Ramsey Carpenter, a Hartford native and University of Kentucky graduate, was crowned Miss Kentucky on Saturday night at her alma mater's Singletary Center for the Arts.
"This is my fourth year competing, and it's so surreal that on the year that I age out, I am able to grasp this dream and this dream job," Carpenter said, standing on the stage. "To win on the UK stage is to be able to pay homage to the university that gave me so much professionalism and education for the future."
Carpenter, 23, competed against 32 hopefuls Saturday night, including Miss Lexington Melissa Cox, a University of Louisville student who fielded an uncomfortable question about her college sports loyalties in the interview portion of the competition.
"I love UK and U of L," she said, "but I bleed red."
Cox was second runner-up. Fourth was Miss Jefferson County Ashley Ferry, third was Miss River City Laura Jones and first was Miss Bowling Green Claire Butler.
Carpenter was Miss My Old Kentucky Home, and her platform is raising awareness of multiple sclerosis, which she was diagnosed with in 2010.
"It is wonderful to be able to use the Miss Kentucky crown as a vehicle to spread more awareness of multiple sclerosis across our state and nation," Carpenter said.
Heading to the Miss America Pageant on Sept. 14 in Atlantic City, N.J., she will take her fiddle and scorching renditions of bluegrass classics like Orange Blossom Special, which she played in the talent competition.
"I was born and raised in the birthplace of bluegrass music," said Carpenter, an Ohio County High School graduate. "It's something that's truly in my blood, so it's going to be fantastic to show the nation Kentucky can bring something historic, glamorize it and bring it to a larger audience."