Morgan Metz, who learned to drive on the state fairgrounds, a rite of passage for many area teens, now tools around the fairgrounds in a car with her name on it.
If someone would have told Metz five years ago that she would be the Illinois State Fair Queen, she would have laughed.
Metz, 19, of Sherman, is the daughter of Craig and Lynne Metz. She actually entered the Miss Sangamon County pageant after someone saw her picture on her mother's desk and urged Lynne to have Morgan enter.
The official hostess of the Springfield and DuQuoin state fairs, Metz lived on the fairgrounds during the state fair, and she traveled throughout Illinois promoting county and state fairs.
"They asked me during my final interview at the pageant what this would mean to me, and I told them I wouldn't know until I had time to reflect on my year. So far," she said in an interview in August, "I am loving every minute of it."
There is no argument that Metz is lovely, but she's also articulate. Marketing the state and its fairs is right up her alley because marketing is part of her double major of finance and entrepreneurship at the University of Dayton.
When she was interviewed for the Illinois State Fair Queen, Metz said she was asked if she were hired as a marketing executive for the county fair, what would she do.
"So I thought back to something I learned in a marketing class, and it was the four Ps - price, product, placement and promotion. So I said I would improve the product and help all youth understand and learn farming," Metz said. One of her volunteer projects is HAYLOFT, Helping All Youth Learn of Farming Techniques.
HAYLOFT projects around the United States range from teaching kids about organic farming in Oregon to helping children in heavily urban areas plant gardens.
Being queen of the state fair is an opportunity of a lifetime, Metz said.
"I grew up in Springfield, and I came to the fair every year," she said with a big smile. "Funnel cakes are my favorite thing to eat. But I really enjoy meeting the young people. You can be driving around in a golf cart on the fairgrounds and you see the little girls and their eyes get so big. It's that whole princess thing as soon as they see the crown."
"And, you get to keep the crowns."
But it's not just crowns, funnel cakes and getting a car with her name on it for a year. It's a lot of work.
For 10 weeks Metz travels to about 30 county fairs throughout the state. She addresses the House and Senate during Agricultural/Legislative Day at the Capitol. The queen greets dignitaries during the fair, perhaps participates in a pie-eating contest or two and meets the musical acts.
There are dozens and dozens of radio and television interviews.
"I think I can think a lot faster on my feet now," she said. "There is a lot of public speaking, and I've become much more competent at that. This was a huge growing experience and such a positive experience. I would tell anyone who might have an opportunity to be in a pageant to go for it."
In her pageants, it was swimsuit, evening gowns and interviews. But Metz said when she was interviewing for something at college and talking about how much marketing was involved in being the state fair queen, she still got the inevitable question: "What's your talent?"
Her talent is loving the state and talking about it and agriculture. Although, practicing walking in high heels and not tripping over an evening gown also helped, she said. And she hands out some practical advice: "Make sure your tiara is on straight for pictures."
Everyone who is queen is known in state fair history as a queen forever.
"It's kind of neat. I'll always be known as Queen Morgan," Metz said as she flashed her winning smile. "But this is something I will remember forever, and I am so grateful for the experience and for all the support I've gotten."
Story published Friday, September 4, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 5 )