By Bob Zientara

Cameron residents Hannah Richter and her sister, Kelsey, will compete this week in (respectively) the Miss Teen Wisconsin USA and Miss Wisconsin USA pageants.

This year’s events will take place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 7-8, 2019, at the Fond du Lac Performing Arts Center. For more, visit www.misswisconsinusa.com

In an interview Saturday, Aug. 31 the girls said there will be 40 to 50 contestants in each category. Winners move on to the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA competitions, which the girls said is the second most-watched special event on television – behind the Olympic Games.

It is Kelsey’s fourth year in the competition and second in the Miss Wisconsin event. She said she enjoyed the experiences “and kind of kept going” with it. Kelsey attends the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Barron County, majoring in biology. She will transfer to Eau Claire this fall, and plans to study to be a radiologist.

Hannah got interested after watching her sister compete. She said that at first, she got involved “because it sounded like fun. I didn’t think it would have as much pizzaz as it was billed, but I have really enjoyed the experience. I’ve met a lot of girls I have competed with -- not against.”

Hannah graduated from Cameron High School in May 2019 and plans to attend Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College’s paramedic technician program. But she would also like to study for a small business degree, such as culinary science.

The girls are part of an extended family in Cameron. Kelsey has a twin sister, Meranda. The family also includes a brother, Carter, a Cameron High School junior.

The girls are the daughters of Eric and Alyssa Richter, natives of Rice Lake and Cameron, respectively. After a career in the Air Force, with stops in Alaska, Colorado and South Dakota, Eric and his family moved back to Barron County several years ago.

He is now customer service manager at Mastercraft, Rice Lake. Alyssa works at Rice Lake Weighing Systems and is also the owner of home-based businesses.

The sisters were asked about what continues to be valid about a beauty pageant in today’s day and age.

“Everyone competes in behalf of an organization,” Hannah noted. “I am competing as a cancer survivor. I’m helping to raise money for the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.

“I am working with Night Delight Walk,” Kelsey said. She described it as “an event that helps people in need, including (material help) and disease treatment.”

Both girls (and their parents) take care of most of their expenses out of pocket, either through their jobs or from family resources. Both have also had sponsors in the past.

Their preparations for this weekend’s competition were assisted by Future Productions, the company that produces the Miss Wisconsin USA contest.

The sisters said they have been watching instructional videos made by former Miss Wisconsin USA Regina Gray. The videos offer tips about clothing and makeup.

The girls both do their own makeup, although some contestants hire makeup artists.

Both attended a recent seminar offered by the Pageant Shop in the Twin Cities, a business that specializes in pageant-related supplies and training.

For an $800 entry fee, the sisters were interviewed by judges, competed in dress, swimsuit and evening gown events, and learned a lot about Miss Wisconsin USA’s philosophy on how young women can become “confidently beautiful.”

Hannah said the emphasis is on “natural beauty, not over-the-top beauty. So many (young women) keep saying ‘I hate my body,’ over and over. This (experience) helps you look at yourself differently and be comfortable in your own skin.”

With their training and supplies in hand, the Richter sisters plan to travel with their parents to Fond du Lac for the competition this weekend.

Each contestant rooms with another young woman. The sisters said that it is possible to request someone to be your roommate -- something that repeat contestants sometimes do.

Hannah enjoys staying with contestants whom she knows and with whom she has common interests. Kelsey asks the organizers to place her with someone new so she can get to know new people.

Diversity is making itself visible in the competition, the sisters said. The 2019 pageant marks the third year in a row that a “Miss Muslim USA” contestant will be part of the competition.

Competition lasts four to five hours per day through the weekend of Sept. 7-8.