Miss America returning to roots in Atlantic City

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 14, 2013 at 6:32 pm •  Published: February 14, 2013
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"We will be showcasing all the attractions we have in Atlantic City," Cartmell said. The pageant contestants "will be climbing the lighthouse, they'll go to Gardner's Basin, they may go dolphin-watching — all the fun things people do when they come to Atlantic City. The amount of free media for us is great."

The Miss America pageant left Atlantic City in 2006 after deciding it was just too expensive to stage its production there. It went to Las Vegas, where the current Miss America, Mallory Hagan, was crowned last month at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Hagan will have her reign cut short when the pageant is broadcast in September, but will be paid for the full year, pageant officials said.

The move to Las Vegas came amid sliding TV ratings for the pageant, as it tried to interest a younger demographic and incorporating elements of reality television programming.

McMaster said the content of the show is still being worked on, adding he expects a mixture of modern television elements and traditional pageant staples such as evening wear and swimsuit competitions, and talent competitions. The format is being jointly developed with the ABC television network, which will broadcast the pageant for the next three years, he said.

The Miss America pageant started as little more than a bathing suit revue. It broke viewership records in its heyday and bills itself as one of the world's largest scholarship programs for women. But, like other pageants, it has struggled to stay relevant as national attitudes regarding women's rights have changed.

The contest originated in 1920 as the Fall Frolic, which became the Inter-City Beauty Contest the following year. In 1921, a high school junior named Margaret Gorman was one of approximately 1,000 entrants in a photo contest held by the Washington Herald. She was chosen as the first Miss Washington, D.C., and her prize was a trip to Atlantic City, where she won the top prize: the Golden Mermaid Trophy.

The next year, Gorman was expected to defend her title. But when the Washington Herald selected a new Miss Washington, D.C., Atlantic City pageant officials didn't know what new title to award Gorman. Since both titles she won in 1921 — Inter-City Beauty, Amateur and The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America — were considered somewhat awkward, it was decided to call her Miss America.

The pageant was conceived by the Businessmen's League of Atlantic City as a way to extend the summer tourism season in Atlantic City for another week, being held the weekend after Labor Day weekend, when temperatures were generally still warm.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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