Friday, Jan. 6, 2012 | 3:43 p.m.
As the Miss America contestants meet the public, en masse, for the first official photo opportunity of this year’s pageant, most of us see 53 attractive women.
Rossi Ralenkotter sees that, too. But he also sees 53 attractive states, all of which are to be reminded of the splendor of Las Vegas as Miss America is crowned at Planet Hollywood Theater for the Performing Arts. The show is set to air, tape delayed, at 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, on ABC.
“It’s all about extending the brand, the brand of Las Vegas,” the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority president and CEO said just after welcoming the 53 contestants to Planet Hollywood’s mezzanine level, sharing the same level (architecturally, anyway) as the adult revue “Peepshow.” That show’s co-star, Josh Strickland, introduced each of the contestants and even high-fived the rep from his home state, Bree Boyce (who does not look at all like a Boyce), Miss South Carolina.
As for Miss Nevada, Alana Lee of Las Vegas, she addressed the assembled media and pageant followers by reminding everyone to spend money in her home state, “Because we need it!”
She knows her audience. The line drew chuckles from Ralenkotter, County Commissioner Tom Collins and the rest of the tourism-official entourage that took in the lid-lifting event.
“You look at Miss America, the tradition and history of the pageant throughout the country, all of the things that they do across the United States, it’s been a good fit for us,” Ralenkotter said. “The national television exposure on ABC is great for us. We look at special events now as a way not only to bring visitors to Las Vegas, but as a way to get more brand exposure. When you look at Miss America in Las Vegas, it is a great combination.”
For the 2006 pageant, the show moved across country from Atlantic City to Planet Hollywood. Pageant officials — and Miss America Organization Chairman Sam Haskell and President Art McMaster are both back this year — have enjoyed the renewed spark the city has ignited in the show.
The contestants are typically fired up, too. It is not uncommon for a contestant to shout “Viva Las Vegas!” when introduced. It’s not long before one calls out, “What happens at the Miss America Pageant stays at the Miss America Pageant!”
“I think it’s just the excitement of the pageant itself,” Ralenkotter said by way of explanation for the enlivened appearance. “The fact that they are competing for the title of Miss America, and you add that to all of the excitement and buzz that Las Vegas presents, it really does give everybody a real energy boost, and I think that’s what you’re seeing.”
Ralenkotter can put the show’s impact on Vegas into statistics, no problem.
“There will be close to 10,000 people, total, coming into town for this event, an economic impact of over $9 million,” he said. “That’s important for us, too. It helps lead the year off, a very high-quality event in January, and a way for us to continue to prove our reputation as the best place to host an event.”
The overriding goal is to fill stacks of hotel rooms on a daily basis. If the local contestant wins, great.
“It’s all about the pageant, all of the things it brings to Las Vegas and the interaction with the destination,” Ralenkotter said. “We’ll all be rooting for Miss Nevada to win, but it is a part of us looking at this event and how it fits into our attempts to fill 151,000 rooms every single day.”
And for those who stay in those rooms, have some fun. Heed the call of Miss Nevada.