OCEAN CITY — Backstage at the Miss New Jersey pageant, there’s an ample supply of makeup, shoes and WD-40.
That’s right, WD-40.
“To take the butt glue off,” said pageant hostess Barbara Casarow, of Bridgeton.
That’s one of the many tricks of the trade used behind the scenes to make sure the audience and judges see a seamless production during the annual competition held at the city’s Music Pier.
Casarow is one of six hostesses, women who help the contestants, keep an eye on them and comfort them as needed.
She is known as the fixer, thanks to her black bag and 6-foot-long carrying case that holds everything from the WD-40 and accompanying adhesive (i.e. the glue that keeps the swimsuits secure) to spools of thread.
The kit even has pliers (just in case) and a bar of soap.
“If a zipper gets stuck, I rub the soap on it,” Casarow explained.
Her kit has a stapler — in case a shoe strap breaks — and cleaning wipes and traditional bobby pins, too.
She recalled a time when she had to hem the dress of Miss America Susan Akin as she stood on a piano.
“I’ve sewn girls into dresses,” she said.
Casarow has been involved with the pageant in Ocean City for 34 years, but she got her start in the pageant world at age 18 when she was Miss Raleigh County in Beckley, W.Va.
“All Southern girls go to pageants,” she said with a smile.
An aunt lived in New Jersey, and she used to visit the shore.
“I remember dressing up to go to the Atlantic City Boardwalk,” she said.
She met her first husband on one of those trips to the shore and made the state her home.
Casarow, a seamstress and decorator, said she keeps coming back to the Miss New Jersey Pageant for one simple reason.
“Because it’s the most fun week of the whole year,” she said as she talked about her role keeping the contestants ready to go. “I have God-given talents, and I can use them here.”
She added that she is always impressed with the kindness the contestants show each other during those hectic moments backstage when something breaks or someone needs a hand.
“Everything happens instantly, and we fix it,” she said.
She is already prepared for tonight’s finals after the top 10 contestants are announced.
The remaining contestants, she said, gather in the dressing room and watch the rest of the pageant, cheering on their friends.
“There’s some tears, but it takes five minutes, and they’re over it,” she said.
And Casarow has plenty of candy for them, and pizzas will be delivered, too.
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