Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012 | 8:32 a.m.
Less than a month ago, Laura Kaeppeler only dreamed that she’d one day get to see the Super Bowl in person. Then here on the Strip, the 23-year-old brunette won the 2012 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 14, and today she’s in Indianapolis with her 50-yard-line seat for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI.
“It’s all been a surreal whirlwind. Fun and exciting, but each morning I’m waking up and asking if it’s all for real. I guess it will take another couple of months to sink in.
“Everything has run smoothly since I left Las Vegas. I haven’t lost the crown, which is the most important thing. Being Miss America and fulfilling my duties is everything and more than I imagined.”
Laura, who worked at Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in Phoenix before flying to Indiana, is at Super Bowl XLVI to host the Taste of the NFL food benefit, and that meant a busy day of NFL media activities Thursday ahead of the New England Patriots-New York Giants matchup Sunday afternoon.
“They have Radio Row, with dozens of radio stations from all over the country doing their shows. So I had 5 hours of back-to-back interviews promoting the charity and Miss America. It didn’t overwhelm me, but that was pretty tough and long. This morning, I was up early for a live ‘Good Morning America’ satellite feed,” she told me.
Among the sports stars with whom Laura worked: Michael Irvin, Curt Schilling, Joe Theismann and Kurt Warner. Our contributing photographer Tom Donoghue is on duty with Laura as the Hoosier State hosts its first big game with more than 300,000 fans already counted through the Super Bowl Village there.
Laura sat in on pop queen Madonna’s meet-and-greet: “I found her really down to earth and sincere. She told us that she’s going to sing three of her older hits on the halftime show and one new song along with a surprise guest star that she says will remain a total secret up until the very last second.”
Laura continued: “This is my first Super Bowl, so it is fun and exciting, although coming from Wisconsin, I just wish my (Green Bay) Packers were here playing. So since the Giants beat the Packers, I’ll be honest: I’m looking for revenge, so I’m rooting for the Patriots in payback time!”
She told me that since being whisked from Las Vegas for next-day New York City TV appearances, she’s been on a nonstop journey but is keeping in touch with family and friends at home with “lots of texting and using Skype on my computer.”
“That way I get to see my pet Maltese Shih-Tzu Smokey. They hold him up to the computer camera, and I talk to him on my computer. It’s working and doesn’t feel so far away from each other.”
On Monday, we’ll have more exclusive photos of Laura in Indianapolis, where the 500 is completely forgotten this weekend in favor of football. She’ll visit food banks and today joins chef Bobby Flay (Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace) and country singer Sara Evans for the Taste of the NFL.
They’ll entertain and host chefs from all 32 NFL cities who raise funds for the Kick Hunger challenge for needy children. The $600 admission ticket goes to the program assisting low-income households. Taste of the NFL has raised $11 million in its 20 years of events.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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