LAS VEGAS — Kate Gorman from Onalaska has a shot at being named Miss America tonight.
The reigning Miss Wisconsin, Gorman is still pinching herself, trying to believe it’s real.
“I’m just still in awe that I’m experiencing this,” she said. “I’m still trying to get used to the fact that I’m here and that I potentially could be the next Miss America.”
About 13,000 young women vie each year to make it this far. Now it’s down to the final 53 — besides each state, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are represented.
Gorman has been in Vegas for the past 10 days on a whirlwind schedule of rehearsals and appearances.
“I figured we would come here and everyone would have such a game face on,” Gorman said. “But really, we genuinely want each other to succeed, and that’s very, very nice. It helps us do our best.”
In addition to preparing for the pageant, contestants have constantly been followed by cameras for a variety of television shows, including an hour-long “Pageant Confidential” special that airs on ABC tonight before the pageant.
The additional publicity is helpful for the Miss America program. After being bounced from network TV in 2005, the pageant returned to ABC in 2011 and last year had its highest ratings in eight years.
The pageant is up against the Packers’ time slot tonight, but plenty of locals plan to tune in. And about 70 folks from the La Crosse area are in Las Vegas cheering her on.
The local delegation is hoping for a repeat win — Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler was also Miss Wisconsin. Only four times has a state won back-to-back Miss America titles in the pageant’s 91-year history.
Gorman has had a rough road to Vegas. She injured her hip before the pageant, prompting a change in her talent from dance to vocal. It was a nerve-wracking decision in a key part of the competition—worth 35 percent of preliminary scoring.
Still, Gorman’s supporters say she has what it takes.
“She is really a class act. She is elegant and sophisticated, bright, gracious and witty,” said Beth Bruzek Vogt, who was the local director for the La Crosse/Oktoberfest pageant when Gorman won. “And she has an amazing sense of humility.”
Said former La Crosse Fire Chief Pete Stinson: “She’d make a great Marine, with her ability to adapt and overcome.”
As for Gorman, she’s trying to cherish the moment.
“Evening gown is definitely the moment that it hit me that I’m supposed to be here, and God put me here for a reason,” she said. “I’m just so thankful.”