Miss America officials Friday said the return of the iconic beauty pageant to Atlantic City not only gives New Jersey a publicity boost, but may lift spirits deflated by Superstorm Sandy and a devastating fire this week that destroyed boardwalk businesses in another beach community.
"It doesn't fix everything," said competition host Chris Harrison, The Press of Atlantic City reported.
"It doesn't make everything better, but it does show the steps that have been taken to rebuild."
Harrison, who's been at the helm of the beauty pageant four previous times, compared this year's competition to that of the Super Bowl playing in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
"Our thoughts and prayers to those folks affected by the fire [Thursday night in Seaside Park, N.J.] — horrible," he said. "But just like they did with Sandy, I know they will rebuild."
The wind-whipped blaze took out the boardwalk in Seaside Park and spread to Seaside Heights, and damaged or destroyed 32 businesses that had recently been rebuilt in the aftermath of the 2012 superstorm.
Lara Spencer, co-anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America" and a first-time Miss America host, said Gov. Chris Christie's remarks about the fire on Friday nearly brought her to tears.
"It's been a tough road for New Jersey," she said. "A little bright spot like Miss America — for whatever it's worth — I hope it helps."
The Miss America Organization airs the beauty pageant Sunday night after decamping from Las Vegas, where the contest was held for the last eight years. It gave a nod to Christie for bringing the competition back East, Politico reported.
"Without Gov. Christie’s input and without his desire to make this happen, it would not have," said Miss America CEO Sam Haskell. "I have always admired him and really believe that he's a man of action. And I believe that when he wants to get something done, there's no one that's going to stop him.
"He's going to get it done. And he wanted this to happen here, and here we are. I've never negotiated anything of this magnitude so quickly and that's because Chris Christie wanted this to happen."
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