ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- The 63rd annual Miss America Pageant officially begins today, but the 50 women hoping to capture the crown have already spent a busy two days posing for pictures and preparing for the contest.
All grins and giggles, the contestants cavorted through three photo sessions Sunday, enjoying one last chance to relax before the pageant shifts into high gear. The contest climaxes Saturday night with the crowning of a new queen.
Pageant officials control the picture sessions, but some of the women still managed to bend the rules a little as their chaperones looked the other way.
Miss Washington, Jennifer Havlin, and Miss Oklahoma, Trelynda Kerr, broke off a Boardwalk stroll to throw bread crumbs to a flock of seagulls, and Miss New York, Vanessa Williams, had an impromptu chat with boxing great Muhammad Ali.
During a scheduled poolside pose, Miss Georgia, Tammy Fulwider, Miss Illinois, Becky Bush, Miss South Carolina, Dalia Garcia, and Miss Utah, Lynn Lambert, dived into the water and briefly splashed around for photographers.
Meanwhile, Miss Pennsylvania, Jennifer Eshelman, and Miss Michigan, Denise Gehman, were working out on some weightlifting equipment in a hotel gymnasium.
The frivolities are aimed at framing the women in the pageant's all-American image, but the queen this year is not likely to be the girl next door. The 50 state representatives are mostly superachievers with big plans for the future.
As usual, many of the women -- 21 to be exact -- want to pursue entertainment careers, but a number of less glamorous professions have shown up on the contestants' resumes.
Many women plan conventional careers such as law, business, or medicine, but a few have offbeat ambitions. Miss Wisconsin, Wendy Wagner, wants to be a conference coordinator, and Miss Iowa, Karri Nussle, hopes to become a college band conducter.
But to win the title, with its $25,000 scholarship and potential earnings of about $150,000, the women have to attract some attention - and how they try.
Miss Minnesota, Vicki Plaster, notes she is a 'self-confessed chocoholic,' Miss Tennesee, Moira Kaye, wants everyone to know her home 'was the subject of an indoor air pollution study' and that she collects ceramic frogs.
And Miss Maine, Brenda Theriault, an aspiring helicopter pilot, says she helped build her house and is protected by Weimaraner attack dogs -- but won't say why until someone asks her this week.