On a weekend when NFL teams battled for division championships, Miss Henry County Fair Queen Jamie Franck was vying for a title of her own ... and using a football comparison.
Franck, 21, of Cambridge, was in Springfield competing for the Miss Illinois County Fair Queen crown. She finished first runner-up to Miss Winnebago County, Alexi Bladel.
As part of the contest, Franck had to give a short prepared speech. She chose to speak about how the Super Bowl could not exist without agriculture.
“You’d have no tickets, because you’d need to grow the paper products. There’d been no football without the cow hide to make it and the turf comes from sod farmers,” said Franck. “Farmers are needed to make all of the food, including my favorite, chips and guacamole.”
Franck said she concluded her speech pronouncing the American farmer as “the real Super Bowl MVP.”
As the 2018 Henry County Fair Queen, Franck represented the county at the state level. Her goal, she said, “was to make Henry County proud throughout.”
A total of 71 women competed for the state crown. The group was split in half for preliminary rounds with the Top 15 advancing to the final.
“I wanted to make the Top 15, by doing that, I’d already won,” said Franck.
The 2016 Cambridge graduate spent five days in the state capital rehearsing, practicing and preparing for her time on stage.
Throughout her time there, she was surrounded by her “Team Henry,” a group of friends, family and eight former Henry County fair queens.
Having experienced the pageant themselves, the former fair queens did all they could to assist Franck.
“They did anything I needed — from putting lotion on my legs to steaming my dress,” said Franck.
And, when she took to the stage, “Team Henry” were in the fourth row, next to the runway, cheering loudly.
“I felt so relaxed throughout the entire weekend. My mentality was, no matter what, when I left I was still the Henry County Fair Queen,” said Franck.
During the contest, Franck met with the judges for a four-minute interview.
“The judges were so interesting and engaging and they made me feel comfortable,” she said. “It was really just a conversation.”
Franck said she was more nervous about the pop-up question portion of the pageant, in which contestants are asked random questions.
“I’d done my home work on current events and agriculture,” she said.
On Sunday evening, the pageant winner was crowned and her court named.
“The moment was unreal,” said Franck. “I wasn’t expecting to make the Top 5. Just to be a finalist was such a huge honor. I was beaming inside.”
Spending time with the other pageant contestants was a highlight, she said. “Everyone was so comforting and encouraging. There were so many outstanding women there. We really created a bond together.”
As the first-runner up, Franck received scholarship money, which she will use toward her studies at Western Illinois University’s Moline Campus where she is majoring in elementary education.
For fellow Henry County residents considering entering the fair queen contest, Franck said it’s an experience she recommends.
“There’s really nothing better you could do with your summer than represent yourself and represent your county,” she said.
Franck is the daughter of Robert and Julie Franck, of Cambridge.