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Miss America scheduled to make Bloomington visit

POSTED AT 12:16 AM ON Mar. 6, 2009  (UPDATED AT 01:04 PM ON Mar. 7, 2009)

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Indiana has never had a Miss America – until now.

After 88 years of pageant history, Katie Stam became the first Hoosier Miss America when she won the title Jan. 24 in Las
Vegas.

The 22-year-old will visit Bloomington on Sunday for an autograph signing and a chance to meet fans at College Mall.

Her public appearance begins at noon and will last until 1:30 p.m., according to a press release.

“You can try to prepare yourself for what Miss America is going to be like, but until you actually experience it, you really don’t know how you’re going to react,” Stam, a Seymour, Ind., native, said in an interview last month. “I have never felt more loved and more supported in my life than I have since I received the title. It seems like the entire state is just in an absolute uproar because they’re just so excited and so thrilled.”

For Stam’s parents, Keith and Tracy Stam, their daughter’s win fulfilled two goals at once.

First, she won the title she always saw as “the ultimate American Idol,” Katie Stam said. And second, she’ll graduate from college debt-free.

“You hope for something like this your whole life, and then here it comes true,” Keith
Stam said in an interview a few days after Katie Stam’s victory. “It’s just an overwhelming sensation.”

Earlier this week, Katie Stam had her official homecoming in Seymour.

A University of Indianapolis student, she will finish her communications degree after her year-long reign as Miss America.

“This was a pageant that she had always had as her goal,” Keith Stam said. “This was the final one. And as far as being pressure on us, it wasn’t so much pressure as it was being anxious. It was just we have a lot of confidence in Katie and we knew that she would make a wonderful Miss America if she was chosen.”

Katie Stam began competing in pageants at 15, a decision her father said he’s always supported.

He said the intense interview process and high academic standards make the competition more than just a beauty pageant.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for the organization and always have had,” he said. “Not all of them have that good of a representation. ... I think she’ll be able to do a lot of good for a lot of people.”

Katie Stam agreed that the Miss America program has been misunderstood, addressing the competition’s potentially controversial swimsuit round.

“The swimsuit competition is not to see who looks the best in a swimsuit,” Katie Stam
said.

The swimsuit part of the contest is to determine physical fitness because Miss America travels more than 20,000 miles a month, she said. The main mission of Miss America is to be an advocate and role model, while helping provide money to the Children’s Miracle Network. It’s also a scholarship organization, awarding $45 million in scholarships each year, she said.

“So many people look at a pageant, and they see something superficial,” Katie Stam said. “And the problem there is that they’re not looking deep enough. It’s about seeing your potential and working toward fulfilling that.”

Her new role doesn’t come without its challenges.

“The side of Miss America that people don’t know about is how much she travels, how much she doesn’t get to come home,” Katie Stam said. “You know that’s not really the glamorous side of Miss America. And that’s where it really becomes a job. I don’t think most people look at it as being a job.”

Most of her year will be spent traveling and speaking. Her first homecoming wasn’t for more than a month after she was crowned.

Katie Stam’s appearance Sunday will allow her to meet girls who might share the same dream she had.

“Every single day when I wake up, even if I’m the slightest bit tired,” she said, “all I
have to do is tell myself, ‘You only get one year as Miss America and what a tremendous blessing that you are the one they chose.’”

 

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