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Miss America contestants flip pancakes for IHOP benefit


Tom Donoghue/

The 2010 Miss America Pageant’s International House of Pancakes breakfast benefit for Children’s Miracle Network at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 22, 2010. Miss Nevada Christina Keegan is second from left.

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See all of the Sun's 2010 Miss America Pageant coverage.

2010 Miss America Pageant: Arrival Ceremony

The contestants in the 2010 Miss America Pageant at the arrival ceremony in Planet Hollywood on Jan. 21, 2010. Launch slideshow »

2010 Miss America Contestants @Planet Hollywood

The contestants of the 2010 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood. Launch slideshow »

2010 Miss America Pageant: IHOP Breakfast Benefit

The 2010 Miss America Pageant's International House of Pancakes breakfast benefit for Children's Miracle Network at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 22, 2010. Launch slideshow »

2010 Miss America Pageant Arrival Ceremony

2010 Miss America Pageant Arrival Ceremony

2010 Miss America Pageant Arrival Ceremony

2010 Miss America Pageant Arrival Ceremony

2010 Miss America Pageant Arrival Ceremony

It was as if the Miss America Organization had adopted the ancient slogan “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Originally written in 500 B.C. by Herodotus, it was adopted by the U.S. Postal Service and inscribed around the main New York City Post Office building, now a historic landmark, in 1896.

Truer words were never spoken about yesterday’s ugly travel for the 53 Miss America Pageant contestants. They braved snow on the East Coast and rainstorms on the West Coast. Even Miss America Organization Chairman Sam Haskell III was stuck on a plane that left L.A. at 9 a.m. for the 55-minute flight to Las Vegas that didn’t land until 4:05 p.m.! It circled our oft-closed airport during the downpour and dangerous winds and had to be diverted to Sacramento for refueling.

New Planet Hollywood President Marilyn Winn, Planet Hollywood Worldwide Resorts President Bill Feather and DJ Chet Buchanan welcomed the contestants who had all been delayed in travel. Four of the ladies didn’t even make it to the ceremony and arrived later last night. It was the first time the contestants were officially presented, and the Quality of Life Awards finalists were announced. The 2010 Miss America Pageant will be telecast live from Planet Hollywood on Jan. 30 on TLC.

Marilyn, also president of Bally’s and the Paris for Harrah’s, told the crowd she’d grown up watching Miss America every year, and now in her new position at Planet Hollywood since Harrah’s took over management a week ago, not only will she watch it in person, but also her hotel is hosting the event.

“I never, ever thought that would happen,” she laughed. Our loyal Vegas DeLuxe reader Richard Corey was onsite and posted his videos of the arrival ceremony on YouTube.

This year’s pageant is the 89th year, as the first contest was held in 1921. The pageant was telecast for the first time in 1954 and has been broadcast ever since, making it one of the four longest-running live events in TV history. Bert Parks began his unbroken 25-year tenure as emcee in 1955 when he introduced the theme song “There She Is, Miss America,” which will be played at next Saturday’s ceremony with Mario Lopez as the host.

The pageant moved from Atlantic City and relocated to Planet Hollywood on the Strip in 2006. MAO has become the world’s largest provider of scholarship money for young women and last year provided $45 million in such funding. The first year’s scholarship grant was $5,000 and was awarded to Bess Myerson in 1945. This year, Miss Puerto Rico rejoins the pageant after a 50-year absence.

This morning, the young ladies were up bright and early to flip pancakes to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network. Armed with forks and spatulas and donning aprons and their state sashes, they were joined by children who have benefited from CMN hospitals. Contestants hoped to raise awareness about International House of Pancakes’ National Pancake Day celebration, the nationwide fundraising effort that aims to raise $5 million in five years for CMN programs at children’s hospitals and other local charities throughout the U.S.

CMN Vice President Roger Cook introduced two Las Vegas children who are “shining stars” in the St. Rose Dominican Hospital program: 7-year-old Ivan Xochipa, a second-grader who has recovered from a brain tumor, and David Garcia, a 17-year-old senior who is being treated for leukemia. The glamour girls proved their skills -- and lack thereof! -- at flipping pancakes, and our Miss Nevada Christina Keegan even had a wayward pancake flipped into the middle of her crown.

IHOP’s fifth National Pancake Day celebration benefiting CMN is set for Feb. 23, when 1,400 IHOPs will offer guests a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes to raise awareness and funds for CMN and other local charities. In 2010, IHOP hopes to raise $1.75 million, marking a cumulative $5 million raised in five years, all of which has gone directly to charities in the communities in which the money is raised.

Tonight, all 53 contestants will be aboard the gondolas at The Venetian for a 7 p.m. cruise down the Grand Canal. They’ll be serenaded by the singing gondoliers and enjoy a dessert reception on the canal bridge at St. Mark’s Square with entertainment from the Carnivale’s cast of characters.

Tomorrow, they’ll have their first public meet-and-greet on the runway at Fashion Show at 5:30 p.m. when Las Vegas resident Lynn Weidner, who was Miss New Jersey 1973, emcees the event. Lynn is a member of Miss America’s board of directors. Contestants will sign autographs for fans until 7 p.m.

Their last taste of sightseeing and Las Vegas fun is on Sunday night when they go electric go-kart racing at Pole Position Raceway opposite Palms Place. Next week becomes intense, grueling and challenging, with judges’ interviews, show rehearsals and three nights of preliminary competition.

Finally, it’s the nerve-wracking live satellite broadcast on Jan. 30, when 2009 Miss America Katie Stam crowns the woman who will replace her for the next 12 months as Miss America.

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