft horse show.
That is where they met up with a different type of royalty, the Illinois Draft Horse and Mule Association Queen.
Cheyenne Adams, a 17-year-old from Villa Grove, was selected to preside over the competition and hand out awards as well.
In jeans and a light yellow cowboy shirt embroidered with the image of a rodeo rider and the words “cruel girl” underneath, Adams is not quite comfortable with her new tiara and sash, but she’s willing to experience the good and bad her crown has to offer.
“I’m not the queen-y person, but it’s always good to try it out,” said an unsure Adams.
Adams’ long-standing relationship with the draft horse community was what made her stand out, according to Debbie Ruebush, co-superindentent of the draft horse show.
Adams helps out with her grandparents, parents, uncles and cousins, who are all involved with draft horse competitions.
“It’s a family deal with them,” said Ruebush.
Adams sees the positive of being with her family at horse competitions.
“It makes it more fun and not just boring all the time.”
Her official responsibility at the fair lasted only one evening, but she was given some help from Maag and Welty.
Both said they are animal lovers but did not seem to be too anxious about stepping out into the rough dirt arena in heels.
They didn’t last very long, said Adams.
“They thought they weren’t tall enough for the wagon.”
Adams ended up agreeing with them and took over most of the evening’s awards.
After Friday night, Welty and Maag will continue to work the fair, attending other horse shows and livestock competitions.
“There’s something for everyone out here,” said Maag, who hopes people will come out to see the animals, crafts and entertainment available.
The two are not sure what else they will be doing but are happy that one of their main responsibilities is to just walk around and talk to the fair-goers.
Welty admits being a little nervous about the week ahead.
“But in a good way,” she said. “I’m really excited.”