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Kara Laing Wins Miss Winnipesaukee 2002 Pageant

Originally published in the Weirs Times. Written by Roger Amsden/News Correspondent

Kara Laing
GILFORD - Kara Laing, a 22-year-old student from Amherst who is in only her first year of pageant competition was crowned as Miss Winnipesaukee at the Gunstock Ski Area Friday night.

It's been quite a rookie season for Laing, who won the first pageant that she entered in March and went on to compete in the 2002 Miss New Hampshire Pageant as Miss Nashua.

And she'll be back in the state pageant again next year, representing the state's oldest pageant, Miss Winnipesaukee, which dates back to 1926.

Laing received her crown from Alyssa Spellman, the reigning Miss Winnipesaukee, who has been runner-up in the last two state pageants.

Laing says that she's glad that she will now have nearly a full year to prepare for next year's state pageant and work on her platform, which stresses the importance of organ donation.

An international relations major with a minor in Italian studies at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., Laing performed a "danse espanole" to Swan Lake in the talent portion of the competition.

She said she never thought about entering pageants until her dance teacher suggested that she enter the pageants because of the college scholarships which were available. Laing said that she had no experience at all but decided it would be worth a try. And, she was rewarded with a first place finish in Nashua which thrust her immediately into a higher level of competition in the Miss New Hampshire Pageant.

"I wasn't ready at all. But now I'll have a lot of time to prepare," says Laing, who has been taking dance lessons for about 18 years and whose college dance company teacher is a former Miss Rhode Island.

Kara Liang crowned Miss Winnipesaukee 2002
Laing is already something of a world traveler, having spent a whole year in Bolongna, Italy, where she polished her skills at speaking Italian, a language she wants to become more proficient at. She said that her interest in Italian culture started when she took Latin at Souhegan High School in Amherst and has blossomed ever since. Her long-term goal is to work in the international relations field, work which she expects will allow her to travel extensively.

It was during her senior year in high school five years ago that she faced her greatest challenge, the death of her father, Charles, at the age of 55. After her father's death, the family decided to donate his corneas and other tissues, an act which ended up helping over 30 people and left an indelible impression with Laing of the importance of organ and tissue donation.

Because of the heart attack we couldn't donate the vital organs. But we were able to help a lot of people," she says.

Laing has two older brothers, Michael, who is 28 and a lawyer, and Nathan, 24, a computer programmer in Cambridge, Mass. Her mom, Candice, works at PC Connection in Merrimack.

Getting through her father's death and coming to terms with it was the most difficult thing in her life says Laing, who says that raising the level of awareness of the need for organ and tissue donation has taken on the role of a mission for her.

During the question period of the Miss Winnipesaukee Pageant Laing said that 79,000 people are currently awaiting a lifesaving transplant and that 45 percent of families are asked to donate a loved one's organs or tissue decline, something she would like to see change.

Laing says that, in addition to dancing, she enjoys playing tennis, likes all kind of music except heavy metal, and that her favorite actress is Gwyneth Paltrow because "she's so classy."

First runner-up was Jessica Lencki, 18, of Goffstown, who performed a Spanish-style ballet to "Don't Cry for Me Argentina." Alecia Donahue, 21, was the second runner-up, and Randi Lee Glickman, 18, of Manchester, was third runner up.

Amanda Singer, 18, was honored as Miss Congeniality, an award given in memory of the late Penny Giguere, a longtime New Hampshire pageant official.

Also attending the event were a number of other pageant winners from around New Hampshire, including the 2002 Miss New Hampshire, Mary Catherine Morin, 23, of Bedford, who made several appearances on stage with master of ceremonies Pat Kelly of radio station WLKZ.

The pageant was produced by the 2001 Miss Winnipesaukee, Alyssa Spellman, 19, of Manchester, who said that she had greatly enjoyed her year as Miss Winnipesaukee and thanked Bob Lawton of Funspot for sponsoring the pageant and Miss Winnipesaukee Pageant co-directors Tina Gebhard and Gary Vincent for all they had done for her.

She said that she had been involved in many special events at Funspot and that she felt a special bond and sense of community at all of those events.