Miss America Organizers Say Vegas Paid Off

Monday, January 23rd 2006, 10:59 am
By: News On 6

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Miss America rolled the dice moving to Las Vegas, and the gamble paid off, pageant organizers said Sunday.

Held outside Atlantic City, N.J., for the first time in its 85-year history, the pageant wrapped up Saturday night with the crowning of Miss Oklahoma Jennifer Berry _ and with new buzz for the faltering grande dame of beauty competitions.

Yet it remains to be seen whether what happened in Vegas will stay in Vegas. Pageant CEO Art McMaster said that no decision had been made on where Miss America was headed next, although the Aladdin Resort & Casino wanted it back next year.

``I know there are a lot of other interested cities that would like to get their hands on this,'' McMaster said.

Also unknown Sunday was whether the move to Las Vegas and cable television were enough to lure back viewers who have been tuning the pageant out for years. Ratings information was not yet available.

``Miss America is a perfect fit for Country Music Television, and we hope last night was step one in a long relationship,'' said Paul Villadolid, vice president of programming and development for the network, which signed a five-year deal to broadcast Miss America after ABC dropped the pageant.

Cash-strapped, the organization reduced scholarships this year. Berry, a 22-year-old senior at the University of Oklahoma, received $30,000, about $20,000 less than predecessor Deidre Downs got. The rest of the participants received $1,000 each, down from $2,000.

``These last couple of years have been hard on us, financially,'' McMaster said. ``This was the year we had to turn this thing around. We were dying a slow death in Atlantic City.''

The organization's corporate office remains in Atlantic City, where it was founded in 1921.