Health science student is Miss Illinois County Fair Queen

September 24, 2010

Summer vacations usually consist of watching an excess of TV, trips to the beach, maybe a dull summer job. Most aren’t comprised of living on fair grounds, especially while wearing a crown, but that’s how junior Haley Freeman spent much of her summer.

Freeman, a health science and psychology major, was crowned Miss Illinois County Fair Queen in January.  That accolade comes with a demanding summer job -- travelling around the state to local fairs as a representative of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

“It’s been an amazing experience so far. I can’t believe the summer’s already over because the bulk of my responsibilities are in the summer, so it’s crazy to think it’s almost over. It’s been so great.”

The road to the title was lengthy.  Freeman was first crowned Menard County Fair Queen in the summer of 2009 before competing against 66 other contestants in the statewide competition in January.

Even with all the negative connotations that come with pageants, Freeman thinks the benefits outweigh the negatives, and has been reaping the benefits in her school life.

“I think there’s so many positive things that come from pageants, so some of the smaller negative things, like ‘Oh you’re being judged on your looks,’ the positives override them.”

The county fair pageant system has a unique scoring system, putting significantly more emphasis on academic prowess than any other category.  Physical appearance, judged in part by a swimsuit competition, only accounts for 10 percent of the final score.

There is no talent portion of the contest, either; rather, contestants must give a speech. For her speech, Freeman pulled from her educational experience from Bradley.

“I assist in the therapy for a boy with autism while I’m here at school.  His name is Joe, so my speech was about Joe,” said Freeman. “ It was about the phrase ‘thank you,’ and how people throw it around. It really means something when somebody who can’t verbally express ‘thank you’ demonstrates that to you.”

Freeman said the many public speaking opportunities she has had as a pageant contestant and queen have boosted her confidence and made her more assertive in class.

“I’ve greatly improved my public speaking skills,” said Freeman. “Every fair I’ve attended – 22 this summer – I’ve had to deliver a speech on stage.”  

While Freeman is disappointed that the bulk of her responsibilities are over, there is one thing she is looking forward to – the very welcomed change of attire.

“I haven’t worn makeup since I got back to Bradley. That’s what’s been really nice- not having to do anything.”