They’ve been here for two weeks and on Tuesday night the Miss America contestants made their first appearances on stage at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. 

The first night of preliminaries in the Miss America 2016 competition kicked off this week with 52 young women answering on-stage questions, performing talents and strutting their stuff on the runway in evening and swim attire.

Miss Iowa Taylor Wiebers won in the night’s talent category and Miss South Carolina Daja Dial took the win in swim wear. Additional winners in both categories will be revealed at Wednesday and Thursday’s preliminaries.

The show moved along smoothly with host Dena Blizzard, Miss New Jersey 1995, who is hosting the preliminaries for her seventh year.

Wiebers sang “Don’t Forget Me” from the television show, Smash, while wearing a floor length green gown. Other talents included instrumental performances by Miss Mississippi Hannah Roberts on violin and Miss Nevada Katherine Kelley on piano. 

The majority of talents were in the dance category, but Miss Maine Kelsey Earley wowed audiences with her clogging number. Miss Michigan Emily Kieliszewski tapped to M.C. Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” and Miss Delaware simultaneously tapped while twirling batons to “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson. 

Vocalists like Miss Oklahoma Georgia Frazier and Miss Idaho Kalie Wright belted out renditions of “Happy Days Are Here Again” and an acoustic version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” respectively. 

Preliminary judges for the night included talent producer Brian Edwards, performer James Brown III, actress Jenni Pulos, former Miss America Kylene Barker McNeill, BGR Group CEO Lanny Griffith, sales professional Noah Alexander and fashion journalist Rachel Zalis.

The group listened as contestants answered on-stage questions from Blizzard about each of their individual platforms. Miss Florida MaryKatherine Fechtel was asked about protecting children from online influences.

Fechtel said people have to realize that the internet is neither a good or bad thing, but a means of communication, which means predators have access.

Constants in the Sigma group, which included Miss New Jersey Lindsey Giannini, walked the stage in their best swim and evening attire. Miss Colorado Kelley Johnson donned a floor length red gowns with a train and Miss Alaska Zoey Grenier wore a tight shimmery gold dress. 

Earlier in the day, Josh Randle, organization COO, said the competition was entrenched in not only Atlantic City’s history, but close at heart to the local people.

“There’s a certain excitement here, a flair,” he said. “When Miss America is here and you talk to someone here, they have a family story about the competition. It’s personal.”

 “The stage will be filled with talent, evening gown and swim suit tonight and for the next couple of nights of preliminaries,” said Lynn Weidner, Miss America Organization board chairwoman, Tuesday afternoon,” and we know it’s going to be a fantastic show, a historic show, a great celebration of 95 years of Miss America.”

The second and third nights of preliminaries start at 7 p.m. at Boardwalk Hall, followed by a Sept. 11 tribute at the Claridge Hotel and the Miracle Mile Walk on Friday.  

Contact: Nicole Leonard


Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

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