Pursuing the next step

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 21, 2003

AnnMarie Wagner's plans for the next year rest on Saturday night.

Wagner, Miss Austin 2002, will be competing this week for the title of Miss Minnesota with 12 other young women from around the state.

If she wins, she'll have the responsibilities of Miss Minnesota, touring throughout the state for the summer. If she doesn't, she'll return to her parent's condo, waitressing job and college friends in Okoboji, Iowa, until the school year begins.

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If she wins, it means taking a semester off from her junior year at Creighton University to prepare for and compete in the Miss America pageant. If she doesn't, she'll be studying abroad in Rome.

Either way, she'll be happy, Wagner said. But waiting to know is still difficult.

"It's hard, you know. I don't know what's going to happen," Wagner said. "Then again, I'm a very spontaneous person so I'm willing to take on anything."

And she's taken on a lot as Miss Austin. She's juggled about 40 performances and appearances in the last year with her studies and choir activities at Creighton University, a school located 4 1/2 hours away in Omaha, Neb.

"It's been really hard living in Nebraska because I wanted to do so much with Miss Austin, but I can only do it when I'm home," Wagner said.

Breaks from school are a whirlwind of local appearances, but she said she didn't mind.

"I enjoy performing," Wagner said. "I enjoy doing community service. It wasn't like a big job for me."

She likes volunteering so much, it's her platform, which is called Give and Get Back. She highlights what people can get out of a volunteer experience and her goal is to increase volunteerism in the community.

Wagner returned to Austin from Okoboji Thursday to prepare for this week's competition and to help this year's Miss Austin candidates prepare for the Miss Austin contest in July .

Thursday night some friends and family held a mock interview with her, going over her goals and platform and current events. She's also been practicing her talent, singing "I'm Afraid it Must be Love."

"It's kind of a typical pageant song," Wagner said. "It shows my vocal range. I think it gives me a chance to be myself and express my personality."

A "send-off" party for Wagner is taking place at 2 p.m. today at the Hormel Historic Home. She'll head to St. Paul Monday and Miss Minnesota activities begin Tuesday. The interview, which accounts for 40 percent of the score, takes place Thursday. A preliminary competition is held Friday and the pageant is held Saturday night at the Fitzgerald Theater.

Wagner is excited and so is her family. Sixty seats have been reserved for her parents, Carter and Meg Wagner, and her siblings Margaret, Dolan and Patrick and their large extended family.

"It just gives you that extra boost of confidence knowing there are people out there cheering for me," Wagner said.

But Wagner is used to performing. Since she was 10 years old, she's sung for St. Augustine's Masses. She's been involved in choir up through high school and in college she's president of Creighton's Show Choir and a member of the Candlelight Choir.

"The talent part of the competition is my favorite just because I get to go up there and do my thang," Wagner said.

The Miss Minnesota competition isn't completely foreign to her either. When Austin held the Miss Minnesota pageant, her parents hosted contestants at their house.

"I grew up with the whole pageant thing," Wagner said. "When Miss Austin rolled around, I thought, why not give it a try?"

She said she's in it for the experience and thinks she has improved her interviewing skills and talent. But she can't help but think what would happen if she won Miss Minnesota.

"Of course it's always in the back of my mind. What if?" Wagner said.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at :mailto:cari.quam@austindailyherald.com