Nancy Fleming, Miss America 1961, showed off clothes she had sewn for her entry in the talent competition. - Press of Atlantic City: Miss America Atlantic City

Nancy Fleming, Miss America 1961, showed off clothes she had sewn for her entry in the talent competition.

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Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013 9:53 am

The Miss America talent competition, to put it kindly, has always been a mixed bag for spectators.

Some of the women demonstrated genuine talent and have gone on to successful careers in the entertainment field. Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams, who wowed Boardwalk Hall audiences with her version of "Happy Days Are Here Again," was a successful recording artist.

But such contestants are few and far between. Through the years, many performers on the Boardwalk Hall stage have been merely competent. Some have been downright awful.

It's a widely known secret that many contestants master only one song, dance or dramatic monologue for the sole purpose of entering pageants. They might sound like Lizt pounding out this particular sonata, but don't ask them improvise on "Chopsticks."

A case in point is Miss America 1958 Marilyn Van Derbur who took up the organ only after entering a local pageant. Van Derbur won the rhinestone tiara even though her medley of "Tea for Two" and "Tenderly" was the only song she could play on the instrument.

Every year produces its own crop of what some might call memorable (and what others might call bizarre) talent performances.

The Boardwalk Hall stage has witnessed the antics of contestants who ice skated, roller skated, fenced (with an assistant), shot arrows, stomped on glass and even rode a horse.

But sometimes the strange or bizarre is what sets a woman apart.

Miss America 1961 Nancy Fleming won by showing off clothes she had sewn.

Miss America 1988 Kaye Lani Rae Rafko won her crown - and the hearts of the crowds - dressed in a fuchsia grass skirt and headdress and performing a Tahitian dance.

The 1969 winner, Judith Ford, bounced to the title by doing flips and spins on a trampoline.

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