There are 68 Miss contestants, lower than last year but similar to 2015, the first year Vanbros took over Illinois. We already have a contender for best sash title of the year, Vanbros contestants can use local sponsors for their title and this year we have a "Miss Curry Hut"! In Teen, there is also "Miss The Wonder City". Teen contestants are up ten on last year but still well below years where there was 100+ in every pageant. Combined there are nine fewer contestants than last year but fifteen more than 2015.
It's been a decade since a newcomer won the Miss Illinois USA title - the last was Mia Heaston in 2007 and before her Christina Lam in 1999 - although my 1990s records are so full of holes I can't guarantee that may not have competed previously. In the Teen division there is less of a trend, although quite a few of the recent winners had been a non-finalist at some point before winning - Megan Riesner (2015) in 2013, Miranda Fenzau (2014) in 2011 (followed by two years as first runner-up), Alex Plotz (2012) also in 2011, Lexi Atkins (2010) in 2009 and Stacie Juris (2008) in 2007. So girls, if you don't place this year or you've missed the cut previously, don't give up hope!
Returning runners-up in Miss are 2016 second runner-up & 2015 1RU Gina Melchiorri, also a two-time runner-up in Iowa, 2016 & 2015 third runner-up Gemma Berto, who will be hoping to break the 3RU hoodoo of the past two years, and 2015 4th runner-up Gabriella Roth who was a semi-finalist last year. 2015 Teen first runner-up Kaitlyn Baughmann is competing in Miss for the first time. 2011 Teen 3RU Shenell Randall and past semi-finalist Shenna Woods have returned to compete in Illinois after both making the semi-finals in Missouri last year. Other 2016 Illinois semi-finalists who are back are Megan Vladic, Crystal Sims, Ashley Kamins and Abigail Taylor.