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January 7, 2011

ULM's Kelsi Crain begins quest for Miss America crown

ULM's Kelsi Crain, Miss Louisiana 2010, began her quest for the Miss America crown just as the skies were opening up and welcoming a new day over Monroe Regional Airport on Thursday, Jan. 6.

A crowd of well-wishers, including University of Louisiana at Monroe President Dr. Nick Bruno, filled the airport lobby to see an enthusiastic and confident Crain, 20, a junior kinesiology major from Monroe, head to Las Vegas to compete in the 2011 Miss America Pageant.

Several waved handheld fans with Crain's picture on it, while another held a sign made by Swartz elementary students that read, "We love you Miss Louisiana Kelsi Crain!"

"I'm ready to go," said Crain. "We have prepared for so long, so I'm ready for it. To know I have so many people here to show their support is wonderful; I have to win Miss America now!"

One of those supporters was Crain's mother, Tana Higdon, who agreed that Crain's confidence will be a big asset as she dives into preliminary competition Jan. 12-14. Preliminaries will be followed by the live televised final competition on ABC television network beginning at 7 p.m. Central Standard Time on Jan. 15. The 2011 Miss America Pageant will be held again this year at the Planet Hollywood Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

"She has always done very well with everything she set her mind to," said Higdon. "This happened so fast, but she has handled it extremely well." Higdon will be joined by her husband, Creg, and Crain's two younger sisters, Kendyl and Molly, as they fly to Las Vegas on Sunday to show their support.

Before taking the Miss Louisiana crown, Crain was named Miss University of Louisiana at Monroe in October 2009. On June 16, 2010, Crain earned the state title and has been diligently working ever since to prepare for the national crown.

"It hasn't soaked in yet that she is Miss Louisiana, let alone heading to the Miss America pageant," said close friend and fellow ULM student Allie McComas, 21. McComas is an occupational therapy major from Monroe and was among the many well wishers who were at the airport before dawn on Thursday to see Crain off. "It's a once in a lifetime experience, so I wouldn't miss being here for anything."

In addition to promoting her platform, "Heart for the Arts," Crain has crammed numerous rehearsals sessions in with aunt and local choreographer, Missy Crain, of Missy Crain School of Dance.

"Her talent is great and it is consistent," said Missy Crain.

"She, of course, was already in constant training, but months ago we really intensified the rehearsal schedule and that included working Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day," said Crain. "It helps that we're family, so after dinner we'd just get up and go!"

Kelsi Crain's competition schedule is as follows:

Monday: Interview
Tuesday: Talent
Wednesday: On Stage Question
Thursday: Swimsuit and Evening Gown
Saturday: Live Televised Finals on ABC

In spite of the pre-dawn schedule, Crain was all smiles as she blew one last kiss to those still assembled on Thursday morning before she boarded her flight to Las Vegas to begin pageant rehearsals Friday. ULM will provide daily updates on its homepage as Crain progresses through the week-long competition.

The Miss Louisiana Organization has a volunteer based board of directors that works to share the accomplishments of the 29 contestants and provide scholarships to further their education.

In 2009-10, the Miss Louisiana Organization made available over 1.2 million dollars in cash and tuition scholarships. Miss America offers over 45 million dollars in cash and scholarships, making them the number one provider of scholarships to young women in the world.

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