The 2018 Miss America Competition brought crowds from around the country to Boardwalk Hall to see which of this year’s 51 contestants would be crowned.

Before the doors to Boardwalk Hall even opened, attendees got the perfect social media photo at the Miss America tribute statue at Kennedy Plaza, with lifeguard stands on the beach.

Katie Fitzgerald, 13, of Mount Top, Pennsylvania, posed under the statue’s crown, wearing her Miss Keystone Teen sash.

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“I watch Miss America every year — this is my first year seeing it live,” Katie said. Watching the pageant has been a family tradition for years, said her mother, Teri, who remembered watching the pageant on TV with her grandmother and seeing the Atlantic City sights.

“Everyone always equates Atlantic City with Miss America,” Teri Fitzgerald said.

As the audience filed in, several former Miss Americas took to the red carpet to talk about changes in the competition.

“A lot of it is the same,” said Susan Powell, who wore the crown 37 ago as Miss America 1981. “The young women who compete still have the same dream, that original dream in Atlantic City of wearing the crown and have the title.”

I think the biggest thing is that we’ve become more relevant to a young demographic, while we’ve also stayed true to our older generation,” said Miss America 1993 Leanza Cornett. Cornett is celebrating her 25th Miss America anniversary and was glad to be in Atlantic City: “Atlantic City is Miss America. ... It’s our history and our legacy.”

The competition moved from Atlantic City to Las Vegas for eight years, returning in in 2013 to the delight of Cornett and many supporters. Executive Chairman and CEO Sam Haskell is already looking to the centennial of Miss America: “Miss America is iconic,” he said. “We want to be here for our 100th anniversary — we believe this is where we belong.”

A few former Miss Americas took on new roles this year. Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev interviewed for the Children’s Miracle Network and the Miss America who crowned her, Nina Davaluri, was one of the final night’s judges, along with country star Thomas Rhett, actress Molly Sims, pop star Jordan Sparks, TV host Maria Menounos, Olympian Tara Lipinski and People magazine Editor in Chief Jess Cagle.

The preshow focused on the ninth annual Project Gratitude, honoring 12 mothers of fallen military personnel. The women were given the titles of honorary Miss Americas.

Host Chris Harrison and Sage Steele introduced the broadcast, first announcing the ABC networks would keep viewers up to date on Hurricane Irma.

Miss New Jersey Kaitlyn Schoeffel made it to the Top 12 by press time.

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Contact: 609-272-7286 LCarroll@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPress_LC

Joined the Press in November 2016. Graduate of Quinnipiac University. Previously worked as a freelance reporter in suburban Philadelphia and news/talk radio producer.

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