No one was surprised the Miss New Jersey pageant was moving to Atlantic City more so than Ocean City officials.

“People called us saying they saw the news online,” said Michele Gillian, executive chairwoman of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, “but no one had been officially notified about the move by Miss New Jersey.”

David Holtzman, the newly appointed executive director of the Miss New Jersey Education Foundation, broke the news Wednesday during an event at the Superstar Theater at Resorts Casino Hotel, the pageant’s new home for the next two years.

Holtzman said Wednesday Miss New Jersey had outgrown the Ocean City Music Pier — the pageant’s home for the past 22 years — and was excited about the larger space at Resorts.

Ocean City Director of Community Services Mike Allegretto said they had still planned to have the pageant the first week of June. Now, the city will have to find something to fill the void.

“It certainly can hurt with so many people coming and staying in hotels and visiting the restaurants and shopping the boardwalks and the downtowns,” Allegretto said. “Certainly they might feel some effects from it not being here that entire week.”

Also blindsided were the Miss New Jersey candidates.

“Of course it was a surprise, but my reaction was positive,” said Miss Coastal Shores 2019 Christa Steiner, 20, of Beach Haven.

Steiner competed for Miss New Jersey last year and will be in this year’s pageant. She said Ocean City was a great hosting town, but Atlantic City is synonymous with pageant glitz.

“Atlantic City is so famous and has so much they can provide us. For us girls competing in Miss New Jersey, we’ll get to experience a bit of what Miss America feels like,” Steiner said.

Gillian said the city supported the Miss America franchise at a time when the pageant was struggling financially.

“We rolled out the red carpet. We made some great strides for the pageant, including their own ‘Show Us Your Shoes’ parade,” Gillian said. “We made sure the hotels were offering good rates and had the expertise of the Music Pier facility for the pageant and publicity for the event. We used a lot of resources, and the businesses opened their doors.”

During last year’s pageant week, the 28 Miss New Jersey candidates made appearances at several city restaurants, including the Promenade Food Court, Pisa Pizza, Uncle Bill’s Pancake House and Yianni’s Café.

“It’s a shame they are leaving,” said Gillian, “Ocean City is a great family resort that really embraced Miss New Jersey. We really do support the pageant model and the scholarship. We wish them luck, but we think that it was a perfect fit all those years.”

Mark Morrison, co-owner and general manager of the Forum Motor Inn, which has hosted the contestants and pageant directors for 16 years, said he is saddened the pageant is leaving Ocean City.

“We will truly feel the loss this June. We will miss all of the positive and energetic dynamic the young ladies brought along with them into our lobby,” he said.

Mike Carmody, owner of the OC Surf Café, a breakfast spot across from the hotel that lodged the pageant competitors, said he enjoyed the friendliness of the people involved in the pageant and saw a surge in business during pageant week as the café served the contestants’ families and delivered food across the street to accommodate the pageant crews.

“I hate to see it go because it meant a lot to Ocean City,” Carmody said.

Still, he said he’s glad the pageant will remain in South Jersey, and he believes it could give Atlantic City a boost.

Allegretto also said he understands why Holtzman wants to hold the pageant at a larger local venue.

“I fully understand that, and I hope that it works out for them and it continues to grow to the state pageant it can be,” Allegretto said.

Staff Writer

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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