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Hoosier hysteria! Miss America 2009 thanks the Lord

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Miss Indiana Katie Stam, 22, is crowned 2009 Miss America by 2008 Miss America Kirsten Haglund.
Miss America Organization

She said it over and over tonight: “I’m blessed. … So blessed. … This is a blessing. … I’m so very blessed. … I have the blessing of family. ... The scholarship money is a blessing.”

Miss America 2009: Indiana's Katie Stam

And who can argue?

The new 2009 Miss America is Katie Stam, who wants to one day be a TV news reporter and anchor and seems at the very least to be … blessed … in the fame the Miss America tiara presents.

In winning the title, the ardently Christian Stam belted out the Biblical song, “Via Dolorosa” (translated: The Way of Suffering), which centers on the crucifixion. She topped first runner-up Miss Georgia Chasity Hardman, who sang a different tune – “Home” from The Wiz.

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Upon the announcement, the crown was set atop Stam’s brunette hair by outgoing Miss America Kirsten Haglund as a recording of Bert Parks’ “Here She Is, Miss America” cascaded on the cheering crowd.

A packed house of more than 7,000 fans – an audience that frequently took on the look and tone of a rock concert or sporting event – took in the show at the Planet Hollywood Theatre for the Performing Arts. The show’s first Pacific time zone broadcast on the cable network TLC was tonight at 8 p.m., and it will be rebroadcast on the cable network over the next few weeks.

After she was announced as the 83rd Miss America (there was a five-year gap between 1928-’33), Stam halted for several moments onstage when host Mario Lopez asked her about her feelings. But the belle of the ball was all talk a half-hour later.

“Truly a dream come true, and I’m trying to take it all in,” Stam said at a post-show news conference at Planet Hollywood. She is the first Miss Indiana to win the pageant. “I’m looking around the room at my family and all the people who have supported me and I feel truly blessed.”

Miss Indiana Katie Stam.

Miss Indiana Katie Stam.

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A lean queen, Stam told a funny story about trying to gain wait when she decided to enter pageant competition in Indiana, and offered that her father was cut from his high school basketball team because he was “too skinny.”

“I didn’t want everyone to know that!” a voice from the wings, likely from Dad, called out.

Stam plans on being an active Miss America. She’s scheduled to log thousands of miles promoting the contest and its charity partner Children’s Miracle Network.

“Hopefully, I can be one of the best Miss Americas this program has ever seen,” said Stam, who hails from the small town of Seymour, Ind., the same hometown as John Mellencamp. An anti-smoking advocate, Stam seems bent on curing all Americans of the addiction, starting with on-again, off-again smoker Barack Obama. “I need to talk to him about that,” said Stam, who has newfound political capital as the holder of the tiara.

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Miss Indiana Katie Stam and Miss Delaware Galen Giaccone won scholarships during the first night of preliminary competition.

Stam overcame a throat illness she described as laryngitis and a throat infection to win the title. She first noticed the symptoms Sunday, croaked her way through preliminaries on Tuesday and was right as rain by Thursday.

Stam wins not just the famed Tiara and sash, but $50,000 in scholarship money. Rounding out the five finalists were second runner-up Miss Iowa Olivia Myers, third runner-up Miss New York Leigh-Taylor Smith, and fourth runner-up Miss Florida Sierra Minott. Not advancing the first cut to 15 was Miss Nevada Julianna Erdesz, extending a legacy of Miss Nevada shutouts dating to the first pageant in 1921.

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Mayor Oscar Goodman greets Miss Indiana Katie Stam.

Stam is the fourth Miss America crowned in Las Vegas. The history-rich show moved from Atlantic City to Vegas before the 2006 pageant, which crowned Jennifer Berry (Miss Oklahoma) as its queen. Another Miss Oklahoma, Lauren Nelson, won in 2007, followed by Haglund last year. Also, Stam was not voted into the first cut of 15 by the judges. Rather, she was a People’s Choice selection, voted into the final round by fans who went online or voted by text.

“I was onstage thinking, if it’s me, what a blessing,” Stam said, “and if it isn’t me, what a blessing.”

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