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There she was, Miss Wisconsin, giving her hometown crowd a sneak preview of the act she will bring to the Miss America pageant in a little less than three weeks.
It was the scene late Monday afternoon at St. Joseph Catholic Academy, where a few hundred people turned out for a sendoff for Laura Kaeppeler a 2006 graduate of the school.
Kaeppeler brought the audience to its feet with a performance of the aria she will sing and modeling of the evening gown that she will don in the Jan. 14 national pageant.
Afterward, she greeted a long receiving line of supporters, taking pictures and signing autographs in front of a large red banner displaying a crown and reading, “Best wishes Laura.”
Nearby, at a memorabilia table, supporters could purchase t-shirts emblazoned with Kaeppeler’s picture and the slogan “Winsconsin,” or make a donation to aid Kaeppeler’s pageant expenses and the Children’s Miracle Network.
“I’m just excited,” Kaeppeler said of her Miss America journey, to begin Jan. 5. “I’m looking forward to it.”
As for how she expects to fare on the national stage, Kaeppeler, 23, said she believes that’s largely out of her hands at this point.
Supporters of Kaeppeler were more apt to project success.
“I think she’s going to win,” said Miss Kenosha 2011 Ashley Dennis. “She’s got everything it takes, and she deserves it.”
Mary Lou Lewis, a member of the Miss Wisconsin organization board of directors and a 50-year veteran of the pageant scene, said Kaeppeler brings all of the necessary ingredients to the stage, though Lewis cautioned that the ever-changing panel of Miss America judges can be a tough group to read.
“We always hope for the best, but we never know,” Lewis said. “She’s got the look. She’s got the talent. But who knows what the judges are looking for?”
What they will see and hear from Kaeppeler will include a vocal performance of “Il Bacio” by 19th-century Italian composer Luigi Arditi, a custom evening gown by designer Tony Bowles and a platform advocating for children of incarcerated parents.
Monday’s dry run in the St. Joseph auditorium was something of a full circle for Kaeppeler.
The 2010 Carthage College music education graduate is a local Catholic school alumnus who, according to her mother, Sue Kaeppeler, appeared in her first St. Joseph musical — a production of “Oklahoma” — as a third-grader.
On Monday, in addition to performing her Miss America number, Kaeppeler sang a duet of “For Good” from the musical “Wicked” along with Miss Wisconsin 2000 Joya (Zamora) Santarelli, another St. Joseph graduate.
The reigning Miss Wisconsin acknowledged the importance of the place in her remarks to the appreciative audience.
“This is a stage that I grew up performing on ... and it’s really where my love affair with the arts began,” Kaeppeler said.
The 91st Miss America pageant
Pageant finals are the evening of Jan. 14.; preliminary competitions will be held nightly Jan. 10-12.
Planet Hollywood Theatre for the Performing Arts, Las Vegas
The Jan. 14 finals will be broadcast live on ABC
Tickets to the pageant remain available. For more information, go to www.missamerica.org.
The local connection:
Kenosha native Laura Kaeppeler will compete as Miss Wisconsin.
A historical note:
If you think January in Las Vegas sounds like the wrong time and place for the pageant, you have good reason. The pageant was held in September in Atlantic City, N.J., from its inception in 1921 (except for 2001, when it was postponed until October) until 2006, when it moved west.
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