The 53 Miss America contestants will walk down the runway today at the first of three preliminary nights of competition.
Behind the scenes, a small army of supporters will cheer them on and make sure they look worthy of the crown. Family members, makeup artists, hair stylists and state pageant officials have been pouring into the city, prepared to make sure their state shines.
“You’re equally as nervous, and not just for your own girl, but for all of them,” said Shelly Taylor, executive director of the Miss Michigan Organization, who was at Boardwalk Hall on Monday and will attend all four nights of competition.
Security has been tightened this week. No public parking will be allowed in the Boardwalk Hall lot starting today. No large purses will be allowed in Boardwalk Hall, and totes must be clear plastic and no larger than 12-by-6-by-12 inches. Audience members should arrive early and may be subject to bag checks at the entrance.
Tickets are available for the competitions and the parade on Saturday, though rolling-chair seats for the parade have sold out. Standing-room-only viewing is free at several sites along the parade route.
After a week of rehearsals, tension is building as the competition begins. But pageant veterans are thrilled to be back in Atlantic City.
“I’m a traditionalist, and it never felt right in Vegas,” Taylor said, adding she has attended every Miss America contest since 1981, including those held in Las Vegas.
Makeup artist Jane White has attended competitions for 30 years as part of the Miss Arkansas organization.
“I love the atmosphere here and how the girls are treated, really like stars,” she said. “It’s like coming home.”
Brenda Burrus is making her first trip to Atlantic City with her daughter, Lauren Colcasure, who is doing hair for Miss Arkansas. She exemplifies what pageant promoters have hoped for the city. She loved the weather on the Boardwalk Monday and looked forward to shopping at The Walk and a trip to White House subs. She said they got a fantastic room rate at Trump Plaza, and their trip to Atlantic City will be far more affordable than Vegas.
A Miss America pop-up store in Boardwalk Hall has been doing pretty steady business, with a $15 silver tote bag proclaiming “Keep Calm and Rock that Crown” among the most popular items, along with the most costly item, a $75 lavender hoodie with a rhinestone crown on the back.
Michigan supporter Pam Spencer was the first to buy a Miss America souvenir program when they went on sale at Boardwalk Hall Monday morning.
She plans to be there cheering for her contestant.
“It’s important for her to see the number of people supporting her,” Spencer said.
City officials have hoped the pageant would give more national exposure to the resort. More media began arriving Monday.
ABC has exclusive rights to the competition, which has limited other media access to rehearsals, but public events are planned this week. The major television networks have applied for media passes, as have Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar magazines.
Several contestants are being followed by local media, including the Baker County Press from Florida, Minnesota Monthly, Southern Maryland Woman, Northwest Public Radio and the North Platte Telegraph in Nebraska. Alabama is being represented by the Sylacuga Today, Birmingham News and East Alabama Living.
Staff Writer Trudi Gilfillian contributed to this report.
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