ATLANTIC CITY - "So we have: 12 girls, five vehicles, four floats, four marching groups, small; three marching groups of 15 to 20 and two marching groups of 40 to 50."
Charlie Coyle rattled off the remaining components still in need of a slot in the Atlantic City Salutes America's Armed Forces Parade. Coyle, an Egg Harbor Township resident, and the four other event organizers were hunkered down to finalize the parade's lineup in the air-conditioned conference room of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority's Special Improvement Division offices.
With still days to go to showtime, they had secured commitments from more than 100 units and $30,000 from donors - far more than they had expected at the outset, committee chairman and grand marshal Pinky Kravitz said.
"I received a lot of negativity at the outset from people," Kravitz said. "They said the police would have to work overtime and that costs them, so (the city) won't have parades and such. But everyone I went to, they said they would help," said the Ventnor resident about the inaugural parade, which will begin at 6 p.m. Monday. "When people saw we got positive reactions, those doomsayers and naysayers - they jumped on the bandwagon."
Kravitz was sitting at the head of a conference table with Coyle to his right. Coyle and SID head Don Guardian, of Atlantic City, faced committee members Janet Markowitz, of Margate, and Alex Marino, of Linwood, who are part of the organizing committee along with about 10 other people.
The process started in the winter, with Kravitz raising funds and reaching out to veteran and military groups to participate in what will be the first parade in the resort solely dedicated to honoring military personnel. The radio veteran and columnist for The Press of Atlantic City, as well as other stakeholders, think spectators for Wednesday's Atlantic City Airshow - which typically draws between 500,000 and 750,000 people - will come into town early for the parade.
Coyle, who ran six Miss America parades, said he couldn't speak to attendance because his job is finished after the final float departs.
"I have a beer and cigars with my committee, and I go home," he said.
The Miss America parade and pageant left Atlantic City in 2005 amid local protest. The outrage was more about tradition lost than concerns about the effects on tourism and business. At that time, the local casino industry was still climbing toward its peak. Gaming revenue has since dropped for 35 consecutive months.
Since about halfway through the freefall, elected officials and business owners, casino executives and other local professionals have launched a succession of initiatives attempting to revive the resort. The parade lineup offers proof of their support.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford, for example, organized a series of summits during 2010 that brought together public officials and the business community. Those sessions yielded the Dave Matthews Band Caravan in June and Atlantic City Summerfest in July, plus the Atlantic City Rodeo at Boardwalk Hall. A few of the cowboys and their horses featured in the rodeo will return for the parade.
Miss Atlantic City is listed to participate in the parade, too, but there actually hasn't been a new one in three years. A revival of the pageant is in the works and will likely be staged at the Golden Nugget instead of Dante Hall, where it was last held in 2008.
Launched in April by the CRDA, the Atlantic City Tourism District was established by legislation that State Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, and Republican Assemblymen Vince Polistina and John Amodeo - who will all appear in the parade - helped to hash out.
The parade will feature many young women with tiaras.
"We don't have as many queens as I'd like," Coyle mused at the committee meeting. "Miss NJ Cover Girl. I don't know who she is; I don't have anything on her yet. Miss Pleasantville - she needs a car. We don't have enough convertibles. Little Miss Egg Harbor City, Miss Hammonton. And then we have the Wyked Kiss Girls."
Coyle admits he knows nothing abut the group, which is from Atlantic City, but was intrigued by the name.
"That's why I'm hesitant," Marino says.
Kravitz laughs: "Wyked what?"
The production company is run by Angelique Carlin, and despite the name and concerns it might provoke, her dancers are "clean and classy," she says.
Marino confirms Coyle's assessment after some peripheral research on his iPhone.
Guardian will dispatch SID workers to mark a mile of the Boardwalk with pieces of masking tape spaced 50 feet apart to ensure a uniform lineup and promenade.
Markowitz will handle getting donated fruit and sandwiches to parade participants and volunteers.
But it's up to Coyle to execute, which includes dealing with several last-minute additions he figured Kravitz found "under a rock." Regardless of where they came from, Coyle said he must fit them into a lineup that had reached 119 units by the end of the week - just shy of the 122 featured in the final Miss America parade.
"It's a real jigsaw puzzle to put it together."
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