For the first time in 20 years, Miss Shelby County placed among the top 15 contestants at the Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Pageant in Springfield.

Olivia Telgmann, of Strasburg, juggles nursing school at Lake Land College, 4H Club and reigning as Miss Shelby County 2018.

In 1999, the pageant selected the top 12 contestants. Now, the judges select the top 15.

Twenty years ago, Lisa Shumard Shelton was Miss Shelby County and was selected as a top 12 contestant at the state pageant. This year, Telgmann was selected as a top 15 contestant out of 71 girls at the same competition.

Pageant director Sara Long says this is significant to Shelby County, especially because this is only the fifth year the county has been back in the pageant system.

"We didn't really have a queen for 15 years, so in 2014, I brought the pageant back," she said.

Long, former Miss Shelby County 1989 and sister of Shelton's, said it was time for Shelby County to offer such a great opportunity to girls again.

Through the '80s and '90s, the pageant was sporadic. There were a few years here and there where the county had representation and some when there was none, due to lack of consistency.

Prior to competing in the Miss Shelby County pageant, Telgmann competed and won the Jr. Miss Strasburg and the Miss Strasburg pageants.

Telgmann said for the past couple weeks she practiced tons of interview questions. She focused on current events, because the top 15 would have to be on stage and answer three questions pertaining to matters happening in the country.

In addition to practicing interview questions, Telgmann completed probably the most fun part: shopping for outfits, a gown and a swim suit.

The competition has several categories: interview, swimsuit, evening gown and personal speech, which is a one-minute speech on a topic of the girl's choice.

"The bulk of those points come from the interview and speech, so it's largely based on the communication skills of the young women," Long said.

Telgmann arrived on Thursday to the Crowne Plaza hotel and convention center in Springfield in order to practice and rehearse.

"Our interviews were on Friday and they went great," Telgmann said. "And then Saturday was the day that I did the preliminaries. I was in the afternoon group."

Once it was over, she said she felt confident but was still unsure if she would become a top 15 contestant.

"I was happy with myself and I couldn't have done any better," Telgmann said. "I gave it my all."

On the final day of the competition, Telgmann said whether she got in the top 15 or not, she was still proud of herself. "I gave it my best, and it was just an experience of a lifetime."

This was the 60th year for the pageant, and Shelby County had not placed since 1999.

"Whenever they called my name, I was just in awe and I couldn't believe it. Shelby County has not had a top 15 finalist for 20 years," Telgmann said.

Long said Telgmann is a "beautiful representative for our county."

Telgmann is a 4-H member and "truly is the farm girl turned fair queen," Long said. "She's just been a tremendous representative of both the Shelby County 4-H and the Shelby County Fair."

Telgmann has a background in agriculture and is passionate about it. She has been showing cows in the Shelby County Fair since she can remember.

"(The state pageant) was just a great experience, because I got to meet so many girls from so many different walks of life," she said. "The reason why I was driven to do the pageant was to represent agriculture."

Representing the county, "means so much" to Telgmann. "It's such a privilege," she said.

A reception to honor Telgmann will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Strasburg Community Building.

Kennedy Nolen can be reached at kennedy.nolen@shelbyvilledailyunion.com or 217-774-2161 etc. 1.

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