Hoopeston is the second-largest rural town in northern Vermilion County. It was founded in 1871 but was not incorporated until 1874. The area was originally settled as three towns: Hoopeston, North Hoopeston, and Leeds. Today, it has the distinction of being the only town by this name in the United States. Big Ten basketball coach Thad Matta, a former graduate of Hoopeston High School, and Frank Gustine, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates when he turned 19 in 1939, are both local legends. Jean Hixson earned her pilot’s license at 18 years of age and went on to serve with the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II and was a member of the NASA’s Mercury 13 astronaut program in 1961. Hoopeston is the home of the National Sweetcorn Festival and the National Sweetheart Pageant, a stepping-stone to the Miss America Pageant. To date, nine young women who have competed in Hoopeston’s National Sweetheart Pageant have gone on to win the Miss America Pageant.
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