ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. >> For a while at least, Miss Vermont was far above the competition to become the next Miss America.
A licensed pilot, Erin Connor flew herself from Burlington, Vermont, to an airport just outside Atlantic City on Sunday, three days before the contestants met the public in the annual welcoming ceremony on the famous Boardwalk.
“I like to make an entrance anywhere I go,” she said.
She completed the 350-mile (563-kilometer) flight in about 2½ hours in a Piper Arrow, with two others aboard. Not making the trip, however, were the half-dozen or so evening gowns she’ll need when preliminary competition begins next week. Dad drove them down from Vermont.
Connor is one of 51 contestants (each state plus the District of Columbia) who were introduced to the public late this afternoon across from Boardwalk Hall, the historic arena where three days of preliminaries will lead up to the nationally televised finale on ABC on Sept. 10.
Here are some things to know about the 97th Miss America pageant:
The pageant was established by Atlantic City in 1921 as a way to extend the summer tourism season to the weekend after Labor Day. Margaret Gorman, of Washington, D.C., was the first Miss America.
In 1943, Jean Bartel was crowned Miss America in Atlantic City. In the ensuing year, she raised $2.5 million selling Series E war bonds (which would have been worth over $34 million in today’s dollars), more than any other private individual in the United States.
In 1954, Lee Meriwether became the first Miss America to be crowned on live television.
Miss America 1959 Mary Ann Mobley and Miss America 1960 Lynda Lee Mead were the first back-to-back Miss Americas from the same state, Mississippi.
In 1983, Vanessa Williams became the first African-American Miss America, but had to relinquish her title 10 months later after nude photos of her emerged that were taken before she won the title. She was welcomed back to the Miss America fold in 2015 with a nationally televised apology from current pageant officials over how the situation was handled.
The pageant moved to Las Vegas for six years before returning to Atlantic City in 2013.
The top winner will receive $50,000 in scholarship money. The Miss America Organization says it will hand out $302,000 in scholarship funds this year.
Preliminary competition: Sept. 6-8, Boardwalk Hall (not televised).
“Show Us Your Shoes” parade: Saturday, Sept. 9, Atlantic City Boardwalk.
Finale and crowning of Miss America 2018: Sunday, Sept. 10, 9 p.m. EDT.
TV and radio host and author Maria Menounos; former Miss America Nina Davuluri; vocalist Thomas Rhett; author, actress and model Molly Sims; recording artist and actress Jordin Sparks; and People magazine Editor in Chief Jess Cagle.
Chris Harrison (“The Bachelor” and “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”) and Sage Steele (ESPN’s “SportsCenter on the Road” and “SportsCenter: AM”).