ATLANTIC CITY -- The 28 Miss New Jersey 2019 contestants showed off their talents and shared their social platforms during the first night of preliminary competitions Wednesday.
Alyssa Sullivan, Miss Atlantic Shores, took first place for her onstage interview and Jade Glab, Miss Central Jersey Beaches, won the talent portion for her opera performance.
The competition, which took place in Resorts Casino Hotel's Star Theater this year, paid homage to the city's heyday and modeled classic casino performances. The competition moved from Ocean City this year.
Contestants entered through the about 200-member audience in black and white show girl costumes to "Luck be a Lady." Their entrance was followed by the "Do AC dancers" who danced to an original song with references to historic Atlantic City figures and local staples such as Tony's Baltimore Grill, by host and singer Dave Damiani.
The show also featured a surprise appearance from the city's new Arena League football team, the Atlantic City Blackjacks, who lifted reigning Miss New Jersey Jaime Gialloreto and worked out a quick set of push ups on stage.
But along with showcasing a new venue, Miss New Jersey competitors showcased a new message.
Without a swimsuit competition this year, contestants were given more time to focus on their personal stories and platforms with the audience and the judges.
Half of the contestants competed in the talent portion. Worth 50% of their score, the talent that was showcased included Irish dancing, musical theater, opera singing, piano playing and more.
The other 14 contestants, answered an on-stage question and walked the runway for the Red Carpet/Impact Statement portion on Wednesday.
Contestants in this second group already completed a 10-minute interview with the six judges offstage Tuesday, which counts toward 20% of their total score. Damini said the questions judges posed in the interviews ranged from political to personal.
They each answered one additional question onstage Wednesday night that counted for another 15% of their score.
Questions ranged from what do you think about a transgender contestant competing in Miss America? to who would you want as your television co-host?
Taking the place of the traditional evening gown, the Red Carpet/Impact statement portion allowed contestants to walk the runway and share their social causes in 15 seconds or less. This section counted for 15% of their overall score.
Due to a technical difficulty, Katrina Biss-lurato, Miss Ramapo Valley, was allowed to walk the runway a second time and restate her initiative about caring for older generations.
A few other glitches popped up during the show, including one that left Gialloreto frozen waiting a couple of minutes for her song to start her dance.
But other performances went off smooth including the little stars class of 2019 that also includes two little boys, who performed a dance to "Copacabana" in bright yellow costumes and walked the runway with their older mentors.
The contestants will return to the stage again for the second preliminary round at 8 p.m. Thursday where the groups will switch categories.
The winner will receive her crown Saturday at Resorts.
“It’s very bitter sweet for me,” Gialloreto said about passing on her title. “This job and being Miss New Jersey will always hold a special place in my heart.”
This year's judges are Barry Smith, a real estate developer; Cory Canter, a special education teacher from Lexington, Kentucky; Cynthia Miller, a certified Gerontolical nurse and adjunct professor at Stockton University; Anthony Gavin, a rock and roll singer from Ventnor; David Kietrys, an associate professor at Rutgers University; and Jim Thompson, a state competition judge and former president of the Miss New York Scholarship organization.