ATLANTIC CITY — Fans of the iconic Show Us Your Shoes parade will have more places to sit and watch the parade for free this year, Miss America Organization CEO Sam Haskell said Monday.
Haskell, on the Boardwalk to unveil a new larger-than-life statue of Miss America, said there would be only a limited number of paid seats this year and that the Boardwalk would have plenty of room for spectators to set up their beach chairs and watch for free.
“We felt like we needed to make the parade available to more people,” Haskell said as Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri and Miss America 1984 Suzette Charles looked on.
Last year, when the competition returned to Atlantic City, fans could pay $20 for seats along the Boardwalk parade route or bring their chairs or stand at certain designated locations.
Haskell said he expected the move to allow more free seating would be a positive one for residents eager to watch.
“People always say their greatest memory is coming to the parade,” he said of the affection many feel for the longstanding tradition. “It’s about spectacle. It’s about glitter and glamour.”
He added, “You can come and make your own memories on Sept. 13.” The parade, which features all 53 contestants and thousands of marchers and performers, will run from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. that day, starting at Revel Casino and ending at Albany Avenue.
Miss New Jersey Cara McCollum told the crowd that taking part in the parade was a highlight of her time during last year’s Miss America competition.
“The Show Us Your Shoes parade is to Atlantic City what Mardi Gras is to New Orleans,” she said as Haskell held a case containing her sea life-themed show from last year.
“We were just taking Atlantic City in at its finest,” she said.
Mayor Don Guardian said the parade is unique to the city and an important part of the landscape in the resort.
“Welcome back Miss America, we love you,” he said.
The announcement came as the Miss America Organization unveiled a 6,000-pound bronze Miss America statue.
Liza Cartmell, of the Atlantic City Alliance, said the statue was the result of an idea proposed by local radio personality and Press of Atlantic City columnist Pinky Kravitz.
“We really wanted to take this opportunity to create something about Miss America all year-round,” she said.
Kravitz said the statue would become a focal point for family photos, and as he spoke fans were busy stopping and snapping family photos with the likeness. An interactive computer kiosk has also been set up so fans can learn more about the pageant’s history.
Sculptor Brian Hanlon said just two castings of the statue were made, one in bronze, which will sit on the Boardwalk in front of Boardwalk Hall, and a resin version which can be placed at various Miss America events. The resin version was displayed last year to mark the return of the competition to Atlantic City.
Hanlon said the statue, which stands at about 7 and a half feet, was modeled largely after Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan, though it also includes some facial features from New Jersey’s two winners, Bette Cooper and Suzette Charles.
“This is just great because it’s the Jersey Shore and specifically Atlantic City,” Hanlon said of the statue’s new home. “(Atlantic City) could be New Jersey’s Mecca for art.” Hanlon is working on other statues for the area, including a police and fire sculpture expected to be located on the Boardwalk near The Irish Pub.
Davuluri and Charles posed with the statue as a crowd looked on Monday.
Charles said that as a child she looked up to Miss America. “I think we still represent the best in women,” she said of the scholarship program.
“This is the type of organization that will support what your dreams are,” she said.
Davuluri has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles since winning the crown in September. Despite some initial negative reactions because of her Indian background, she said she encounters mostly positive responses as she goes across the country.
Davuluri said her memories of the actual crowning are fuzzy, but she well remembers her time in the city.
“What really defined my experience is the heart of this community,” she said.
She added that she received about $90,000 in scholarship money and planned to use the $62,000 she has left to get an MBA. When she first won, she said she expected to go into medicine, but now realized an MBA was more in line with her plans to work in international relations or a nonprofit setting.
Being Miss America, she said, has given her a “sense of validity I never had before.”
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