Organizers of the Miss America Show Us Your Shoes parade promise an event Sept. 14 that will maintain the hometown feel of prior parades but add some extra pizazz and entertainment.
"They've already begun decorating their shoes," Miss America Organization interim President Sharon Pearce said of the annual tradition of the contestants wearing or carrying humorous or elaborately themed shoes to show off in response to crowd requests.
Pearce, parade producer John Best, of JM Best Entertainment, Scott Schneider of Full Production Services in Egg Harbor Township and their staffs worked in the heat Thursday in front of Boardwalk Hall, poring over maps and seating charts in a 4-inch-thick binder.
About 2,000 people will be seated in the VIP area outside Boardwalk Hall, where they will be able to see performances by some of the participants. The VIPs will include former Miss Americas and their families and other dignitaries, but seats will also be open to the public. Plans call for as many as 200,000 people to watch along the two-mile route, and there will be some free zones. General-admission parade tickets are $20.
Best said there will be a big opening production number. About 40 dance schools, some coming from out of state, are scheduled to participate in the parade. Twenty local school choirs will perform with Miss America Mallory Hagan in the grand finale.
About 120 groups have registered to participate, including marching bands, commercial and specialty groups, youth groups and military units, along with the contestants, each riding in a convertible. Pearce said the casinos have entered floats, as have Miss America sponsors Catalina swimwear and the Children's Miracle Network.
The parade is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. and is expected to last about two hours, with stops for performances. Best, who has produced the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, said a major challenge is fitting the parade on the relatively narrow width of the Boardwalk.
"There are a lot of existing businesses, a lot going on already in the city, and we have 20 feet to work with," he said.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is providing $1.7 million to help fix up the city for the pageant, including repairs to ramps, railings and boards on the Boardwalk. That work is going well, Best said.
A new Show Us Your Shoes parade banner will lead off the event, though who will carry it has not been determined. Local residents and youth groups will have a strong presence. The Atlantic City High School band will be the first one in the parade, which will also include representatives of the fire and police departments and a red, white and blue tribute to the military. Atlantic City students will carry the name and state plaques before each contestant, and Girl Scouts will carry flags.
The parade will also spotlight education. Pearce said the Miss America Organization has redefined its education mission to focus on science, technology, engineering and math, and the Atlantic County Council of Education Associations will participate in the parade.
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