WOODSTOCK – After a day filled with events such as a swine carcass class, poultry show and a K-9 demonstration, why not end it with a battle for the crown? The county fair, a perfect backdrop for the event.
Amid the dirt mounds of the grandstand sat a small stage where 11 contestants vied for the 2014 Miss McHenry County Queen title. In its 66th year, the pageant still brings drive, intelligence and pretty dresses to the stage.
Friends and family members of the contestants filled the bleachers, some wearing T-shirts with their contestants name on it.
The master of ceremonies, Stew Cohen of STAR 105.5, led the event with musical performances by Project Two during intermissions.
The pageant began with a presentation of the contestants in their formal wear and the opportunity for each contestant to speak about a topic that was important to them. The topics of volunteering, county pride and embracing confidence were on the agenda. Some quoted their influences such as Ghandi, and encouraged others to be an [Thomas] Edison.
The presentation of the candidates in their swimsuits followed before narrowing it down to the top five.
The final five were asked what they would say to people who do not believe pageants are a good influence on young women.
Finalist Denielle Alvarez, of Huntley, was frank.
“Maybe you’ve been watching the wrong pageants,” Alvarez said.
Yesenia Mercado, of Harvard, boasted of the pageant’s success in teaching her good interview skills, poise and confidence, which she plans to put in her arsenal for future job hunting.
In the end, the sash and crown went to Algonquin resident Stephanie Vargas, who also took home the Miss Photogenic title.
“We are overjoyed that she won,” said Vargas’ mother, Susie. “We’re very proud, and it’s wonderful to see her blossom into the young lady I always knew she would be.”
Vargas couldn’t stop smiling after the announcement and is confident her reign will be a success.
“It’s like a job interview and I fit the part,” Vargas said.
Vargas said she plans to volunteer and reach out to children to teach them to be themselves. She takes the same approach when it comes to her pageant strategy.
“Don’t be who you think they want you to be. Be who you are,” said Vargas.
Vargas also encouraged the crowd to, at the end of the day, be human. That’s all you have to be.
While the night welcomed a new queen, it also bid farewell to longtime pageant director Linda Zielinski, who will pass her duties onto McHenry resident Marisa Merkel after a 35-year-run. Through misty eyes Zielinski gave thanks to her family and those that helped her keep the pageant running for all these years.
“The pageant will go on,” said Zielinski.
Vargas will go on to represent the McHenry County Fair Association in January at the Miss Illinois County Fair Contest in Springfield.