ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Miss Maryland and Miss Arkansas won preliminary contests Wednesday in the second night of the Miss America pageant.
Miss Maryland Hannah Brewer won the swimsuit competition, while Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields won the talent portion by jazz dancing to “They Just Keep Moving the Line,” a song from the former TV show “Smash.”
It was the second of three nights of preliminary competition at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. The new Miss America will be crowned during Sunday night’s nationally televised finale.
Here are some highlights from Wednesday night:
“We were just whispering to each other that it’s so unreal,” Shields told reporters afterward. “Every girl here is so talented.”
“And fit and beautiful,” added Brewer.
Shields said she thinks she made a connection with the judges during her dance performance to the “Smash” song — a television show about a Broadway production that was canceled after two seasons, leaving many fans, including her, in mourning.
“One of my favorite things about dance is connecting with the audience,” she said. “Hopefully we got to tell our story a bit.”
As far as “Smash,” Shields still has the soundtrack in her car.
With 52 women vying for the crown, finding a way to stand out from the crowd is imperative, and contestants traditionally incorporate their home state into a humorous introduction of themselves.
“The city of North Pole is in my state, so now you know where your letters to Santa go!” announced Miss Alaska Kendall Bautista.
“From the Mile High state, home of the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, I’m here to keep the winning streak going!” said Miss Colorado Shannon Patilla.
“From the only place in America close to paying women equally, catch up, America!” said Miss District of Columbia Cierra Jackson, who won Tuesday night’s swimsuit competition.
And Miss Nevada Bailey Gumm offered, “Over 80 percent of my state is owned by the federal government, so America, you might as well have me, too!”
Jackson, Miss District of Columbia, got a rousing ovation for her rendition of “Natural Woman,” the Carole King song made most famous by Aretha Franklin.
Miss New Jersey Brenna Weick sang “Someone Like You” from” Jekyll & Hyde, Miss Minnesota Madeline Van Ert sang and played the piano on “What a Wonderful World,” and Miss New Mexico Stephanie Chavez went all-Jersey with a version of Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life.”
Supporting the military, helping children and seniors figured prominently in the onstage interviews some of the contestants gave.
Miss Nebraska Aleah Peters spoke of combating cyberbullying by thinking twice before reposting something potentially hurtful to someone.
“We need to become aware of what’s happening to that person behind the screen who’s hurting every time we share that cruel content,” she said.
Miss Iowa Kelly Koch spoke of her group Pinky Swear that raises money for the families of kids with cancer.
“It pays for those mortgages and car payments so all their attention is on these children who have cancer,” she said.
Miss Oklahoma Sarah Klein’s platform is helping military service members “from deployment through employment.”
“The greatest casualty is being forgotten,” she said. “They have done their part and now it’s time to do ours.”
The competition was held at Boardwalk Hall in the city where the pageant began in 1921 as a way to extend the summer tourist season beyond Labor Day weekend.
It includes contestants from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
On Tuesday night, Miss District of Columbia Cierra Jackson won the preliminary swimsuit competition, while Miss Tennessee Grace Burgess won the talent portion by singing The Eagles’ “Desperado.”
The 2017 Miss America will be crowned Sunday night.
Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC