SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The people who meet Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Addisyn Calloni as she travels around to county fairs throughout the state would never guess it, but speaking to large groups of people hasn’t always been a favorite thing for Calloni.
“I was just kind of a more quiet person. I kept to myself more. So, doing something like going out on a stage and speaking to hundreds of people was never something I dreamed I would be able to do or even do a good job at,” Calloni said.
Halfway through the Illinois county fair season and with the Illinois State Fair and DuQuoin State Fair coming up, Calloni said she has come to enjoy her duties as the state’s fair royalty and representative.
“The more I do it, the more comfortable it gets and the more I enjoy it,” she said.
Calloni was crowned as the 61st Miss Illinois County Fair Queen in January. She is from Royalton in Franklin County, but since Franklin County doesn’t host a county fair, contestants from Franklin County compete in the Miss Perry County Fair Pageant.
Calloni was crowned Miss Perry County Fair in June 2021.
Calloni will be a junior at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale when classes start in the next few weeks. As a member of the high school classes who lived and learned from home through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, she said she learned to turn some of the negatives of that experience into positive life lessons.
While Calloni’s high school class at Ziegler Royalton High School was able to have an in-person graduation — outside on the grade school parking lot — they missed out on many other moments together, including their junior prom and senior homecoming.
“I realized how much I took for granted every day, like seeing my friends at school. I know high school kids complain all the time about having to go to class and say, ‘Man, I wish I could just graduate already,’ but when I really think about it, there’s not anything I wouldn’t give to go back to my junior and senior years and just really cherish those moments with my classmates. That was kind of torn away from us and we never really got that full high school experience,” Calloni said.
Even though she and her classmates did return to actual classrooms, they were masked and social distanced, with many activities and get-togethers canceled.
“Going forward, I will try not to take those moments for granted and just appreciate the people I have in my life,” she said.
Some of those people include a former Miss Perry County Fair, Rachel Brock Marks, who is a friend of Calloni and her mother.
In 2019, Marks was crowned Mrs. Illinois. It was Marks who talked Calloni into competing in the fair queen pageant.
“She told me about it and it sounded like something that was interesting. It was a good scholarship opportunity and a good way to meet more people and do something that was super out of my comfort zone,” Calloni said.
Calloni said she was expecting to have fun and learn some public speaking skills, but to be selected into the top 15 of the state fair queen pageant was not something she expected.
“It was something I never thought I would get to do in the first place, to just even be there, at the state pageant. I would have been happy either way, because of all the friends I made and how much self growth I went through, just from being there. It’s nonstop for four days, so you really are pushing yourself to new limits every day,” she said.
Calloni wore a red gown for the final competition and she offered some wardrobe advice to future pageant participants.
“Wardrobe isn’t everything, but making sure you feel confident in what you are wearing is a big part and it translates to how people perceive you on stage and how you come across on stage. I think if you are happy in what you are wearing and you feel good about it, that is what comes across from you on stage,” she said.
Calloni’s “pageant posse” included Marks and Stacy Jones, the director of the Perry County Fair queen pageant. From hair to makeup, they took care of everything, including morning pep talks, each day of the state pageant.
“They were really great to have there and they were with me the whole time,” Calloni said.
Calloni plans to study medicine, with a goal of becoming either a physician or a physician’s assistant. She decided on that career many years ago and with a special inspiration.
“What first drew me to the medical field started a long time ago. My mom was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 11 years old. Growing up, I have spent countless days and made many trips with her to her endocrinology appointments. Those visits to hospitals just really interested me in health care. Not many 8-year-olds can say they sat at the breakfast table and watched their mom give herself a shot of insulin. I asked what was it for and it really intrigued me and it made me want to learn more about what she was struggling with and that made me want to go help other people,” she said.
Calloni said going through the COVID-19 pandemic did not dim her wish to work in health care. If anything, it intensified it.
“With the pandemic, a lot of people would say that I’m crazy for sticking with it, but that just showed me more how much we need it and how much health care matters,” she said.
On Aug. 11, Calloni will participate in the festivities to open the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. She will travel closer to home to open the 100th DuQuoin State Fair on Aug. 26.