Miss Wisconsin Named

Jun 26, 2006

New Miss Wisconsin Meghan Coffey is a 22-year-old graduate of Marquette University. She graduated with a major in biomedical engineering and also plans to attend law school. As the winner, she receives a $10,000 cash scholarship, other prizes, and a trip to compete in the Miss America pageant. She says she welcomes the chance to go on a speaking tour throughout the state pushing her Start a Heart platform — which focuses on the lifesaving importance of making automatic external defibrillators available in schools and other organizations. Her platform was something personal… it resulted from something in her own family, when a cousin survived an emergency cardiac arrest. Tracy Gest, last year’s Miss Wisconsin, also competed as Miss New Berlin.

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Editorial: An Oshkosh welcome to Miss Wisconsin event

Oshkosh welcomes the women here for the 2006 Miss Wisconsin scholarship competition. No finer showcase of young talent can be found this time of year in one place. Oshkosh feels honored to continue to play the host to this wonderful event.

Of course, we’ll know late Saturday who will succeed Miss Wisconsin 2005 Tracy Gest.

But it’s more than that. Someone on stage in Oshkosh this weekend may become the next Miss America. That’s what makes the weekend pageants, parades and public events such a powerful moment for Oshkosh. Something big may start here.

Thankfully, it’s no longer acceptable to refer to the competition as just a pageant. The Miss Wisconsin and Miss America competitions have evolved with the times. The modern event is a blend of graded performances and public events of approbation for their hard work. A demonstration of talent, projection of confidence and taking a stand for a cause round out the competition.

As a community, we should get behind this competition with all the vigor we have in past years. Let’s cheer these young women in the preliminary competitions. Let’s encourage them to keep living lives of leadership at the coronation reception Saturday night at the Convention Center — and long after the weekend has ended.

The victory of the Miss Wisconsin scholarship competition isn’t in who gets to wear the crown. The victory is that every woman who came to Oshkosh is a woman who will make a difference in the future.

The Final Thought: The Miss Wisconsin 2006 scholarship competition matters because it gives young women and men of the state positive role models.


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President Bush Appoints Miss America 2001 Angela Baraquio Grey To Civic Participation Council

By The Miss America Organization, 6/21/2006 2:49:05 PM

President George W. Bush has designated Jean Case, the CEO of the Case Foundation, as Chair of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation and appointed four new members — actress Janine Gauntt Turner of Texas, Miss America 2001 Angela Baraquio Grey of Hawaii, business entrepreneur and “Apprentice” winner Kelly Perdew of California, and former college and professional football star Daniel Wuerffel of Florida.

Miss America 2001 Angela Baraquio Grey

“We’re pleased that the President has made these appointments so that we can continue to strengthen volunteer service in America,” said the Council’s Executive Director, Kari Dunn. “This is a critical time for advancing the service agenda, and I am confident that Jean Case and the newest members of the Council will help us expand opportunities for all Americans to serve their communities and country.”

The new appointees join a dynamic group of 21 leaders from a variety of fields in the private, public, and non-profit sectors, including business, entertainment, athletics, education, philanthropy and government. The Council, established by President Bush in January 2003 and renewed last year, is charged with promoting and recognizing the contributions that Americans of all ages and backgrounds are making to their communities through volunteer service.

Angela Perez Baraquio was an elementary Physical Education teacher and Athletic Director at Holy Family Catholic Academy when she won the title of Miss America 2001.

Angela Baraquio Gray, Miss America 2001

During her year of service, she traveled over 20,000 miles a month on a national speaking tour entitled, “Character in the Classroom: Teaching Values, Valuing Teachers.”

Baraquio is the Founder and President of the Angela Perez Baraquio Education Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes character education and provides scholarships and grants to students and teachers.

In addition to her foundation, Angela is also featured as a Host on the entertainment talk show, “Living Local with the Baraquios,” with three of her six sisters. She is active in volunteer work with a number of other non-profit organizations, and has appeared in television campaigns for the Hawaii Foodbank and Catholic Charities.

She is also the recipient of the “2003 Women Helping Women Award” from the Soroptomist International Club and the 1st “Hawaii’s Filipina Young Woman of the Year 2004” Award.

Her inspirational story, “Give It a Try,” is published in the book Chicken Soup from the Soul of Hawaii.

Other Council members include NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne, journalist Cokie Roberts, entertainer Art Linkletter, and singer Hilary Duff.

In his January 2002 State of the Union Address, President Bush called on all Americans to make a difference in their communities and across the globe through volunteer service. He created USA Freedom Corps, an Office of the White House, to help Americans answer his Call to Service.

Visit http://www.volunteer.gov or call 1-877-USA-CORPS to find an existing volunteer service opportunity and to find more information about volunteer service.

“Please join me in congratulating Angie on her newest appointment. We are proud of our Miss America 2001 Angela Baraquio Grey and her outstanding accomplishments, ” stated Art McMaster.

The Miss America Organization is one of the nation’s leading achievement programs and the world’s largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women.

Last year, the Miss America Organization and its state and local organizations made available more than $45 million in cash and scholarship assistance.

For more information, go to http://www.missamerica.org

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Tim Kretschmann recognized on OnMilwaukee.com

OnMilwaukee.com recognized founder of TKPNPodcast.com and host of the PageantCast and local radio program, the Stimmung Stunde, as one of the “100 Milwaukeeans you need to know.” Check it out on http://onmilwaukee.com/buzz/articles/100people2.html

All of us over here would like to thank OnMilwaukee.com for this mention and the mention last year (Kretschmann’s radio hour helps maintain German traditions) and wish them continued success.

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Roker makes beauty call on Miss USA

Miss USA 2006, Tara Elizabeth Conner, celebrates her win.
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Until recently, the only chicken cutlets Al Roker knew about went on a grill.

He now also knows that the rubber, removable breast enhancers used in beauty pageants are also called chicken cutlets.

“I’m thinking Perdue,” said Roker of learning about the nonedible cutlets.

He got firsthand experience with the beauty trick as the executive producer of “Uncovered: The Hidden Lives of Miss USA,” a new documentary airing tomorrow night at 9 on E! Entertainment.

The program goes behind the scenes at the Miss USA Pageant of 2006. Roker and his crews spent three weeks leading to the annual pageant, culminating with the show itself.

“I always took these things for granted,” Roker said. “It’s kind of like, you may like sausage, but you don’t want to see it made. You may like Miss USA, but I think you’ll actually enjoy what goes on.”

“Miss USA,” for the record, airs on NBC – the same network of Roker’s morning home on “Today” – and is produced and owned by Donald Trump.

The NBC connection had nothing to do with the show, Roker said. Instead, it stems from a chance meeting at a fund-raiser, with 2004 Miss USA Shandi Finnessey. The beauty gave Roker insight into the show and he was taken with the fact that Miss USA shares a New York apartment with Miss Universe, and Miss Teen USA.

“I thought, lo and behold, this is a reality show,” Roker said. “And if it does well enough, it could wind up a series.”

Roker said the E! show includes some beauty aspects, some drama and some humor.

“It’s one of those shows that has a little something for everyone,” said Roker, who produced the show with Lisa Sharkey and Sara Nichols.

There’s no set timetable for a reality series based on the Miss USA Pageant, Roker explained.

And it won’t be the first. Recently, the people behind the Miss America Pageant said they would launch a reality show tracking contestants up to the ceremony, which now airs on CMT.

Still, Roker said there are stark differences between the two events.

“I think there is more of a sense of fun with the Miss USA pageant,” Roker said. “It’s not quite steeped in Americana. The problem the Miss America folks had was it didn’t evolve. They got left behind. Miss USA has more of a sense of humor, a sense of fun.”

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Miss Wis pageant follows the dream

By Sarah Owen
Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers

OSHKOSH — It’s a moment some young women spend their childhoods chasing after, or dreaming about …

Shhhh. It’s on!

Sitting in her parents’ living room as a little girl, Janelle Larie watched each year as a new Miss America was crowned on TV.

“There was always excitement in the house when it was on,” she said.

The women were so beautiful, so talented, she thought. “I hoped that I’d grow up to be someone little girls looked up to … a representative and role model girls emulated.”

Fifteen years later, the 20-year old is the current Miss Oshkosh, and one of 28 girls vying for the Miss Wisconsin title at this week’s 2006 scholarship competition. The organization will hand out between $20,000 and $25,000.

“It’s so phenomenal, all the money that’s out there just for women who compete in this program,” said 2002 Miss Wisconsin Jayme Dawicki, 26.

“I had student loans, and they’re completely done, paid for. I’d have barely been making a dent in them right now.”

It’s not a beauty pageant?

Miss America began as a swimsuit contest in 1921 as a gimmick to keep tourists in Atlantic City past Labor Day, said Sue Captain, Miss Wisconsin executive director. In 1954, Miss America moved to TV, bringing beautiful bodies, gowns and dreams of a crown into living rooms.

Miss Oshkosh and Miss Wisconsin are franchised under Miss America.

And those swimsuits?

The swimsuit part of the organization now promotes physical fitness and confidence, not having perfect dimensions, Captain says. But, in reality, there are still critics.

“There are so many pageants that it’s easy to confuse Miss America with others,” Larie said.

New image, more support?

Today Miss America is noted for awarding more than $40 million in cash and tuition scholarships annually. But it too has opted to make changes in an effort to turn around dwindling public interest. “They’re trying new things with the pageant, to make it more appealing to audiences,” McNett said.

There’s the transfer from ABC to CMT, moving to Las Vegas from Atlantic City this year and giving talent more weight in judging. There’s also the pressure to add more “reality TV” to it, Captain said.

“I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing,” she said. Locally, she added, Miss Wisconsin battles for attendance, coverage and support with events such as Country USA, though she said thousands come to Oshkosh for the pageant.

If the Miss America pageant loses momentum, scholarship funding from public donations could be affected.

“Right now everybody you ask will say, ‘we could always use more money.’ And because (the economy) is on the lean side, we’re fighting everybody else,” Captain said.

What’s in store

Interest in the organization by contestants is growing. Women who never considered themselves “the pageant type” have found it rewarding.

Miss Wisconsin 1992 Stephanie Klett, who was raised with nine brothers, was always a tomboy. When she won her title, she became vocal about both pageants and being a feminist.

“You can do both,” she said. “If you know the program, that’s exactly what it is. You can be anything.”

Contestants hope the public is starting to see “with the Miss America Organization it’s really about the platform and making a difference,” McNett says.

Sarah Owen writes for the Oshkosh Northwestern.

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From Miss America to Tennessee mom

Kellye Cash Sheppard raises family in Milan

The rhinestone tiaras from 1986 are in a box somewhere under her middle child’s bed. If it weren’t for her grandmother, the trophies would be gathering dust somewhere behind the growing mountain of wood and metal her three kids bring home from softball, basketball, soccer and whatever else is in their lives.

“If Frances Blanton had her way, the crowns would be on a silk pillow in the middle of the grand piano, and as long as she’s alive and coming to visit, the trophies will be out and visible,” Kellye Cash Sheppard said with a laugh at her grandmother’s love, and the defining moments of her life.

That, and the reality that being Miss America – even when it was 20 years ago – is something she can’t put away in a closet or under a bed.

“It changes a person. It’s changed me,” said the Milan resident, who is still the only Miss Tennessee to capture the biggest prize in pageantdom. (The late Barbara Walker Hummel went to Atlantic City and won the 1947 Miss America title as Miss Memphis. She was the last Miss America to represent a city, not a state).

The memories hit Kellye again on Friday in Nashville, as she helped her former agent with a new client, a young singer just starting out.

“She was frightened, unsure of herself, but I went into autopilot. Somehow I knew what to say to move things forward and settle her down,” Kellye said. “That’s Miss America. Until I went through it, I was never outgoing. I was never able to get up in front of a group and sing, or speak or (as laughter builds) make a fool of myself.”

The pageant thing started when Kellye, a Navy brat who migrated from California for college, agreed to play piano for a friend competing in the Miss Memphis State pageant.

Husband Todd Sheppard picks up the narrative:

“A frat then convinced her to compete the next year. She was runner-up, and Janie Evans with the Miss Milan pageant convinced her to enter her competition,” Todd said. “Three months later, she wins Miss Tennessee, and …”

And you thought her great-uncle Johnny Cash had cornered the family market on grabbing lightning in a bottle.

Kellye said the Miss Tennessee victory in Jackson hit home hardest.

“You think, ‘I won! I’m going to the Miss America Pageant!’ first of all,” she said. “But I think the fact that the crowd is right there in that building (Carl Perkins Civic Center), and everything’s up close – you felt it and knew it right away.

“You know, to this day I can’t tell you the date I won that title; I was so excited.”

By contrast, two months later in Atlantic City “felt like TV Land.”

By the time the late Bert Parks did his thing, Kellye said, “I was on auto pilot for days. My Dad was at sea (with the Navy), so I knew I wanted to mouth, ‘I love you Dad’ for the camera and did. I had promised the kids I’d visited at St. Jude (Children’s Research Hospital) that if I won I’d give them the ‘screw a lightbulb in’ kind of corkscrew wave, and I did.

“But … I didn’t cry right away. That didn’t happen for two or three days, until I sat on a hotel bed and it finally all hit me.”

The magnitude of the job hit her after an appearance in Arkansas, where she joked in a press conference that one of the biggest things she’d found out in her reign was that “there are actually people living in North and South Dakota and Nebraska … and it made the AP wire.”

Open mouth, insert foot, season to taste.

She still has the letter from the governor of North Dakota saying he hoped she’d be in the job long enough to “find out there are people in the Dakotas, and that the sun sets in the West.”

“I go up there and I still get teased,” she said, enjoying the joke now.

After her year holding down the title, she went back to California, married Todd Sheppard and they moved to Memphis.

“That’s where we first thought God wanted us to be,” said Todd, who, like his wife, is very grounded in faith. Funny thing, the Man Upstairs used a pageant to re-route their lives one more time.

“Kellye was asked to host the Miss Milan pageant. She conned me into agreeing to be a judge, which I never do, and held me to it,” said Todd, who had spent a year as basketball coach at Millington High School. “The Milan superintendent was in the audience, was without a basketball coach and he came up and said I should apply …”

The Sheppards have been in Milan ever since, raising their three children. Mainly on ballfields – but son Brady, 14, played Sky Masterson in a school production of “Guys and Dolls” this year. He and sisters Cassidy, 12, and Tatum, 7, will be in a local production of “Beauty and the Beast” this summer.

Miss America will be the one playing Mom with the applause. Most days she’s Mom with the lunch or the van, though Todd says “she goes to a skating party and somebody points and says, ‘There’s Miss America!'”

She goes public on her terms. She’s made a handful of Christian music CDs, done some TV, supported her share of causes and candidates, and once commuted from Milan to Branson, Mo., for nine months doing a one-woman Patsy Cline show that she’ll still dust off from time to time.

“She’d dash from a Sunday matinee back home to spend Monday with the kids and dash back for Tuesday evening,” Todd said. “That was a long nine months.”

But usually “tiara lady” comes out only a few weeks this time of year. Two weeks ago she emceed the state pageant in New Mexico. This week, she’ll be doing the same thing in Oshkosh, Wis.

Last year, she was at the mike through the preliminaries of the first Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas “until that actor from ‘Desperate Housewives’ (James Denton) took over for TV purposes,” she said, laughing again.

Beauty queen or not, Kellye is also not immune to those “life passage” moments, though hers are sometimes a bit more unique.

One came two years ago, when Kellye was emcee at the “Miss America’s Outstanding Teen” pageant, a Miss America offshoot in Orlando.

“I looked at the group of girls,” said Kellye, now 41, “and said, ‘Well this is it … it’s the first time I’m old enough to be everyone’s mother.”

Or the day Tatum came home from school after a visit by the reigning Miss Tennessee, Tara Burns.

“She was so excited that Miss Tennessee came to her school, and that she got an autograph,” Kellye said, “but Tatum walked up to her and blurted out, ‘My mom is Kellye Cash!’ and was taken aback when Tara just said, ‘Yeah, I know her.’ “

Or this past week when she dropped Cassidy off at basketball camp, and discovered her daughter wearing a long-forgotten T-shirt that says “Milan loves Miss America.”

“I said, ‘You’re not going to wear THAT!'” Kellye said, “and she told me, ‘Mom, I want girls to know I’m proud of you.’

“I had to say to myself, ‘It’s OK … It’s O-K …”

The kid could’ve hauled the rhinestones out from under her bed.

Visit jacksonsun.com and share your thoughts.

– Pete Wickham, 425-9668

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