Today marks the beginning of two jam-packed weeks for the Miss America Organization that local business owners and area residents hope will bring more visitors and attention to Atlantic City.
Contestants from 50 states, Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; and the U.S. Virgin Islands arrive in Atlantic City this afternoon for an official welcoming ceremony in front of Boardwalk Hall with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and a number of other state and local officials. It’s the first official event leading up to the Sept. 15 televised competition.
A study completed for the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority earlier this year projected that the Miss America Competition could result in a $32 million economic impact for the city in the first year alone. The study was used by the CRDA to justify a $7.5 million contribution to the pageant over three years.
Mike Hauke, owner of Tony Boloney's restaurant in the South Inlet section of the city, said he absolutely expects the competition to boost his post-Labor Day business.
The recent grand prize winner of a cooking contest sponsored by “Live with Kelly and Michael” said he's been hoping to set up a pizza-making class for some of the contestants, but regardless expects to see more people coming through the doors.
“From an operational standpoint, you've also got people from homeland security, the FBI — lots of other officials in town who need to eat,” Hauke said. “We absolutely plan on welcoming them here.”
According to the organization’s contract with the CRDA, thousands of hotel rooms will be comped or discounted for the organization, but officials are banking on visitors to stimulate the local economy with hotel stays, restaurant visits and retail purchases that they expect will increase at the pageant approaches.
The Miss America parade that traditionally preceded the televised competition will take place Sept. 14. Organizers expect the parade alone to attract 200,000 people to the Boardwalk.
Vivian Lester, of Hamilton Township, Mercer County, said she and her friends used to make trips to Atlantic City yearly to see the Miss America parade. While walking Monday on the Boardwalk, she said she was happy to see Miss America prominently displayed in the city again, pointing out that some jitneys are advertising the pageant as are signs on the city’s bus shelters.
“It makes you remember what it used to be like. It was something my girlfriends and I looked forward to every year,” said Lester, who said she expects to come to the Sept. 14 parade.
While Lester likely wouldn’t stay overnight, she said she would likely go out to dinner and visit the outlets when she comes for the parade.
“It’s just nice to see it back where it belongs. I hope it helps the city, absolutely,” Lester said.
Contact Jennifer Bogdan:
@ACPressJennifer on Twitter