OCEAN CITY — A fire-breathing dragon, Nurse Ratched and the Hamburglar are just a few of the evildoers fans will be able to spot during this year’s Miss New Jersey parade.

The characters, played by the pageant’s 23 contestants, will appear as part of Villains on the Venue, the theme this year for the annual event, which gives the contestants a chance to have a little fun before the three-day competition begins.

“What I love is the enthusiasm of the contestants,” said Maribeth Neall, parade organizer and pageant fan. “Some of the costumes are so elaborate.”

The parade is one of the highlights of the week, which draws friends, family and fans to the resort each year.

“We welcome so many new families into Ocean City with that event,” said Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michele Gillian.Surveys conducted by the chamber, she said, demonstrate the value of events such as the pageant.

“It is a great impact on our community. We know special events bring people into Ocean City,” Gillian said.

The parade marks the first time during pageant week, June 11 to 15, in which all the contestants can be seen by the public in one place.

Neall came up with this year’s theme and within minutes of letting the contestants know, they sent emails advising her of the villains they planned to play.

The list also features everything from the tax collector in Monopoly to Scar from “The Lion King.”

The parade highlights a week of rehearsals geared toward the pageant preliminaries on Thursday and Friday nights, June 13 and 14, and the finals on Saturday, June 15.

Miss America 2013 Mallory Hytes Hagan is expected to make an appearance during finals night.

“It is a little tense that week for the young ladies that are competing, but it’s also just a fun-filled week,” said pageant co-Executive Director Lou Barthold.

Barthold credited the city for supporting the pageant since it moved to town in 1996. The pageant was held in Wildwood prior to that.

“Ocean City is a great place to have it,” Barthold said.

The city’s public-information director, Mark Soifer, who serves on the board of directors of the pageant, said the city donates money for the trolley the pageant uses to transport its contestants and handles publicity for the pageant.

“Many hotel rooms are booked by people coming into town to visit the Pageant,” Soifer wrote in an email. “The Miss New Jersey Boardwalk Parade the evening before the contest begins brings a huge crowd to our Boardwalk. The two preliminaries and final bring crowds to the Music Pier. Yes, it brings people to Ocean City.”

To see Miss New Jersey pageant events

The Miss New Jersey Pageant will take place June 11 to 15. A Boardwalk parade is scheduled for Wednesday of that week, followed by preliminary competitions on Thursday and Friday and the finals on Saturday at the Music Pier. The entrance fee for audience members is $35 on Thursday and Friday and $50 on Saturday. A package for all three days costs $110. To learn more, see missnewjersey.net

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