I arrived in St. Joseph the afternoon of Saturday, April 5 after getting a mini facial, shellac manicure and pedicure from the fabulous and talented staff at one of our newest sponsors, Luxury Nail Lounge in Overland Park. I was so pampered all morning and it was amazing!
Kristy and I greeted the contestants as they arrived, and orientation started at 2 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Riverfront before we handed out little gifts to all the contestants in each of our states. Then, all the contestants had a photo shoot, and I joined my parents (who came all we way from Texas to see me which I am so thankful for) and my husband, Alex, for dinner at one of my favorite places in St. Joseph, Bad Art Bistro.
Saturday night after dinner we rehearsed with our choreographer Celia Shea Thompson, who was actually Mrs. Kansas United States 2012 and crowned me last year, and I got to rock my custom KU jersey by Sideline Chic from Aly Klinzing! So cute! If you scroll down you can see a picture of it. Luckily there wasn't much dancing for Kristy and I to learn ... ! Anyone who knows me knows that the less dancing I have to do, the better. Seriously.
Sunday morning, Kristy and I helped setup for personal interviews before waiting with the contestants outside the ballroom (where the judging was taking place) to chat with them while they waited ... and drank lots and lots of coffee! After interviews were over, I stopped to see my parents again and then went to the Historic Missouri Theatre, where the show was going to be, to start onstage rehearsals and setup my dressing room. That's when it hit me, though; being at the theatre and seeing the 2014 sashes, crowns and awards backstage made everything suddenly so real. What was happening?!
Aly Klinzing, Miss Kansas Teen USA 2013, arrived Sunday afternoon to help with the pageant, and I was so glad to see her! If you scroll down you can see a picture of the two of us after crowning; I obviously had just cried! We finished rehearsals and then got ready for the show mid-afternoon, and Kristy and I were strangely nervous, more nervous than we'd ever been before. We still haven't exactly figured out why. But the house lights dimmed a little before 7 p.m., and we took our places on stage. Time for the pageant to begin!
After opening number, Kristy and I went out on stage and got to chat with the amazing emcee Jennifer Vannatta-Fisher (Miss Kansas 1998) about our year before the ladies came out in their swimsuits. After the swimsuit competition, the ladies came back out in their evening gowns and Kristy and I received the sweetest gift from our director, John Vannatta; framed pictures of the first run of the 2014 program books signed by all of the contestants. Such a lovely keepsake! Scroll down for a picture of the program book cover.
Following a brief intermission, Jennifer then announced the three finalists in each state, and they answered their onstage questions before taking their final walk before the judges. Our final farewells were played (which we recorded earlier in the day), and Kristy and I took our final walks onstage together. I was so emotional! I started crying and couldn't keep it together. Then, we handed out awards and crowned our successors. A truly amazing weekend that was over far too soon!
Congratulations to your Mrs. Kansas United States 2014, Kristie Bowen, who is also from Lawrence and is a huge KU fan! I wish her all the best in her year of service, and know she will represent this state wonderfully and enjoy every minute of her reign. And congratulations to your new Mrs. Missouri United States 2014, Mallory Landry, from St. Louis! Two very special ladies. Here's a word-for-word copy of my official farewell letter from the program book:
This year has been absolutely amazing! I cannot adequately express in words how truly meaningful and completely life changing it has been to serve as your Mrs. Kansas United States 2013. From the minute the crown was placed on my head last March, I have embarked on an incredible journey, and I honestly can’t believe the time has come to pass on the crown!
At the national Mrs. United States competition in Las Vegas last summer, I proudly represented Kansas as a Top 12 Finalist and made memories that will last a lifetime. It was incredible to meet so many other titleholders who were also focused on affecting the lives of others in a positive way and inspiring change. A truly unforgettable experience!
I made a number of meaningful appearances, too. From walking with the other 12 Vanbros titleholders at the Kansas City CureSearch Walk to raise money for children’s cancer research, to participating in the Models for Miracles Fashion Show benefitting Children’s Miracle Network, the past year has continued to prove to me what I already knew: how fulfilling it can be to help others.
There are so many people I need to thank for their help in making my year so amazing; it really does take a village, as they say!
To my husband Alex: My life has never been the same since we met. With your unwavering support, I have achieved more than I ever thought possible. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us, ‘cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul, I can tell you there’s no place we couldn’t go. Love you, bee.
To Mom and Dad: Your never-ending support and encouragement made me the woman I am today. The sacrifices you have made so I can succeed, not only in pageants but in life, have not gone unnoticed. I love you so very much!
To Sarah: Sispix, you always keep me laughing and are the most hilarious sister ever. I will never stop admiring your individuality and intelligence; you are the best!
To Fred and Kristie: You welcomed me with open arms back in 2007 when I first met you and had just started dating your son, and you have continued to serve as my second family to this day. Thank you for treating me like your fourth child and for standing behind Alex and I in everything we do together.
To Karla and Dana: I am grateful for the support you’ve given me in everything I’ve done since I met and married your brother (even running my first half marathon). I know how fortunate I am to have sisters-in-law like you and I’ll always proudly be your Alpha Pup!
To John and Jason: You are, simply put, the best directors ever. I cannot put into words the appreciation I have for the amount of time and energy you have both spent on making me a better wife, daughter, career woman, sister and the best Mrs. Kansas United States 2013 I could be. I will never forget this year and will never forget how much you both did to make it one of the best of my life. I love you both!
To Janet: Momma J, you keep me on the straight and narrow! Anytime of the day that I had a question you were always quick to respond. Thank you for all your hard work, and I know you work so hard!
To Jennifer Vannatta-Fisher: For many years now I’ve heard you yell, “I’m a tiger and I’m going to whip the world!” Never before did it mean what it means now. Your positivity, warm nature and constant encouragement kept me coming back to compete. I’m proud to be part of the Vanbros family!
To Karen Elliott, Ross’ Foundation and Warriors for Ross: The loss of your grandson Ross is truly heartbreaking, and the honesty with which you share your story has changed my view on life; never again will I take my health for granted. Thank you for allowing me to be part of Ross’ Foundation and Warriors for Ross, your passion for helping others in an effort to carry on your grandson’s memory if truly inspiring and means so much to so many.
To Kristy Kelley: I cannot imagine this year without you as my sister queen from Missouri! You are hilarious, you are honest, you are caring and you are always yourself. Thank you for making me laugh and for sharing with me stories about your lovely family. Love you, boo!
To Amanda, Janet and Lori: No one has better sister queens than I do. Though we are from all different walks of life, are all different ages and have wildly different lives, we are all united by our passion for service and self-improvement. You are all amazing ladies and I am blessed to have met and shared this experience with you!
To Aly Klinzing, Miss Kansas Teen USA 2013: This year was made so much more special because I had you as my little sister queen! You are an exceptional, motivated young woman and I have so many fond memories of our appearances together. I know you will do great things! In fact, you already have.
To Courtney Courter and Lisa Forbes: As my former coaches, you taught me to value myself and encouraged me to constantly improve. You helped me stand taller and speak more eloquently; thank you for everything!
To Kelsey Roberts: Thank you for your patience as I always demand very particular things from you, and for listening to everything I rambled off in your stylist chair for so many years!
To Emily Kuhlman: I am so glad I got to know you a little better this year, Mrs. Kansas Mommy! Your devotion to philanthropy, your two daughters and your husband have inspired me more than you will ever know.
To Celia Shea Thompson: You left me with some pretty big (and cute) high heels to fill! You made such a positive mark on the pageant world and the Vanbros family in your year as a titleholder, and the thoughtful gifts you gave to all the contestants last year further proved that you always think of others before yourself. You are a great example of what a titleholder should be.
To Valerie Hayes: Your honesty and expertise were critical factors in my success as a contestant at every level. I truly appreciate your devotion to making me a better person.
To Rachel Saunders Imdieke: Not only do I admire you as a photographer, I admire you as a doting mother and a small business owner. You are one impressive and driven lady! Thanks for giving me some of my favorite pictures ever, and for showing me that you really can have it all.
To the rest of my amazing sponsors: There’s not enough room in this program book for me to share the deep gratitude I have for you! You went above and beyond to prepare me for the national competition. I am forever indebted to Watercolors High Fashion, Tony Bowls, Dr. Ross S. Headley, Linda Loveless and Arbonne, Allyce at Allyce King Swim, the sensational stylist Bryan Wood, the best walking and modeling coach ever Kim Forsythe, Ashley and Danielle at Sassy Chic, and Aquillia Vang, Mrs. United States 2012, of Makeup by Q. With all of you behind me I knew I was as prepared as possible when I got to Las Vegas. Go Kansas!
To Mrs. Kansas United States 2014: Congratulations! I know you will enjoy every minute of your year (and what a crazy year it will be, I’m sure) and will be amazed at how you grow and change. Never quit and never settle and I know you will do amazing things!
So, as I pass on my crown tonight, I stand before you honored and humbled. I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been afforded this past year and look forward to whatever the future brings, because I know it will be bright.
All the best,
Forever and always, your Mrs. Kansas United States 2013
A special shout-out to my besties, Jess and Scott Dickson, for coming up to St. Joseph all the way from Kansas City to see me last weekend. It meant so much to me! And, to my husband Alex who was by my side the entire way (you can see a few pictures of us over the weekend below).
Anyway, that's about if for me today! Make sure to follow my personal account on Twitter @RachelKarwas for all the latest on what I'll be doing as I return to my life as an event planner, wife and diehard KU basketball fan following my reign. Now the real adventure begins!
All the best,
|Loving our Sideline Chic jerseys from Aly Klinzing at rehearsals on Saturday.|
|Me and my boo, Kristy, goofing around at rehearsals on Saturday!|
|The marquee at the Historic Missouri Theatre on Sunday night.|
|A rather teary-eyed picture of me with Aly Klinzing, Miss Kansas Teen USA 2013, after crowning.|
|The best man ever, my husband Alex, with me throughout the weekend. Love ya, bee!|
|The amazing 2014 program book covers, courtesy of Jason Vannatta of Vanbros.|
|Me with the 2014 winner, Kristie Bowen (center). In the words of Mrs. Kansas Mommy, the 2010 winner, Emily Jean Kuhlman (far right): "Kansas represent!"|