By LARRY VAUGHT
STANFORD — It was a cold, slightly rainy day in Stanford Sunday, but that didn’t stop almost 500 participants from taking part in the Jingle Bell Jog 5K to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.
While many had participated in this event, there was one celebrity newcomer — Miss Kentucky Laura Jones.
“I am really good friends with Reuben Harness and he works with the Jingle Bell Jog and he invited me to come as Miss Kentucky and support raising funds for Alzheimer’s research and I am always up for a good charity function and to be part of something like this,” said Jones.
She also advanced to the Miss Kentucky competition by being crowned Miss Danville even though she is from Louisville. Harness is also part of the Miss Danville pageant.
“I started competing when I was 13 years old around Louisville and inside the state. After 10 years I decided to take a year off and then I came back and won Miss Danville and then Miss Kentucky,” Jones, a Kentucky Christian University graduate, said.
She said it was about more than winning to her even though she went on to place in the top 12 at the Miss America Pageant and was selected as the America’s Choice finalist.
“It made it more meaningful to me to win and then go to Miss America and then get to work for the state I call home. It is such a privilege. Lots of year of practice and also getting that perspective that it is not just about the crown. It’s about the journey to Miss Kentucky,” she said.
Jones was home schooled until her final two years of high school when she went to public school. She called it the “best of both worlds” for her.
“Pageants and Miss America were always my sport of choice. It helped me not to be isolated as a home schooler. It got me out and being sociable with people,” she said.
Jones’ platform is raising awareness of eating disorders in young women, an issue she has struggled with. Her goal is to visit all 120 counties before her reign ends in about six months.
“Each place is a new memory. I am keeping a journal so I don’t forget any of this,” Jones said.
One question she frequently gets on her visits, especially to schools, is whether she is a Kentucky or Louisville fan. Turns out she is a Cardinal fan.
“The little boys at the schools who are basketball fans ask. I tell them I cheer for every team in Kentucky but if UK and Louisville are playing each other, I root for Louisville,” she said. “I am kind of biased because Louisville is where I am from. But honestly at the end of the day I will cheer for UK as well. I am not die-hard. I support both teams. But that question comes up all the time.”
My other question Sunday was whether she was a runner. She told me yes but that she had been sick and also had not got to run as much during her time as Miss Kentucky as she would like.
Yet despite the weather, she changed into running gear after playing a few songs on the electric violin before the race to entertain runners. Not only did she run, but she finished the hilly 3.1-mile course in about 27 minutes — more than a minute ahead of me. She was first in her age division.
“It was fun,” she said.
Jones will be part of “Crowns & Christmas,” a holiday show featuring some former Miss Kentucky winners and former contestants from past years, plus Jones, will be held Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center located at 300 East 3rd Street in Lexington. Tickets are on sale now through the Lyric Theatre box office by calling 859-280-2218 or online at www.lexingtonlyric.tix.com.