Miss Iowa, Nicole Kelly, is seen on stage during the bathing suit portion of the preliminary round of the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey, September 10, 2013. Miss America will be crowned during the final ceremony on Sunday, September 15. Kelly was born missing half of her left arm. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)
Women from across the nation will take center stage at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall to compete for the bejeweled crown and the coveted title of "Miss America."
Boardwalk Hall will host the Miss America 2014 pageant, in which 53 contestants, including women from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, vie for the title of Miss America. The pageant is back in its birthplace, Atlantic City, after moving to Las Vegas for six years. The Miss America pageant started in Atlantic City in 1921.
Lara Spencer and Chris Harrison will host the show, and Miss Ameirca 2004 Deidre Downs Gunn, New York Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire, 'N Sync's Lance Bass, violinist Joshua Bell, comedian Mario Cantone and "The Chew" actress Carla Hall will serve as the pageant's judges.
So far, six of the 53 contestants-- Miss Mississippi, Miss New Hampshire, Miss Minnesota, Miss Florida, Miss Oklahoma and Miss Georgia--have won preliminary contests prior to tonight's finale, according to Miss America.org.
Some notable contestants are Nicole Kelly (Miss Iowa), who was born without her left forearm, and Theresa Vail (Miss Kansas), a 22-year-old Army vet who proudly showed off her tattoos during a preliminary bikini competition. Jennifer Smestad (Miss Arizona), is also remarkable because she overcame Tourettes Syndrome, which she was diagnosed with at 10 years old. She now serves as a spokesperson to educate the public about the condition.
The contestants will saunter down a 115-foot runway, nearly double the size of the Miss America stage in Las Vegas.
"Having done this show here and having done it in Las Vegas, it really doesn't compare," said Chris Harrison, show host and host of "The Bachelor" to the Press of Atlantic City. "The Vegas show was more like a stage show. This can be a big television event," he continued.
Tonight's broadcast will begin with an eight-minute opening segment, showing some of the contestants at locations around Atlantic City. Atlantic City is using the broadcast as a vehicle to rep the famous gambling town in the hopes of luring more tourists to the city.
CBS Philly reported that New Jersey brought the pageant back to its hometown by offering an attractive package to the contestants and creators of the broadcast. The package included hundreds of free and discounted hotel rooms, the use of Boardwalk Hall free of charge, and more than $7 million in state and county funds to help cover the costs of production.
John Palmieri, the executive director for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, said that the city will expect to see an economic boost due to the competition.
"We've concluded, based on the consulting study that was prepared, that we'll see about 30 to 35 million dollars in economic impact. About $15 million in direct spending, and another $15 to $20 million has to do with other auxiliary types of things, from vending services to other support type of activities that provide employment for people," Palmieri said.
The Miss America contract guarantees that the competition will be in AC for the next three years.
The competition's popularity has waned in recent years, so much so that it was not televised between 2007 and 2009. However, CBS Philly reports that the CEO of the Miss America Organization, Sam Haskell, said that the TLC reality show about Miss America contestants has helped make the contest popular again.
"The only way for Miss America or any organization like this to survive is to have young people who are interested in it. And younger girls were watching reality shows and they watched the Miss America reality show," Haskell said.
Haskell said that median age of the pageants' viewers has fallen from 58 to 37, which has prompted networks to televise the broadcast once again.
The Jersey shore is in need of publicity-- and more specifically, the resulting revenue-- due to another tragedy that hit a different part of the shore this week. Seaside Heights was ravaged by a 6-alarm fire this week that destroyed a large part of the boardwalk, which was recently rebuilt after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. The blaze destroyed more than 30 businesses along Seaside Park and Seaside Heights.
New Jersey officials are hoping that the Miss America pageant will bring attention, as well as tourism dollars, to the ailing beach town.
Lara Spencer, one of tonight's hosts and co-anchor of "Good Morning America" told the Press of Atlantic City, "It's been a tough road for New Jersey. A little bright spot like Miss America - for whatever it's worth - I hope it helps."
Executive producer of the pageant, Tony Eaton, said that the opening performance of the pageant will be a homage to the Garden State. It will showcase a choreographed number to a song by a famous New Jersey musician.
The pageant will air live on ABC from Boardwalk Hall on Sunday, September 15 at 9 p.m.