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Miss Lake County Fair: Beyond the crown and sash

Contestants Quinnlyn Meadowcroft, Brittany Gallarneau and Teaghan Callaway, all 19, of Lake Villa wait to hear who the winner is of the Miss Lake County Fair Queen Pageant at the Lake County Fair on July 25 at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake. Callaway was the winner.
Contestants Quinnlyn Meadowcroft, Brittany Gallarneau and Teaghan Callaway, all 19, of Lake Villa wait to hear who the winner is of the Miss Lake County Fair Queen Pageant at the Lake County Fair on July 25 at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake. Callaway was the winner.

GRAYSLAKE – Teaghan Callaway joined the ranks of 62 other women as the 2018 Miss Lake County Fair.

The 19-year-old Lake Villa resident accepted her new title from outgoing queen Grace Keller on July 25 and immediately assumed her responsibilities of her role as the hostess of the 90th annual Lake County Fair.

Callaway is no stranger to the Lake County Fair royal court. In previous years, she won both the Little and Junior Miss categories. While the tiara for Miss Lake County Fair came with many more obligations, Callaway credits the queens before her with preparing her for the duties her new title entailed.

“I had to go to different events like the Lumberjack Show, the livestock auction, the demolition derby, the rodeo, the monster truck rally,” she said. “I had to go introduce myself to the event coordinators and talk with them before I was able to get us in to do introductions. The Miss has more of a responsibility of dealing with the logistics of everything that’s going on. Not only that, but I also have the responsibility of learning about the fair.”

As Miss Lake County Fair, Callaway is tasked with promoting Lake County’s agricultural industry and educating the public about the vital role agriculture plays within the community. She will take the knowledge she gained from the fair with her to Springfield to compete against other county fair queens for the Miss Illinois County Fair title.

Callaway has been competing in pageants since she was 6 years old, moving up through the ranks in the Lake Villa pageant circuit before moving onto the Lake County fair pageant. She said these pageants have been “instrumental in launching the success of [her] future and preparing for future careers.”

A sophomore at Dartmouth University, Callaway has her sights set on a career in investment banking and has recently accepted a two-year internship with J.P. Morgan. She credits her experience in pageants for the confidence that allowed her to outshine other applicants during the several rounds of interviews she went through to secure her internship.

“I’d never been more comfortable in my life,” she said, recalling her conversations with other applicants, several of whom confessed their nerves about the impending interviews. “I’ve been doing interviews since I was 6 years old. I’ve been asked a wide range of questions, questions that I knew how to answer right away because they’re personal and I’m very passionate about and questions that have stumped me along the way and I struggled to formulate an answer. But throughout all these interview experiences, I’ve not only refined by public speaking abilities, I’ve learned to be able to talk on my feet and be able to talk to anybody about anything, really.”

Alyce Brownlee has been involved with the Lake County Fair pageant for more than 30 years, first as a chaperone and as the current pageant director. She said she marvels at the girls she’s had the opportunity to work with throughout the years, and Callaway is no exception.

“She’s just got this laid-back demeanor about her,” she said. “I always marvel at these kids because I’m kind of a hyper character that’s trying to cover it up all the time — making sure they’re here on time or there on time but trying not to look like I’m a crazy lady. They’re just pretty amazing; I try to learn from them.”

If Callaway wins the Illinois State Fair title, she will be the third woman from Lake County to do so since 1956. The last woman to earn that title was Theresa Connor in 1980. Keller – the 2017 Miss Lake County Fair – was a Top 15 finalist.

Brownlee explained that Miss Illinois County Fair is tasked with traveling to as many county fairs as possible, but her very first job is to address the State Senate and House of Representatives about the importance of these fairs and request continued funding and support for them.

“I’ve gotten to sit there beside our two girls who won from Lake County and talk about shivers,” she recalled. “I mean, what did I do when I was that age?”

Brownlee said she works tirelessly with these girls to break the stereotype surrounding pageantry and pageant competitors, reiterating to any organization that invites her misses to attend an event that they’re not “window dressing.”

“That’s what I always tell them at the fair even. It’s not the crown and the sash. … We’ve got smart young ladies here who can contribute,” she said. “That’s what we’re doing. Don’t make them look like fluff, standing in the background with a silly smile on their faces wearing the crown and sash.”

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