Miss America contest returns to New Jersey home

Sun Sep 15, 2013 12:26pm EDT
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By Victoria Cavaliere

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (Reuters) - Fifty-three women will showcase their beauty, poise and talent on Sunday as they compete for the crown in the 2014 Miss America Pageant.

The 93-year-old beauty pageant returns this year to its hometown of Atlantic City, New Jersey, after an eight-year stretch in Las Vegas.

Contestants from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will be judged on their performance in events including a personal interview, talent demonstration, on-stage question, as well as their appearance in evening gowns and swimwear during the two-hour nationally televised event.

Last year's winner, Mallory Hagan from New York, will crown her successor.

Several contestants made headlines during preliminary competitions earlier this month. Miss Iowa, Nicole Kelly, was born without her left forearm and says the competition is helping her promote a platform of overcoming disabilities. Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, is a sergeant in the Kansas Army National Guard and will be the first contestant to show off tattoos in a pageant known for its more traditional presentation of female beauty.

The pageant's return to the New Jersey shore, where its founders in 1921 hoped the event would extend the summer tourist season, could be an economic boon for an area that was hard hit by last year's Superstorm Sandy. The Atlantic City Alliance, an economic development group, estimated that it would bring in about $30 million in business to area businesses.

Sam Haskell, chief executive of the Miss America Organization, said Governor Chris Christie and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno were quick to welcome the pageant back to its birthplace and promised the seaside resort town would be ready for the massive event.

"The governor and lieutenant governor wanted to show the world that Atlantic City was still vibrant and vital after the storm," Haskell said. "They just said, 'We will be ready.'"   Continued...