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Atlantic City welcomes Miss America 'home'

| Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, 9:36 p.m.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The Miss America pageant is back in the city where it began, six years after spurning its birth place for Las Vegas.

The pageant held a welcoming ceremony in Atlantic City on Tuesday for the 53 contestants, one from each state plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The contestants filed out of Boardwalk Hall, where the competition will begin next week and culminate days later, and walked across the boardwalk to a stage.

There, they participated in the traditional signing-in ceremony, in which each signed her state on a map of the country and gave a few words of introduction. Most spoke of how happy they were that the pageant had come home again.

In the words of Miss Massachusetts, Amanda Narciso: “We appreciate you, we love you and we can't wait to perform for you!”

Three nights of preliminary competition will begin on Sept. 10. The traditional Show Us Your Shoes Parade will be held Sept. 14, and the nationally televised finale will be held on Sept. 15.

The loudest cheer went up among spectators for the hometown entrant, Miss New Jersey, Cara McCollum, who proclaimed, “It's been too long since New Jersey has had Miss America!”

The welcoming ceremony included the unveiling of a sculpture of Miss America holding out a tiara to a successor on the Boardwalk.

The pageant moved to Las Vegas in 2006 in hopes of attracting a younger audience as TV ratings continued to slide. It was lured back to Atlantic City in part by the promise of increased subsidies, which are to total more than $7 million over three years.

The pageant, originating in 1920 as the Fall Frolic, started as little more than a bathing suit revue that was a way to drum up business for the shore resort after Labor Day. It broke viewership records in its heyday and bills itself as one of the world's largest scholarship programs for women.

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