Serena Strullmyer, 21-year-old daughter of Joe and Sherri Strullmyer of Altamont, gasps in pure joy as her name is announced late Tuesday evening. She has just been awarded the title of 2018 Effingham County Fair Queen.
Strullmyer, along with five other Queen candidates, competed over the course of a three-hour Queen and Little Miss pageant at the track of the Effingham County Fair. Queen hopefuls performed a group dance alongside retiring 2017 Queen Maria Lueken; posed in a physical fitness competition; addressed crowds in a minute-long speech and pop question segment; and showed off a series of beautiful evening dresses to cap off the night.
Several other awards were given to the runners-up. Kirstin Lindsey, 18-year-old Effingham resident, won the People’s Choice award as decided by monetary donations deposited in the Secretary’s Office. 20-year-old Shayna Phillips, also of Effingham, was the leader in ticket sales, and 20-year-old Anna Wines, Effingham, was named as the first runner-up. Queen Strullmeyer was also the leader in t-shirt sales.
Each candidate’s score was based on their performance in sub-categories of competition. 35 percent of their marks were based on a four-minute interview held earlier in the day; fitness, eveningwear, and stage speaking ability each accounted for 20 percent; and the final five percent came from the candidate’s response to a pop question, selected at random from a group of judge-written prompts. The selected question, read to each candidate, asked which American freedom the candidates value most, and why.
A Royal Tradition
This year’s Queen pageant was a landmark occasion: the 60th in a line of well-regarded pageants. Former Effingham county Queens—including 1991 Queen Shelley Durbin-Witteborg, 2000 Queen Erin Birch-Wendling, 2006 Queen Danielle Phillips-Alwerdt, 2008 Queen Kaitlin Hinkle-Witges, 2010 Queen Christin Hartke, 2011 Queen Melissa Mellendorf-Goldsterin, 2012 Queen Gina Thoele-Bahl, and 2013 Queen Breeanna Strauch, all appearing on stage for a short time—were recognized for their past reigns. Effingham county’s pageant system has produced five State Fair Queens, two second runners-up, 11 Top Twelve State candidates, two Top Fifteen State candidates, and one Best Interview award winner.
Additionally, 26 visiting Queens, Jr. Misses, and Little Misses were on hand to wish candidates well before the award ceremony. One of these well-wishers was 2017 Jr. Miss Effingham County Fair Queen Elizabeth Weidner, appearing under her 2018 Beauty of Hope title.
As part of her final moments as the reigning Queen, Maria Lueken took part in another County Fair tradition by accepting a memory ring presented by Fair Board president Phil Hartke. Lueken then delivered her farewell speech, dedicated to the many people who supported her reign and helped her become who she is today.
“It was an honor,” said Lueken as she wrapped up her speech, “to represent my favorite place on Earth—my home.”
Ladies in Waiting
Fifteen years from now, Effingham County may need to hold multiple Queen pageants: an impressive crop of 33 kindergarten-aged girls appeared as part of the Little Miss pageant.
Little Misses were divided into three groups, each accompanied onstage by their besuited escorts Charles Witteborg and Hunter Ring, both rising third grade students. All participants were given trophies, sashes, crowns, and commemorative photos with 2017 Queen Maria Lueken and 2018 Jr. Miss Annie Frost. No individual awards were given to Little Miss participants.