News of the pageant's return to Atlantic City came as a surprise to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which sponsored the pageant on the Las Vegas Strip in January, spokeswoman Courtney Fitzgerald said in a telephone interview. In a subsequent statement, she said the tourism organization wished the pageant well in its new home.
"Las Vegas is honored to have hosted the Miss America pageant for the past seven years," she said. "We understand that moving the televised event to various cities showcases America's diverse destinations which represent our great country."
Pageant officials didn't immediately respond to after-hours phone and email messages seeking comment Wednesday.
Many details remained unclear, including whether the pageant would return to the elaborate show it had been for decades at Boardwalk Hall or continue as more of the reality show it became with its move to Las Vegas. Also unknown was where it would be broadcast and whether it is returning permanently or for a limited run.
The Miss America pageant started as little more than a bathing suit revue. It broke viewership records in its heyday and bills itself as one of the world's largest scholarship programs for women. But, like other pageants, it has struggled to stay relevant as national attitudes regarding women's rights have changed.
According to the Miss America Organization's website, the contest originated in 1920 as the Fall Frolic, which became the Inter-City Beauty Contest the following year. In 1921, a high school junior named Margaret Gorman was one of approximately 1,000 entrants in a photo contest held by the Washington Herald. She was chosen as the first Miss Washington, D.C., and her prize was a trip to Atlantic City, where she won the top prize: the Golden Mermaid Trophy.
The next year, Gorman was expected to defend her title. But when the Washington Herald selected a new Miss Washington, D.C., Atlantic City pageant officials didn't know what new title to award Gorman. Since both titles she won in 1921 — Inter-City Beauty, Amateur and The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America — were considered somewhat awkward, it was decided to call her Miss America.
The pageant was conceived by the Businessmen's League of Atlantic City as a way to extend the summer tourism season in Atlantic City for another week, being held the weekend after Labor Day weekend, when temperatures were generally still warm.