Five things about this weekend’s Miss America festivities

    The drama and spectacle that is Miss America has been happening in Atlantic City all this week, building for Sunday night’s finals and crowning. With preliminary competitions over, the next big pageant-related event will happen Saturday night, when the Show Us Your Shoes parade steps off at 5 p.m. on the boardwalk.

    I’ll be there to get an eyeful, but until then, here are Five Things About Miss America to tide you over:

    1.) It’s a crown and sash, not a magic wand and superhero cape. Google the phrase “Miss America save Atlantic City,” and you’ll get a whole slew of articles based around a far-fetched notion that pageant’s return to the troubled/struggling/down-on-its luck (choose your cliche of choice) might bring the seaside gambling mecca (another favorite cliche) back from few years of crumbling fortunes and plummeting revenues. 

    Some of those pieces — like former Down The Shore blogger Jen A. Miller’s terrific essay today on Philly Post — make good points. In her case, it’s that the $9 million in state incentives and other aid that lured the pageant back from Las Vegas is hard to justify. Other pieces are just color-by-numbers economic impact stories built around a dramatic, SEO-friendly headline.

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    The fact is, Miss America’s return to Atlantic City, and its new partnership with ABC, could be a good thing for both the pageant and the resort. It will supply the network, which has gone all-in on coverage, with a steady parade of “Dancing With The Stars” contestants and another venue for network personalities to appear (“Good Morning America” host Lara Spencer is a judge, for example). And maybe all that social media buzz will draw some pageant heads from far and wide to actually #DoAC. 

    But back to that Google search. In the list of search returns, just a few links below the Miss America headlines, you’ll find links to stories asking whether strippers will save Atlantic City. That’s from a few weeks ago, about Scores opening inside the Taj Mahal. 

    Can a girl get a break?

    No single event or gimmick will save Atlantic City — that’s the central lesson taught by casino gambling. It takes consistent investment by the state, the city, the tourists who visit and the residents who live and work there to bring a city back from the dead. It takes gamblers losing their money at Borgata instead of SugarHouse, and a state government that doesn’t do things like warehouse violent parolees in a city motel without telling anyone.

    So no, Miss America won’t save Atlantic City. Because that’s your job.

    2.) Atlantic City is all smiles, but the week’s events are on everyone’s minds. On Wednesday, the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen contestants paused during rehearsals in Boardwalk Hall to remember the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks — just as Miss America contestants had done in the same spot in 2001. (Thanks to Caroline Bright for the photo.) 

    Thursday’s devastating blaze on the boardwalk in Seaside Park happened more than an hour up the Garden State Parkway from Atlantic City, but every boardwalk town has known the pain of fire. The state’s annual Firemen’s Convention is gearing up in Wildwood this weekend, and firefighters from all over the state were sent to help fight the Seaside blaze.

    Our hearts go out to our friends 60 miles up the Parkway in Seaside. You are in our thoughts and prayers. #JerseyStrong

    — Miss America Org (@MissAmericaOrg) September 13, 2013


    3.) She’s not the only flame in town. If you’re itching for a trip to A.C. this weekend but Miss America isn’t your thing, the AC Seafood Festival will be taking place at Bader Field on Saturday and Sunday. No word on whether it’ll save Atlantic City, but I’m sure the chowder will be plentiful. 

    Also this weekend, English comedy bad boy Russell Brand and country-fried ‘merican crooner Alan Jackson will be in concert, and there’s a triathlon Sunday morning.  

    4.) Oh, the drama! Tuesday, Miss Kansas Theresa Vail rocketed to national attention by strutting across the stage in a bikini with — gasp! — visible tattoos! Vail has two, one a tribute to the U.S. Army Dental Corps. She’s a member of the Army National Guard and wants to become a prosthetic dentist. Vail had warned readers of her blog weeks ago that she planned to sport a two-piece, as part of her platform of female empowerment. 

    For her talent portion, Miss Kansas wanted to shoot stuff, but pageant officials nixed her archery idea. Bummer. 

    In other drama, there’s a tape of Miss New York — newly chosen as “Miss Diversity,” — calling current Miss America Mallory Hagan (former Miss NY), fat. Apparently she’s since apologized, and the two are set to appear together onstage this weekend. What could go wrong? 

    But wait! There’s more: On the last night of preliminaries, Miss Florida, Myrrhanda Jones, ventured onstage sporting flat shoes and a leg brace. She suffered a torn ACL in what pageant officials and witnesses said was a mishap during rehearsal.

    Jones soldiered on, doing her baton twirling routine anyway, and won the night’s Talent Competition. 

    5.) It’s a tough job, but someone fabulous has to do it. Whichever contestant wins the scholarship competition, beauty pageant, reality show or whatever you want to call Miss America, she’ll have a busy year ahead. Miss America was the original spokesmodel, or to use the 2013 phrase, global brand ambassador, first for the Jersey Shore, and now American glamour and, uh, female empowerment. 

    The weeklong competition is essentially a series of job interviews for a year-long position that will involve about 20,000 miles of travel each month for hundreds of appearances. Miss America changes her location every 18-36 hours, and her wardrobe far more often than that. If Miss A 2014 is as social media-savvy as the current titleholder, you’ll be able to follow along with much of her adventuring. 

    BONUS: Three Things I’d Like To See Next Year

    1.) More live-streaming. There was plenty of live-Tweeting and Instagramming going on during the preliminaries, but a live stream would have been better. The Show Us Your Shoes parade on Saturday will be broadcast on the web, courtesy of PHL17. Click here to watch the parade live-stream.

    2.) A Miss America app. This could make the America’s Choice portion, where the public can vote on the web based on contestant videos, really sing. And with social media tie-ins, it would be easy to follow the current Miss A on her travels in real time.

    3.) An openly gay Miss America contestant. Because YES.


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