- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

COFFEEN, Ill. (AP) - Newly crowned Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Summer Robbins‘ first pageant experience at age 5 set the stage for years of show experience that honed her skills.

Robbins, 18, of rural Coffeen, won the 1990 Little Miss Old Settlers Pageant in Hillsboro playing “God Bless America” on the violin.

“After (my parents rented) me a violin, later in the year I decided I wanted somewhere to play. I wanted to show off my new talent,” she said.

“The Little Miss Old Settlers Pageant had a talent, so I desperately talked my mom into letting me compete. … Found out I loved it.”

Winning the Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Pageant in Springfield, besting more than 70 contestants, is the latest in Robbins‘ pageant career that took off when she was 9 and won a statewide competition through the National American Miss.

She views her new one-year reign representing Illinois’ county fairs as a chance to expand her horizons.

“Now I’ll have the opportunity to travel the state representing agriculture and advocating for agricultural fairs. I’ll reign over the state fair as well as the Du Quoin State Fair,” said Robbins, the 2013 Miss Montgomery County Fair Queen.

Building self-confidence

A freshman honor student studying finance in the College of Business at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Robbins is known as a leader.

The 2013 Hillsboro High School graduate was class president from 2011 to 2013 and was a Land of Lincoln Honor Flight guardian in 2012 and a Daughters of the American Revolution representative last year.

Now, she chairs the College Relations Committee, serving as a liaison between the U of I’s College of Business and the Illinois Business Council.

Her pageant experiences have sharpened her leadership skills and built her self-confidence, Robbins said, noting that the National American Miss competition “ended up taking me to the national pageant, the actual National American Miss pageant in Anaheim, California.”

“That’s definitely what started off, what I would say, my ‘pageant career’ just because that (pageant) system is very focused on building self-confidence in young women.

“It definitely helped me improve on my interview skills and people skills.”

The emphasis placed on building confidence in an interview was a major part of the pageant systems in which Robbins has competed.

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