Days before this year’s Miss America contestants compete for the crown in Atlantic City, pageant officials gathered Tuesday at Boardwalk Hall to show off their shoes.
But just next door, only a good throw of the dice away, another shoe was dropping as Trump Entertainment Resorts filed for bankruptcy protection. Signs posted throughout Trump Plaza warned gamblers that the casino would shut down on Sept. 16, and parts of the Plaza hotel tower are already roped off. The Taj Mahal will likely close in November.
Two other casinos, Revel and Showboat, are already shuttered, and as many as 6,000 workers could be out of jobs before it’s all over.
Sam Haskell, chairman of the Miss America Organization, addressed the city’s troubles up front, expressing concern and solidarity with displaced workers. But ever the optimist, Miss America’s role is to stay focused on the good times.
“We want to be Atlantic City’s jewel in the crown. We know what’s going on here [in Atlantic City], and we want to be something positive,” Haskell said.
Susan Thompson, deputy executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, said events like Miss America, along with the festivals and concerts put on by the Atlantic City Alliance, show that “additional non-gaming events are the right fit for Atlantic City.”
The casino closings did lead to some logistical juggling, as Miss America puts judges, contestants and workers up in hotels all over town.
“Our judges, production team, and nine of the contestants had been scheduled to be the at Revel,” Haskell said in an interview. They’ve all been relocated to Borgata.
Miss America returned to Atlantic City last year, for the 2014 competition, after eight years in Las Vegas. Those were hard times for Miss America, as even broadcast partner ABC dropped the show over low ratings.
Miss America rejoined ABC last year, and is expanding its broadcast this year to include a live behind-the-scenes pre-show before the final competition on Sunday night. Also, a new deal with Dick Clark Productions, Haskell said, will bring Miss America onto more digital platforms, all year long. This year will be Miss America’s 60th anniversary on television.
“We’re going to be all over this country, and Miss America is going to become just as important as she was in the ’70s and ’80s when the three highest-rated shows were the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards and the Miss America pageant,” he said. “She’s comin’ back.”
But before Nina Davuluri passes the crown on to the 2015 winner, they’ll roll down the Boardwalk in the annual Show Us Your Shoes parade, a folksy favorite in which contestants flash footwear decorated to commemorate their home states.
After Tuesday’s press conference, Haskell unveiled this year’s selections, an over-the-top array of heels, sequins, feathers and beads, including Miss New Jersey Cierra Kaler-Jones’ sky-high, cage-style, jewel-encrusted boots, and Miss Delaware Brittany Lewis’ sparkling platform pumps, a tribute to the Diamond State.
Miss Pennsylvania Amanda Smith will sport black-and-white sequined platforms reminiscent of a dairy cow, while Miss Nevada Ellie Smith and Miss Texas Monique Evans will both step out in bejeweled cowboy boots.
The Show Us Your Shoes Parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, stepping off at Rhode Island Avenue and traveling about two miles to Albany Avenue. Free and reserved seating and viewing areas are all along the Boardwalk. Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian is the honorary grand marshal, with marching bands, choral groups and performers from all over New Jersey and several from Pennsylvania — including Philadelphia’s Cook-Wissahickon School choir — taking part.