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Kenosha native wins Miss America preliminary prize

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By Jenny Carlson


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LAS VEGAS — Kenosha’s Laura Marie Kaeppeler sang her way to victory Tuesday night at the Miss America pageant.

The classical vocalist, who is the reigning Miss Wisconsin, edged 17 other women in her preliminary group that competed in the first of three rounds of talent competitions.

Kaeppeler, 23, who began voice studies in the fourth grade and majored in vocal performance at Carthage College, is the first Miss Wisconsin to win a preliminary talent award since Tina Marie Sauerhammer of Green Bay won the award with a classical cello solo in 2003.

However, it was another Wisconsin contestant who won a Miss America preliminary talent award that inspired Kaeppeler to sing "Il Bacio" ("The Kiss Waltz)" by Italian composer Luigi Arditi.

Prior to winning the Miss Wisconsin crown on June 18 in Oshkosh, she took vocal lessons from Miss Wisconsin 1999, Mary-Louise Kurey. Coincidently, the Brookfield woman used the same operatic song to win a preliminary talent award and later placed among the 10 finalists.

Kaeppeler is seeking to become the second Wisconsin contestant to win the Miss America crown. In 1972, Terry Anne Meeuwsen of DePere was named Miss America 1973.

Joining Kaeppeler as a preliminary winner Tuesday night was Miss Utah, Danice Elizabeth Olsen, 21, of Tooele, Utah, who won the preliminary swimsuit prize after posing in a red two-piece suit. She wins a $1,000 scholarship while Kaeppeler earned a $2,000 talent scholarship.

Those winning preliminary awards are not guaranteed a place among the 15 semifinalists; however, it is a strong indicator they are scoring well, especially the talent winners as talent is worth 35 percent of the overall score.

Kaeppeler will answer a question on stage tonight during the second round of preliminary competitions, and will compete in preliminary swimsuit on Thursday evening.

The only Kenosha County women to compete in the Miss America pageant:

— Christina Anna Thompson of Pleasant Prairie in 2008, who placed among the eight finalists.

— Joya Josephine Zamora of Kenosha in 2000, who won a non-finalist talent award.

— Kimberly Totdahl of Racine in 1989. She was the only Miss Kenosha to have won the Miss Wisconsin crown.

Miss America 2012 will be crowned at the conclusion of the pageant telecast at 8 p.m. Saturday on ABC.

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