Under the glitzy lights of the Las Vegas casino, a young ballerina from Oklahoma was crowned Miss America, but officials hope the problem-plagued pageant will be the real winner.
The Miss America Organization relocated the pageant to Las Vegas after 85 years in Atlantic City in an attempt to revitalize the struggling contest. The pageant changed locations on the airwaves as well, moving to Country Music Television after network television dropped the show as a result of declining ratings.
Twenty-two year-old Jennifer Berry, an aspiring teacher currently studying at the University of Oklahoma outlasted 51 other young women competing in Sin City for the coveted title. During the course of the competition Berry addressed the issue of drunk driving and impressed the judges and audience with her ballet routine.
As Miss America, Berry receives a $30,000 college scholarship and a year-long speaking tour. The contest evolved over the years from a small bathing suit revue in 1921 into an icon of the American cultural landscape. Recently interest has declined, hurting revenues and threatening the future of the pageant. But Berry hopes to turn this around by creating interest and marketing it to a younger crowd - 18-34.
"I hope to have sponsors knocking on our door," Berry said after winning.
The pageant, which dabbled in reality TV-style gimmicks in recent years as it tried to lure viewers, struck a more old-fashioned theme this time, despite the move to Sin City.
Video clips from old pageants were aired on the telecast, and another tradition that had been absent since the 1980s was revived: The women wore sashes naming their states.
The only Jewish Miss America ever crowned was Bess Myerson in 1945.