Miss America first prelim

The 51 contestants of the Miss America 2018 pageant take the stage at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for the first night of preliminary competition Wednesday night. Wednesday, September 6

With the first night of preliminary competition behind them, several contestants for Miss America 2018 were glad the highly weighted judges interviews and individual talent portions were over, but still were focused on two more rounds and the final competition ahead.

Miss Pennsylvania — Katie Schreckengast is used to playing her alto saxophone in front of big crowds, as a member of the Penn State University Blue Band marching band. Schreckengast was obviously solo Wednesday night. She played a rendition of “Listen” from the Broadway show “Dreamgirls” and smiled to the crowd afterward. “I wouldn’t say I’m relieved, but it’s nice to have that 60 percent of my score behind me.”

Miss Maine — Breaking up the monotony of the press room Thursday was Katie Elliott, whose beat-boxing skills picked up from her days in the Wheaton College a capella group caused an impromptu dance party.

Miss West Virginia — Besides showing off her hip-hop dance talent in the first round of preliminaries, highlights of being in Atlantic City for Tamia Hardy have included going on the rides at Steel Pier. Miss America 2018 contestants were treated to an all-access night at Steel Pier, where several women strapped in for a ride on the Slingshot.

Miss Louisiana — Laryssa Bonacquisti is no stranger to Atlantic City. She has been to the Miss America competition before as a spectator and learned all about the pageant from her mother, former Miss New Jersey Charlotte Lynette Falls, who competed for Miss America 1991. Bonacquisti said it wasn’t until about age 6 or 7 that she learned her mom competed in pageants. “I’d see the pictures and think, ‘My mom’s a queen!’ but it wasn’t until later I understood what the pageants were all about.” It was also at about that age Bonacquisti took up her talent of ventriloquism. Look out for her and her partner “Waddles” during Friday’s preliminaries.

Miss Tennessee — Caty Davis had the opportunity to sing Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” on stage at Boardwalk Hall on Wednesday night, but admits her life could have gone in a completely different direction. With several stories of opioid and alcohol addiction in her family, Davis said, she is looking to gain a national platform to talk about the addiction crisis. Her platform “Attacking Addiction” focuses on prevention, recovery and the restoration of families that are ultimately affected by a loved ones problems. Just like during the competition, Davis only had moments to explain her story, before she was whisked away for more production rehearsals.

* * *

Mothers whose children were killed while serving in the military will be honored this weekend as part of the Miss America competition.

The Miss America Organization, the Got Your Back Network, Caesars Entertainment and others will host nine Gold Star Mothers as honorary Miss Americas on Sunday in Atlantic City.

Three others also will be honored in absentia.

The moms will be put up and pampered at casinos, meet with Pentagon officials and be honored onstage at Boardwalk Hall before the nationally televised finale begins.

Among them will be Eileen Daly, of Brick, New Jersey, whose son Sgt. Ronald Kubik was killed in Afghanistan in 2010 and who posthumously was awarded the Silver Star.

She says she is gratified to know their families’ sacrifices haven’t been forgotten.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact: 609-272-7286 lcarroll@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPress_LC

Joined the Press in November 2016. Graduate of Quinnipiac University. Previously worked as a freelance reporter in suburban Philadelphia and news/talk radio producer.

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