CHARLESTON -- Newly crowned Miss Coles County Alexis Kiser has already started planning for her year of promoting her home county at pageants and parades across Illinois.
The 18-year-old said she also plans to promote her hometown of Oakland, her chosen career field in agriculture education, and her passion for competing in pageants.
Kiser was crowned during the Coles County Fair Queen pageant Sunday evening. Since then, she has been handing out award ribbons and greeting visitors to the fair alongside Junior Miss Coles County Laney Wright and Little Miss Mia Stephen. Kiser said she has enjoyed spending time with the two younger girls, getting to know them and sharing laughter.
"We absolutely have a connection with each other and it's been amazing," Kiser said.
As the Coles County Fair continues this week, Kiser said they look forward to going behind the scenes at the truck and tractor pull, harness racing, demolition derby and bull riding at the grandstand. After the fair, Kiser said she will still be spending time with her fellow Coles County royalty as they attend pageants and parades in other communities.
Kiser's responsibilities also will include attending Illinois County Fair Queen Day on Aug. 9 at the Illinois State Fair and competing in the Miss Illinois pageant on Jan. 16-19 in Springfield. Kiser said scholarship money and other prizes for the county pageant and wardrobe funding for her state pageant entry have been made possible by community support.
"We have so many generous sponsors and donors in Coles County," Kiser said. "I am so blessed."
On Sunday, Kiser was contestant number No. 3 in the Coles County pageant. She also had this same number when she was crowned Miss Oakland on May 19. Kiser said she has since decided that "3" is her new lucky number.
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Kiser said she found out from Coles County pageant organizers that she is just the seventh Oakland resident to be crowned during the history of the event. This pageant reached its 60th anniversary last year.
"I feel completely honored to represent Oakland," Kiser said. "The love and support I have gotten from my community is amazing."
Kiser graduated from Oakland High School in May and started taking classes this summer at Lake Land College. Kiser said she plans to transfer, possibly to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, to pursue a degree in agriculture education.
"I want to teach at Oakland High School because that is where I grew up," said Kiser, who was a member of this school's FFA chapter.
As Miss Coles County, Kiser said she will get to share her love of agriculture and FFA. Kiser said she also will encourage other girls to compete in pageants and be "confident in their own skin." Kiser said she hopes that Coles County will follow Miss America's example by eliminating the swimsuit portion of its pageant, adding that this discourages some girls from competing.
Kiser said she has enjoyed competing in pageants in Oakland, Coles County, and Moultrie-Douglas counties. She said her experiences in these pageants have helped prepare her for her future education and career plans.
"They really helped with my self-confidence and they really prepared me for interviews and public speaking," Kiser said.