A fire in another New Jersey shore town that leveled more than 30 businesses only adds to the reasons the state could use a boost of publicity from the Miss America Competition, officials said Friday.
Speaking to members of the media Friday afternoon, Miss America Organization CEO Sam Haskell, along with telecast hosts Lara Spencer and Chris Harrison, said their thoughts are with those affected by the fire that destroyed parts of Seaside Park and Seaside Heights less than a year after Hurricane Sandy hit the shoreline.
Harrison, the host of ABC’s “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” said filming Miss America in New Jersey reminded him of the Superbowl coming to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
“It doesn’t fix everything. It doesn’t make everything better, but it does show the steps that have been taken to rebuild,” said Harrison, who will host the competition for a fifth time. “Our thoughts and prayers to those folks affected by the fire last night — horrible. But just like they did with Sandy, I know they will rebuild.”
Spencer, co-anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America” and a first-time Miss America host, said Gov. Chris Christie’s remarks on the fire Friday nearly brought her to tears.
“It’s been a tough road for New Jersey,” she said. “A little bright spot like Miss America — for whatever it’s worth — I hope it helps.”
Meanwhile, all parties involved promised that Sunday’s 9 p.m. broadcast will shine a flattering spotlight on Atlantic City as well as the competition. Returning to Boardwalk Hall also means the return of the competition’s 115-foot runway and nearly doubles the size of the stage Miss America had in Las Vegas.
“Having done this show here and having done it in Las Vegas, it really doesn’t compare,” Harrison said. “The Vegas show was more like a stage show. This can be a big television event.”
Executive producer Tony Eaton, of Tall Pony Productions, meanwhile, promised that the opening performance number by the 53 Miss America hopefuls will be a nod to New Jersey. The performance is not choreographed to a modern song, but it is a song by a famous New Jersey performer, he said.
Hundreds of first responders have been directed to the Seaside fire. Meanwhile, federal, state, county and local entities have been planning to provide security for today’s Miss America parade. The response in Seaside will not affect the parade, Haskell said.
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