June 16, 2004

Miss New Jersey contestants back for 9th year

Staff Writer

They?re back!

For the ninth straight year, 25 of the most versatile young women in New Jersey have gathered in Ocean City to determine which of them will represent their state in September's Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City.

The Miss New Jersey Pageant will hold its preliminaries Thursday and Friday nights at the Music Pier, where it has been held since 1996, and then offer the finals on Saturday night.

The festivities begin on Wednesday with a boardwalk parade that include all of the contestants and the current Miss New Jersey, Jennifer Farrell of Margate.

Farrell, who was among the 15 quarter-finalists in last year's Miss America Pageant, is featured in this weekend?s show. She was the first Miss Atlantic County to ever win the state title and the second area woman in three years, following Julie Barber of Vineland in 2001.

The 25 women who will compete in this year?s pageant are:
Erin Court Abrahamson, Miss Laurel Valley, a vocalist.
Samantha Brodton, 20, Miss Mays Landing, a lyrical dancer. Her platform is AIDS Awareness and Education.
Serena Coleman, Miss Salem County, a dancer. Her platform is CADAA (Children's Awareness of Drug and Alcohol Abuse).
Cricket Denton, Miss Shore Resort, an operatic vocalist. Her platform is Service Learning - An Experimental Perception.
Gabrielle DeDomenicis, 17, Miss Columbus Day, a pianist.
Georgine DiMaria, 19, Miss Tri-County, a vocalist and violinist. Her platform is Living with Asthma - Education, Advocacy and Support.
Atiya Easterling, Miss Central Coast.
Shannon Gallina, 21, Miss Vineland, a singer.
Stephanie Garland, 20, Miss Gloucester County, a lyrical dancer.
Jessica Greenberg, Miss Bergen County.
Christie Greer, 20, Miss Mainland, a vocalist. Her platform is Fearlessness, Foundation, Familiarity and Femininity for Women.
Lauren Higgins, Miss Atlantic County, a singer.
Alana Iantuono, Miss Camden County, a dancer. Her platform is Domestic Violence Prevention.
Ronica Licciardello, Miss Smithville, an operatic singer.
Libby Montiel, 24, Miss Monmouth County, a classical pianist.
Jane Nordell, 23, Miss Gateway, a vocalist. Her platform is Diabetes Awareness and Prevention.
Alissa Palladinetti, 23, Miss Champaign Springs, an operatic singer. Her platform is Music Education.
Jennifer Panara, 20, Miss Garden Cities, an operatic singer. Her platform is Building Self-Esteem in Our Youth.
Kristi Pawlus, 19, Miss Cape May County, a singer. Her platform is Giving Elderly Help Through Music.
Julie Robenhymer, 23, Miss Ramapo Valley, a dancer. Her platform is Power of Positive Thinking.
Christine Ritzius, 21, Miss Middlesex County Area, a singer. Her platform is The Importance of Foster Care.
Erica Scanlon, Miss Brigantine Resort, a singer. Her platform is Autism Awareness.
Diera Shaw, 22, Miss Stars and Stripes, a tap dancer. Her platform is PRIDE (Productively Reducing Intolerance through Diversity Education).
Amina Wirjosemito, Miss Burlington County, a singer. Her platform is Multicultural Opportunities for Children.
Heather Woods, Miss Cumberland County, a vocalist. Her platform is The Importance of Mentoring.

Nine of those 25 young women were contestants in last year?s pageant. Shaw was the 2003 first runner-up and has been in the New Jersey top five each of the last three years. DiMaria was third runner-up last year and is making her third straight appearance in the state pageant. Ritzius was in the top 10 last year, Panara was in the top 10 in 2002, Montiel was in the NJ state pageant last year and the Pennsylvania pageant in 2002 and Nordell is competing for the third consecutive year.

Their experiences in the state pageant might give those young women a slight edge. But there are others to watch.

Iantuono is competing in her first Miss New Jersey Pageant but she was part of Miss Rhode Island the past five years, finishing in the top 10 all five times. She was third runner-up last year and first runner-up in both 2002 and 2001.

Then there are two contestants who have won state titles in other pageant competitions. Licciardello was New Jersey's Junior Miss in 2001 and finished as first runner-up in the America's Junior Miss competition. And Abrahamson was Miss Teen New Jersey during the 2001 Miss Teen USA Pageant.

You would think those with state pageant experience and success behind them would have an advantage. But remember that Farrell became Miss Atlantic County in her first pageant and then won the state title on her first try. And other Miss New Jersey winners in recent years have come to the state pageant with little experience.

So, maybe it's the 13 who are competing in a state pageant for the first time that should be getting your pre-pageant attention.

Regardless, there are 25 young women in Ocean City this week and just one of them will advance. That one will be the Garden State's representative in the next Miss America Pageant.

Any predictions?

Bert Parks