Lamp reporter recalls pageant experience

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Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

As the reporter for the Fort Leavenworth Lamp, it is my job to support the Fort Leavenworth community by covering changes of command, community programs and the accomplishments of our soldiers, civilians and families of Fort Leavenworth, and I enjoy every minute of it.


But last week the tables were turned, and I got to experience the support of the community as I competed in my very first pageant — the Princess of America National Pageant July 29 through Aug. 2 at the Mansion Theatre in Branson, Mo.

Fort Leavenworth Lamp reporter Katie Peterson poses with her vocal and pageant coach Jodi Rinehart Keay after finals of the national Princess of America Pageant Aug. 2 at Mansion Theatre in Branson, Mo. Keay has coached Peterson vocally for two years and began coaching her for the national pageant after Peterson received her appointed regional title, Miss Southern States Princess of America, in March. Photo by Patrick Peterson


When the idea of competing in a pageant first came up back in February while talking with my vocal coach (and pageant coach), Jodi Rinehart Keay, I wasn’t sure what to think. I had never even thought about it before and didn’t know where to begin. Knowing that I needed to write an introduction, establish a platform, learn to walk in six-inch heels, shop for the wardrobe — 15 different outfits total — and more, not to mention all the finances that go along with that, I was completely overwhelmed. Yet, from the minute I committed myself to the process, the support I received became even more overwhelming, but in the best way possible.


Having been the Lamp reporter for almost two years now, I have come to know many people in the community on a personal level, and as soon as they found out about the pageant, they were quick to send me words of encouragement whether in person, via e-mail or on Facebook. Then, when the time came for sponsorships, local businesses in the Leavenworth/Lansing community and friends everywhere stepped up to help me out. I wouldn’t have gotten to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience (literally, I’ve aged out at 24) without their help.


With a whole community behind me, I departed July 28 for Branson as Miss Southern States POA. Monday through Wednesday was filled with rehearsals, optional competitions, Dolly Parton’s Stampede and parties so that all of us delegates could get to know each other, which opened the door to making lifelong friends.

Fort Leavenworth Lamp reporter Katie Peterson, Miss Southern States Princess of America, poses with her sister queen 6-year-old Kamrie Mountain, Tiny Miss Southern States POA, between the junior and senior division national Princess of America Pageant pajama parties July 30 in the Radisson Hotel lobby in Branson, Mo. Photo by Kristin Mountain


Meeting all of my sister queens like Tiny Miss Southern States POA Kamrie Mountain, the delegates who made up the five younger age categories like Junior Miss Tennessee POA Abbey Dovey, my state director Mikala Jane Wilkerson, as well as the 11 amazing women I competed with for Miss Princess of America like Miss Wisconsin POA Alexandria Wiseman, was the highlight of it all. The camaraderie established was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Everyone was truly happy for each other and wanted everyone to do her absolute best.


This made it easier to head into the official competition, which began Thursday morning with judge interviews and preliminaries later that night. Preliminaries was a whole new ball game with quick wardrobe changes backstage while nearly 100 girls, ranging in age from 4 to 24, were running around at once. But, once again, every girl had everyone else’s back zipping up dresses, lacing corsets and touching up hair and makeup. Then, just before walking out on stage, gathering in a circle to pray together gave each of us the confidence to walk out on stage with our heads held high.


For me, walking out in my evening gown was the highlight of that part of the competition. Never have I felt more beautiful or confident than when I put on that dress.

Fort Leavenworth Lamp reporter Katie Peterson, Miss Southern States Princess of America, walks the stage in her evening as the top eight Miss contestants are presented during finals of the national POA Pageant Aug. 2 at the Mansion Theatre in Branson, Mo. Photo by Daniels Studio LLC


Friday afternoon was the climactic moment we had all been waiting for as we headed into finals and crowning. Going into it, all I knew was that I was walking back onto that stage with the confidence that I had done my absolute best and was proud of myself no matter what the outcome.

Now, I am proud to announce that I finished in the top eight for my division and was awarded second runner-up in my division for talent. While walking away with a national title would have been amazing, I wouldn’t change the experience for anything because I was so blessed to meet the people I did, experience the things I experienced and learn firsthand of the amazing community I have around me.


For more pageant highlights and photos, visit https://www.facebook.com/misssouthernstatespoa2019/.

Fort Leavenworth Lamp reporter Katie Peterson, Miss Southern States Princess of America, poses with Abbey Dovey, Junior Miss Tennessee POA, before the national Princess of America Pageant pink party July 29 at Mansion Theatre. Photo by Melissa Dovey
Fort Leavenworth Lamp reporter Katie Peterson, Miss Southern States Princess of America, poses with her sister queen 6-year-old Kamrie Mountain, Tiny Miss Southern States POA, before the Dolly Parton’s Stampede show July 31 in Branson, Mo. Photo by Kristin Mountain
David Peterson and his daughter Katie Peterson look at the camera as Carol Peterson, right, kisses her daughter, after the national Princess of America pageant crowning ceremony Aug. 2 at Mansion Theatre in Branson, Mo. Peterson, who is the reporter for the Fort Leavenworth Lamp, competed with the appointed regional title of Miss Southern States Princess of America and placed in the top eight of her division at the pageant. Photo by Patrick Peterson
Katie Peterson, Miss Southern States Princess of America, and Stephani Fohrman-Jacobson, Liz Everett Glam Team stylist, pose for a selfie, while Forhrman-Jacobson curls Peterson’s hair before the national Princess of America finals begins Aug. 2 at Mansion Theatre in Branson, Mo. Peterson, who is the reporter for the Fort Leavenworth Lamp, placed in the top eight for her division in the pageant. Photo by Katie Peterson
Fort Leavenworth Lamp reporter Katie Peterson, Miss Southern States Princess of America, third from the right, holds hands with her fellow Miss contestants as the top five contestants are announced during finals of the national POA Pageant Aug. 2 at Mansion Theatre in Branson, Mo. Peterson finished in the top eight of her division. Photo by Daniels Studio LLC
Fort Leavenworth Lamp reporter Katie Peterson, Miss Southern States Princess of America, performs “Something in the Water” by Carrie Underwood during the national POA Pageant Superstar Show July 30 at Mansion Theatre in Branson, Mo. Peterson placed second runner-up for her division in talent. Photo by Daniels Studio LLC
The national Princess of America Miss delegates, including Fort Leavenworth Lamp reporter Katie Peterson, Miss Southern States Princess of America, far left, open up their queen gifts from Miss North Carolina Princess of America Makayla Stewart during the national Princess of America Pageant pajama party July 30 at the Radisson Hotel in Branson, Mo. Submitted photo
Katie Peterson, Fort Leavenworth Lamp reporter, poses during her headshot photoshoot June 1 at the Devine Studios Portrait Photography studio in Kansas City, Mo. Peterson competed in the national Princess of America Pageant July 29 through Aug. 2 in Branson, Mo., with the appointed regional title Miss Southern States Princess of America. Photo by Devine Studios Portrait Photography
Katie Peterson, Fort Leavenworth Lamp reporter, poses in her evening gown following the formal wear competition of the national Princess of America Pageant preliminaries Aug. 1 at Mansion Theatre in Branson, Mo. Peterson, who competed with the regional title Miss Southern States Princess of America, finished in the top eight in her division. Submitted photo

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