— LAS VEGAS (AP) — Beauties from every state are competing for the Miss America crown Saturday night, an honor that carries with it a $50,000 scholarship and a yearlong run as an advocate and role model.
The winner will go on tour, speaking to groups around the country and raising money for the Children's Miracle Network, the organization's official charity.
The competition at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip is the culmination of a week of preliminary competitions and months of preparations for the titleholders from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each one has already proven her poise, charm and volubility by winning her state crown.
The queens have been staying at Planet Hollywood, but the humming slot machines and flashing marquees have been little more than a blurry backdrop for a tight schedule of rehearsals, media events and one-on-one interviews with the judges.
Among the preliminary winners were Miss Maryland and Miss Oklahoma. Miss Alabama won the $6,000 Quality of Life Scholarship for her commitment to community service.
After an opening number Saturday, hosts Brooke Burke-Charvet, of "Dancing with the Stars," and Chris Harrison, of "The Bachelor," will announce 16 finalists. The remaining women will face off in swimsuit, evening gown, talent and interview competitions, with cuts after each round.
Organizers have added an "American Idol"-inspired twist in which fans can bring back a favorite contestant through online and mobile phone voting.
Preliminary scores and the talent competition each count for 30 percent of a contestant's score, while swimsuit and evening gown competitions each count for 20 percent.
The top five finalists will answer a question posed by the panel of seven judges.
At the end of the night, the reigning Miss America, 24-year-old Wisconsin brunette Laura Kaeppeler, will hand over her crown. Kaeppeler, whose father served time in prison for postal fraud, has spent her year advocating for children of incarcerated adults.