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LAS VEGAS — Win or lose tonight, Miss Wisconsin Laura Marie Kaeppeler of Kenosha is prepared as any of the talented 53 contestants in tonight's live 2012 Miss America pageant telecast.
With seven straight days of grueling rehearsals, learning television stage cues, participating in three consecutive nights of preliminary competitions and taking part in the important interview with the pageant judges Monday night, now all that Kaeppeler can do is hope for the best.
Should she make the first cut of 15 semi-finalists, Kaeppeler will be able to compete for the Miss America crown during the remainder of the evening on national television.
Tonight’s pageant, broadcast live from the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino Auditorium, begins at 8 p.m. on ABC.
The pageant will be hosted by returning host Christopher Harrison and Brooke Burke-Charvet. The reigning Miss America 2011, Teresa Michelle Scanlan of Gering, Neb., the youngest woman to win the crown since 1937, will crown her successor.
For Kaeppeler, who turns 24 in March, it will also be the culmination of two years of taking part in the Miss America scholarship program at the local, state and now national level.
For the contestants, the road to Las Vegas this year was varied as the pageant entrants themselves. Kaeppeler's roommate in Las Vegas, Miss Alabama, Courtney Michelle Porter, 25, of Clay, Ala., a tap dancer, tried six times within seven years to finally make it to the Miss America stage, while 17 others won their state titles on their first attempt.
Kaeppeler, who was Miss Kenosha in 2010 and second runner-up to Miss Wisconsin that year, is among the dozen of repeat entrants this year at Miss America who won their state title on their second attempt. Kaeppeler won the state crown as Miss Southern Wisconsin.
Many Wisconsin fans learned this week that the Miss Southern Wisconsin pageant directors decided to retire after this year's pageant on April 15. Kaeppler is technically still Miss Southern Wisconsin 2011 as the sisters who oraganized the pageant did not ask a runner-up to take over the title when Kaeppeler won the Miss Wisconsin title last June.
"We hope to have a director succeed us so that the Miss Milwaukee and Miss Southern Wisconsin pageants can continue in the years to come", said CoryAnn St. Marie-Carls and Michele St. Marie-Boelkow. They have ran the Miss Milwaukee pageant since 1992 and began the Miss Southern Wisconsin pageant in 2000.
Regardless of what state banner the contestant wears at Miss America, the amount of pageant experience, pageant preparation or endless hours of coaching and training, they all compete at the same level once they arrive in Las Vegas.
Winning the third and final round of preliminary judging Thursday night was Miss New York, Kaitlin Patricia Monte, 22, of Pittsford, who won the swimsuit honors in a red two-piece swimsuit, while Miss Hawaii, Lauren Nicole Kealohilani Cheape, 24, of Miliani, Oahu, surprised and entertained the audience with a spirited high-energy jump rope routine to win the talent prize.
During Thursday's preliminary competition, Kaeppeler, the daughter of Susan Kaeppeler and Jeffrey W. Kaeppeler, both of Kenosha, competed in swimsuit competition with a white two-piece fitted suit and later competed in evening gown with a simple black gown with a beaded lace top.
Only the swimsuit and talent winners are announced on stage, and there were no double preminary winners this year.
Kaeppeler, a 2006 graduate of St. Joseph High School, won the Tuesday talent award with a classical vocal selection of "Il Bacio.” also earned a $2,000 scholarship for her efforts. She has studied voice since the fourth grade and is a 2010 music performance graduate of Carthage College. She currently does private voice coaching to local students.
While in Las Vegas, Kaeppeler was also able to speak about her pageant platform issue titled “Circles of Support: Mentoring children of incarcerated parents". However, she was not among the eight finalists for the Quality of Life award which honors contestants who heavily promote their platforms in their respective states.
Miss Kentucky, Ann Blair Thorton, 21, of Bowling Green, won the top platform honors for her efforts in promoting Alzheimer’s awareness and research the last few years. Miss New Hampshire, Regan Elizabeth Hartley, 21, of Dover, was first runner-up with a bullying awareness program, and Miss Michigan, Elizabeth Ann Werternberger, 22, of Dundee, was second runner-up for promoting her "Giving Hope to Children with Chronic Illness" platform.
The Quality of Life honors were judged by a separate panel of evaluators, and the outcome has no bearing on the actual pageant judging.
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