Claudia VanOpdorp is looking forward to competing in the annual Miss Illinois County Fair pageant which runs Jan. 19-22 in Springfield.

Claudia VanOpdorp is looking forward to competing in the annual Miss Illinois County Fair pageant which runs Jan. 19-22 in Springfield.

“I’m excited about meeting all the girls and being able to be one of them up there on the stage,” said VanOpdorp, 18, of Annawan.

The Henry County native has experienced the competition in the past but from a different angle as a viewer seated in the audience.

VanOpdorp was crowned the 2016 Miss Henry County Fair last June at the Henry County Fair in Cambridge.

Winning the crown, VanOpdorp made history as the first Miss Henry County Fair to hold previous titles as Junior Miss (in 2010) and Little Miss (in 2004).

“I have watched for a lot of years,” she said.

VanOpdorp will be one of 72 county fair queens competing in the four-day state pageant being held at the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn Express. The event will be held in conjunction with the 107th annual meeting of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs, a statewide organization comprised of member county fairs from across the state.

The county fair queens will interview with a panel of judges on Friday, before competing on Saturday in physical fitness (swimsuit), speech and communication skills, and evening gown.

The preliminary competition is divided into two sessions with half of the contestants competing in the afternoon and the other half that evening. VanOpdorp will be contestant No. 7 in the afternoon competition which begins at 1 p.m. Saturday in the grand ballroom.

VanOpdorp plans on using a version of the speech she delivered at the county fair on what it has meant to her growing up in the millennial generation. She has been busy practicing her speech and taking part in mock interviews in preparation for the state competition.

She is the daughter of Anthony and Juliet VanOpdorp.

At the University of Illinois, where she started last fall, she is majoring in pre-dental biology. She is a 2016 graduate from Annawan High School. She was named the Elks Teen of the Year and is involved in Health Careers Club and the Big Buddies program.

Fifteen finalists will be announced Sunday evening at the beginning of the IAAF’s closing banquet and be judged again on stage before one is crowned of the 58th Miss Illinois County Fair.

Since being crowned Miss Henry County Fair, VanOpdorp has been busy within the community volunteering at events including the Henry-Stark Relay for Life, Jackie Carey English Demo Derby, visiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Midwest Affiliate in Peoria, and collecting items for the Braveheart Children’s Advocacy Center, in Cambridge.

The queen and her court served as volunteers at the Henry County Fair, attended the Illinois State Fair, and have made appearances at several area celebrations, parades, and other queen pageants.