It took four years and competing in nearly a dozen pageants in five cities throughout the state, but Emily Laura Rebhan is simply pleased to make it to the 2014 Miss Wisconsin pageant this summer.
Rebhan, who lives on a dairy farm in rural Cazenovia, was selected March 29 as Miss Heart of the Valley at the conclusion of the state at-large pageant for women from around the state seeking the chance to advance to the Miss Wisconsin pageant.
The third-annual pageant was staged last Saturday afternoon at the Thompson Community Center in Appleton, in conjunction with the 16th annual Miss Fox River Valley state open pageant. Rebhan, 23, the daughter of John and Paula Rebhan, is currently a Dean’s List sophomore communications student at the University of Wisconsin-Richland. She is a 2009 graduate of Weston High School and has previously worked as an intern for state Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center.
The trek to win a pageant title was a long one. Because there are no local pageants in Richland or Sauk counties, Rebhan competed in state “at-large” pageants throughout Wisconsin. Those are usually quite competitive and difficult to win because they attract former titleholders with years of pageant experience. Those experienced contestants are hoping to win a title in order to return to the state pageant stage.
This year alone, Rebhan competed in the 2014 Miss Seven Rivers pageant held in Holmen in January, she was a three-time contestant at the Miss Madison pageant staged Feb. 16 in Madison and she entered the third-annual Miss Heart of Wisconsin state open pageant March 15 in Portage. A week later, March 22, she found herself in the 2014 Miss Coulee Region in Viola.
But at each of these pageants and those of years past, Rebhan did not emerge as the victor. That was until this past Saturday when she was named Miss Heart of the Valley in Appleton. There were 15 contestants on-hand, including six returning entrants and two previous titleholders. Winning the Miss Fox River Valley title was ballet dancer and former Miss Northwoods 2011, Mary Eileen Bonack, 24, of Three Lakes, who had competed three years for the title.
For the talent portion of the Miss Heart of the Valley pageant, Rebhan played the same classical violin number she had used at other recent pageant competitions, “Summer” by Antonio Vivaldi. Rebhan is a five-year member of the Sonora Strings of Madison, a violin tour group. She was crowned by Miss Heart of the Valley 2013, Amanda Rose Garrity, 24, of Reedsville, located in Manitowoc County.
During the coming year, Rebhan hopes to promote the values and teaching lessons of the 4-H program she has been a member of since age 9.
“Many of the skills and values that I have today I credit to my experiences with 4-H,” she said. “I know that serving as a 4-H advocate will give me the opportunity to pay forward the incredible investment that countless of 4-H volunteers made in my life.”
The official 4-H emblem is a green four-leaf clover with a white H on each leaf, standing for Head, Heart, Hands and Health.The white symbolizes purity and the green represents growth.
Rebhan, who turns 24 in late June, will now join Bonack, a 2012 UW-Oshkosh physical therapy graduate, in the 2014 Miss Wisconsin pageant to be held June 21 in Oshkosh. The winner there will advance Sept. 14 to the 2014 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, N.J.
The long-running Miss Reedsburg pageant is not affiliated with the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship program. But several Miss Reedsburg winners in the 1950s and 1960s competed in the state pageant or served as the official city hostess when the Miss Wisconsin pageant was held in Reedsburg from 1953 to 1958. The last Miss Reedsburg to compete in the Miss Wisconsin pageant was Virginia Gullick in 1962 when the state pageant was held in Kenosha, the year before it moved to Oshkosh.
The late Dennis (Jack) Clossey, a longtime pageant enthusiast, was invaluable in having the state pageant held for six years at the Reedsburg High School. He served as a Miss Wisconsin-pageant field director until 1980 while also serving as master of ceremonies for the annual Miss Reedsburg pageant. He was postmaster for the U.S. Post Office in Reedsburg from 1966 until his retirement in 1993, while also managing his family’s Clossey’s Bar and Restaurant in town. He died June 30, 1996. His wife, Jean (Kapple) Clossey, who also helped with the Miss Wisconsin pageants held in Reedsburg, died April 29, 2002.