Marion will truly become the "Hub of the Universe" this week, at least for the 46 young ladies who will grace the stage at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center.
The MCCC will again host the Miss Illinois and Miss Illinois Outstanding Teen pageants.
Miss Illinois will go on to represent the state in the Miss America competition.
Eight local hopefuls, representing the Williamson County area, gathered at the Marion Holiday Inn Express on Sunday afternoon for a meet-and-greet send off before what they describe as a "whirlwind week."
"I'm very excited and ready to compete," said Tara Kay Tanner, Miss John A. Logan College Outstanding Teen. The 13-year-old from Johnston City is the youngest from the area in the teen competition.
While many look at pageants and think it's all about beauty and talent, the preparation is much more intense.
"I've been working on the interview process every Wednesday since January," said Tanner.
Marion's Victoria Shore said the private interview is her favorite portion of the pageant because it gives her an opportunity to share her interests with the judges.
The current Miss Southern Illinois Outstanding Teen, Shore is looking forward to this week's competition.
"I'm extremely excited about kicking off Miss Illinois week," she said. "Each year brings something unexpected and it's always a wonderful experience."
Karen Sala, local coordinator for the pageants, says the girls work on public speaking skills, talent, make personal appearances, and also develop a platform.
Sala, who has coached several finalists and even one titleholder, said the competition is stiff.
"Many of the contestants have placed in past pageants," she said. "There is also a big age gap (18-24) and there is a lot of maturity that happens in those years."
Herrin's Darcy Dreyer admitted she is "a little nervous, but I'm ready to see how it all goes."
Dreyer is the current Miss John A. Logan.
The pageant competitions will begin on Wednesday and conclude with the crowning of the winners on Saturday.
For ticket information, visit the MCCC website at www.marionccc.com.