Her bags are packed and she leaves Thursday.
But Kathy Thompson, a Brainerd business owner and mother of two, may be bringing back more from her nearly three-week stay in Hawaii than a few sea shells and coconuts.
Thompson, who was crowned Mrs. Minnesota on June 30, will be competing against 50 other women ages 23-49 for the title of Mrs. America.
The pageant will be Sept. 21 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu, but the Mrs. America contestants will spend a few weeks together beforehand, getting to know one another, sightseeing and attending parties and pageant events in Hawaii.
Kathy Thompson of Brainerd was crowned Mrs. Minnesota on June 30, the first pageant the 38-year-old mother of two had ever entered before in her life.If Thompson does win the Mrs. America title, she'll go on to compete in the Mrs. World pageant.
The Mrs. America pageant is expected to be broadcast at 8 p.m. Oct. 13 on the PAX Network, a television network that is not available for local cable subscribers, but can be viewed via satellite by those with a satellite dish.
Thompson, 38, was approached last year by one of the Mrs. Minnesota pageant coordinators who was at a pageant her daughter Tara was competing in. The woman told Thompson she should compete in the state pageant, but Thompson was reluctant at first.
After talking it over with her family, which includes Tom, her husband of 21 years, and their two children, Terrell, 20, and Tara, 18, she agreed to enter the Mrs. Minnesota pageant. She had never before competed in a pageant.
Since being crowned Mrs. Minnesota, it's been a whirlwind summer for her. Thompson has been in eight parades held throughout the state, often riding in a car or float driven by her husband. She's participated in several charity events.
She has met once a week since June with her pageant coach, Miss Minnesota Anne Marie Clausen, and also met weekly with Faith Schway, the state pageant director.
During the Mrs. Minnesota pageant costume competition, Thompson dressed up as Paul Bunyan, complete with an ax, the costume she felt best represented the Brainerd lakes area. At the national pageant, she and her advisers felt she needed something a bit more glamourous. (Sorry, Paul.)
Instead of a flannel shirt and jean shorts, she'll be wearing a blue sequined bikini to represent Minnesota's 10,000 lakes.
While the state pageants don't have a swimsuit competition, the national pageant does. All contestants will be wearing the same one-piece swimsuit, she said.
Thompson will be wearing the same black evening gown she wore at the state pageant, a gown that nearly caused quite an embarrassing situation for her during the state competition.
Just before she went out on stage as a top 10 finalist in the Mrs. Minnesota pageant, her assistant was zipping up her gown when she let out a gasp. The hook that ensured her dress wouldn't completely unzip down to her waist was gone. As the assistant tried to temporarily fix the dress with a pin, the backstage director started motioning to Thompson, telling her she had to go on stage right away.
"The whole time, I was thinking about that little hook," she said with a laugh. Yes, she said. The hook has been fixed.
Thompson won $15,000 in scholarships and prizes as Mrs. Minnesota, including modeling school scholarships she hopes to use when she returns from Hawaii.
She said being crowned Mrs. Minnesota has been a wonderful experience for her and her entire family. People have come up to her and have been supportive.
Thompson owns and operates her mini-storage company, Brainerd Garages, and co-owns Tom's Backhoe with her husband. She performs all the bookkeeping and payroll duties.
Thompson said she's not focusing on winning the Mrs. America pageant. Instead, she's hoping that she'll make it into the top 10. She's already spoken to her roommate, Mrs. Texas, whose husband is from Minnesota. Ironically Mrs. Oregon's name is Kathie Thompson, she learned.
Terrell returned to the University of Minnesota in Duluth last week while his younger sister left for St. Cloud State University to begin her freshman year.
In many ways, their mother is also leaving this week for a similarly exciting challenge.
This will be the first time that the Thompsons have experienced an "empty nest," and plan to do a little more traveling this winter.
Even if she doesn't win the national title, being crowned Mrs. Minnesota has taught her that even though she may be in her late 30s, it doesn't mean she can't set and accomplish new goals.
"I think it's made me grow a lot," said Thompson. "I want to find out what else is out there that I can go do."
Five years ago she enrolled in a gun safety course with a group of 12-14-year-old boys so she could go elk hunting in Colorado with her husband. Since then, she's become an avid elk hunter, bagging her first 750-pound elk three years ago. She also plays softball and co-ed volleyball on leagues in Brainerd.
"I always still say, 'What do I want to be when I grow up?,'" said Thompson with a laugh.
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