Miss Henry County Fair Sierra Brown plans to share the spotlight of the upcoming state pageant.
While the 19-year-old would love to win the 2020 competition, held at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield on Jan. 16-19, she knows there are more pressing things to worry about: like the children she helps through “A Hand to Hold,” a locally based non-profit organization she started to help children battling severe illness.
“It’s something I started through my church,” said Brown, the daughter of Steve and Danyelle Brown of Cambridge. “This year we raised more than $2,000.” The proceeds of her organization, raised through fundraisers such as a recent coin drive at Annawan schools, go to the Children’s Hospital of Illinois. “We’ve had a lot of community support and help,” she said. Brown also is applying her passion for helping kids to her career choice. She is a sophomore at Illinois State University studying to become a speech language pathologist.
As contestant #33, she will compete at the state pageant in the afternoon of Jan. 18. Making it to the final round of 15 would have her compete in an additional round on Jan. 19. Brown said she isn’t nervous about the contest. “I can’t wait to be around so many other girls who have a passion for agriculture,” she said. “I’ve wanted to represent my county (as queen) since I was a little girl.”
She said she thinks the contest’s required speech will be one of her strengths. She has picked Dolly Parton as her topic, a celebrity whose talents and beliefs fall in line with her own. An avid musician and performer, Brown said she has looked up to Parton for years. “We have similarities,” she said, noting that Parton also has started a children’s literacy organization. “I’ve loved her music and her movies, and her character.”
Brown said it has not been lost on her how many people have assisted with her Henry County Queen duties over the past year, and spent time helping her prepare for the state contest. The latter has involved mock interviews and pageant practice with pageant director Kelly Patton, as well as assistance with wardrobe and contest fees from the Fair Board. “It takes a lot of people to make it happen,” she said. “We have put it a lot of diligent time.”