A long-standing Atlantic City tradition tied to the Miss America parade that was in jeopardy will be allowed to continue due in part to pressure from a local legislator.
The Miss America Organization announced Friday that people will be permitted to bring their own chairs to designated free viewing areas along the Boardwalk for the Show Us Your Shoes Parade on Sept. 14. Officials at the Atlantic City Information Center in Boardwalk Hall have been telling visitors that chairs would no longer be allowed at the advice of parade producer John Best.
On Friday, however, after Miss America Organization CEO Sam Haskell was made aware of a letter from state Sen. Jim Whelan about the issue, he said the organization will allow the tradition to continue.
“We’d already been discussing how we could allow people who couldn’t afford tickets to be able to be comfortable. The letter motivates us to make our decision,” Haskell said.
For years, enthusiastic — and sometimes slightly rowdy — locals have made their way to the Boardwalk with beach chairs in tow hours before the start of the parade. Staking out the best viewing area became part of the tradition many residents adored.
So it didn’t take long for complaints to flow into Whelan’s office when word got out that bringing personal chairs to the free viewing areas would be banned this year.
Whelan, D-Atlantic, responded by writing a letter to Mayor Lorenzo Langford requesting that chairs be allowed in some of the less congested viewing areas. With tickets for bleacher seating ringing up at $20 a seat, that cost might be too hard to manage for some families, he said. The letter was also sent to Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Executive Director John Palmieri and City Council President William “Speedy” Marsh.
“While hopes are high for the successful return of the Miss America Parade and Pageant to Atlantic City, we must be mindful of the need to generate enthusiasm in our community to promote and support the effort,” he wrote.
Whelan said he wrote the letter in the hope that those who have committed financing and services to Miss America might be able to compel the organization to allow the seating.
“The parade has always been the piece of the Miss America pageant that’s for the locals. There has always been the opportunity to go there early and put out a folding chair and watch the parade go by,” Whelan said. “But there’s a new cast of people, and maybe they’re not aware of the traditions we have here.”
That was exactly the case, Haskell said, noting that he didn’t realize beach chairs had been allowed for years. Haskell joined the organization’s board in 2005 after the competition had left the resort. He took over as CEO in May after Art McMaster, the organization’s leader of nine years, stepped down.
“This is something that we’re absolutely happy to do,” he said.
Sharon Pearce, the organization’s interim president, said a map designating 10 to 12 free viewing areas will be released next week, which will allow people to plan ahead.
Organizers promise that this year’s parade will be grander than the parades of Miss America’s past. For the first time, the space in front of Boardwalk Hall will serve as a performance area. A group production number featuring a number of local children and an original song will start the show.
More than 4,000 people are included in the parade’s lineup, including nearly 50 dance troupes with groups coming from as far away as Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.
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