Atlantic City celebrates Miss America's return

Mallory Hagan, Miss America 2013, with a vintage robe and sash.
Mallory Hagan, Miss America 2013, with a vintage robe and sash. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 23, 2013

ATLANTIC CITY - The official return of Miss America to her birthplace may be three months away, but officials rolled out the red carpet Friday for visitors who may want to get a jump on the fabled pageant.

And if those tourists want to revel the rest of the year in the Miss America tradition - the pretty gowns, glittery crowns, all the pomp and pageantry - there will be plenty of opportunity, with a new "Road to the Crown" walking tour and other activities and events, said Liza Cartmell, president of the Atlantic City Alliance, which made the announcement about the new attractions with six other local agencies at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel.

"We're celebrating her return," Cartmell said at a packed news conference. "It is really an initiative to show people that summer is never over in Atlantic City. Our best weather is really in the fall. Miss America brings thousands and thousands of visitors to Atlantic City . . . visitors who otherwise would never come to Atlantic City."

Cartmell said the idea was to continue to market Atlantic City as a year-round destination, using the pageant as another draw. All of the new attractions should be ready within the next few weeks.

Miss America began as a season-extending bathing-beauty competition in 1921 and evolved into a multimillion-dollar scholarship organization famous the world over.

Under a shroud of faltering financial support and sagging television ratings, in 2006 the pageant moved from Atlantic City to the Las Vegas Strip, taking with it the lucrative two-week run-up to the competition, when tens of thousands of visitors and international media were drawn to the resort.

After a less-than-sensational welcome in Nevada - the pageant never drew the support there that it had from the community here, insiders have said - it was announced in February that the show-us-your-shoes tradition would return to Atlantic City for at least the next three years.

The pageant will be broadcast nationally live from Boardwalk Hall on Sept. 15, and officials say it could create more than $30 million in revenue annually for the region.

Cartmell said the new Miss America-centric attractions would showcase some of the thousands of pieces of pageant memorabilia.

"There is so much of it. . . . There's enough to create a museum. And that may be something to look at for the future," Cartmell said.

For now, the "Road to the Crown" walking tour will be the centerpiece of the new offerings, starting at the Sheraton, a place that never lost its Miss America sparkle, where a vast collection of gowns and other pageant accoutrements are already on display throughout the hotel.

The tour, which will be available on a downloadable app and on pamphlets, will continue for several blocks and end at Boardwalk Hall, where the pageant was held for 85 years and where it will be held again this year.

Another attraction, the Rose Walk Journey, winds through the Walk outlets area and features bronze sidewalk plaques representing the history of the pageant and each winner. "Miss America Through the Decades" in the same vicinity shows window displays of pageant history. A free video booth where visitors can record pageant memories and see those shared by others is also part of the attraction.

"You just can't believe how much Miss America has meant to so many people across this country," said Miss America 2013, Mallory Hagan, who was on hand for the announcement Friday.

Hagan's reign, which began in January, will be cut short by four months because of the move back to Atlantic City and the return to the traditional September crowning. Nonetheless, Hagan said she was excited about the move.

"I can't wait to be here in September and walk the long runway," Hagan said.


Contact Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382, jurgo@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @JacquelineUrgo. Read the Jersey Shore blog, "Downashore," at inquirer.com/downashore.

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