Saturday night’s Miss Marigold Pageant ushered in a new queen. Sarah Wynn, 20, was crowned during the 44th festival pageant at F.M. Peterson Theater inside Pekin Community High School.

“I was not expecting this,” she said. “I’m looking forward to making a difference in our community. I’m eager to make a change.”

Wynn was up against five other young women including Chloe McCabe, Jaslyn Rettke, Julia McCammon, Piper Simpson and Kadee Allenbaugh. This year’s second runner-up is Kadee Allenbaugh and first runner-up is Julia McCammon. 

The evening kicked-off with an opening dance number choreographed by 2018 Miss Marigold Dakota Richmond. She and the six contestants danced to “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen. Then special guest Miss Southern Illinois, Autumn Sanderson, tap danced to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by The Charlie Daniels Band. 

Following her performance the pageant contestants had, arguably, the most nerve-wracking portion of the night: the on-stage questions. One by one, each young lady walked across the stage to the bowl of questions and drew one out. Richmond read aloud each question on the slips of paper drawn.

The four judges were looking for poise, stage presence and how each contestant thought on her feet in answering the random question.

McCabe was asked what she does to combat stress. She said she likes to grab a good book and a cup of tea. Rettke was next and was asked what she would showcase in Pekin. Her response was she would take people to the Pekin Park District because of all it offers.

Next on-stage was McCammon who was asked to describe what success looks like to her. She told the crowd that no matter where one comes from, one can achieve his or her dreams. Simpson was asked what she would tell her 10-year-old self. 

She said, “I would tell myself not to sweat the small stuff because I have a tendency to do that.”

Wynn was next and was asked what the qualities of a role model are. She said compassion and honesty are two important qualities. Last on-stage was Allenbaugh who was asked to tell the audience about a family tradition. She recounted getting new pajamas on Christmas Eve from her grandparents and opening presents on Christmas morning.

While the contestants got ready for the talent competition, former Miss Marigolds in the crowd were recognized along with the Grand Marshal, Tom Elliott. Winners from the Little Mr. and Miss Marigold Pageant introduced themselves on-stage with emcee Rusty Dunn. Classical Dance Academy dancers also performed.

Each contestant showed their different talents. McCabe wrote and gave her speech called “Beauty and the Media.” The Pekin Community High School student spoke about how much more there is to a pageant than someone’s looks. McCabe said pageants are a way to find confidence in oneself. 

Rettke, who has been playing an instrument since primary school, played “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran on her flute. Next was McCammon, who danced and sang her interpretation of Disney’s “Almost There.”

Simpson who is a 2018 PCHS graduate now attends Illinois Central College. American Sign Language is her primary form of communication. She gave an ASL performance to Bruno Mars’ song “Just the Way You Are.”

The fifth contestant was Wynn. She gave a spoken word performance of her interpretation of “For Teenage Girls” by Clementine von Radics. She spoke of female teen accomplishments urging girls not to let others’ doubts stop them from their own goals.

Music and performance intertwined at a young age, Allenbaugh said. She was the final contestant on stage and gave a theatrical rendition of the song “God Help the Outcasts” from the movie “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” 

Because this year’s Marigold Festival theme is Celebrating Marigold Heroes, the Miss Marigold contestants made a video of who their heroes are. They included Stephen Hawking, Harvey Milk, Chris Evans, a former teacher, and contestants’ parents.

The final competition of the night was the evening gown portion.

The crowd bid Richmond a farewell as she made her final walk across the stage as Miss Marigold. Then the awards were announced. The Community Service Award went to Wynn. Miss Congeniality and the Academic Achievement Award both went to Allenbaugh.

Scholarship money is given at the Miss Marigold Pageant. Over the 44 years, they have given more than $30,000 in scholarships. The second runner-up was awarded $250. The first runner-up receives a $500 scholarship. Miss Marigold is awarded a $2,500 scholarship.

Wynn looked surprised when her name was announced as the 2019 Miss Marigold. 

“I’m very happy for her,” Her father, Tim Wynn, said. “She worked so hard for this.”

Gina, her mother, said, “I was surprised. All of the girls were amazing. As a parent, you want your child to win, but all those girls did really well.”

There was a Queen’s reception in the cafeteria following the pageant.