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The “home, sweet home” Laura Kaeppeler sang of Sunday night was America. But the “the land that she loves,” and was loved by on Sunday night, could just as easily have been her hometown of Kenosha.
Kaeppeler, Miss America 2012, performed with the Kenosha Pops Concert Band Sunday night at the Sesquicentennial Band Shell in Pennoyer Park to cap off a busy homecoming day.
A large crowd of more than 1,000 filled the area around the band shell to hear the Carthage College and St. Joseph High School graduate sing a selection of Broadway and patriotic standards with the band.
The reigning Miss America walked to the stage to a standing ovation and the fanfare of Bernie Wayne’s “The Miss America Pageant” from the Pops.
Due to her busy schedule, Kaeppeler had no time to rehearse with the band; instead she went over the music with Pops conductor Craig Gall Sunday morning before riding in the Kenosha Civic Veterans Parade in the afternoon followed by the concert.
Kaeppeler thanked the Pops for their playing, applauding them throughout the concert and saying “Bravo!” as they welcomed her on stage.
Kaeppeler said she was very thankful to be back in Kenosha; trips to her hometown have been few since she was crowned in January.
“I have been traveling for the past six months and there’s nothing like coming home,” Kaeppeler said. “It’s very nice to come home and see so many welcoming faces of family and friends.”
Kaeppeler introduced the songs she performed, giving background on selections such as George and Ira Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables.”
The musical appreciation was returned to Kaeppeler on Sunday.
The New Image Chorus barbershop group delivered flowers and sang an original song tailored to Kaeppeler and Kenosha, including a chorus of “I’m singing so loud of it/because I’m so proud of it/Kenosha, her hometown. ... That’s the best place in the land.”
As Kaeppeler finished her last song of the night, “God Bless America,” fellow Carthage College graduate David Duncan sang the lyrics (“There She is...Miss America”) to “Miss America Pageant.”
“Good night and have a happy Fourth of July,” Kaeppeler told the audience as she left.
Gall had predicted a record turnout for the Pops, celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, and Sunday’s crowd appeared to back up that claim.
Ruth Aldrich of Pleasant Prairie was among the guests looking forward to hearing, musically, from the reigning Miss America.
“It’s exciting to have a Miss America from Kenosha, and you have to see her if you can,” Aldrich said.
Miss Kenosha 2011 Ashley Dennis performed before Kaeppeler on Sunday, singing Nat King Cole’s “Orange Colored Sky” and Katy Perry’s “Firework” at the band shell.
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