June 16, 2000
Local Women to Compete in Miss New Jersey on Music Pier

Staff Writer

Three Ocean City High School graduates will be among the 21 young women competing for the title of Miss New Jersey this weekend on the Music Pier. But it was only a few months ago that the pier's auditorium was confirmed as the site of the 2000 pageant.

The state competition, which selects New Jersey's representative to October's Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, was moved from Wildwood to Ocean City in 1996 when a new group took over operations. But that group struggled and last year's contestant total dropped to 21, a low number for at least the last two decades.

In fact, the Miss New Jersey Pageant was in limbo most of the past year with an inactive director, a half-dozen resignations from its Board of Directors and the absence of significant leadership. So, over the winter, the Miss America Organization asked for bids to conduct this year's pageant with plans to hold a more detailed search for future direction in the fall.

A group headed by Mark Soifer, Ocean City's veteran public relations director; Mike Allegretto, the director of recreation; and longtime state pageant volunteer Sally Johnston was awarded the franchise to conduct this weekend's events. They recruited Barry Smith, the successful pageant director from Cumberland County, to produce their show.

Smith, whose local shows in Cumberland County generally included an appearance by Miss America, has used that same approach in designing the state show. He has invited a number of women who formerly held the title of Miss New Jersey to participate in the three-night production. That includes the "Ocean City 3" - Laurie Berchtold Kohr (1978), Tricia Bowman (1988) and Amy Fissel Osborn (1991).

He will also make good use of Victoria Paige, the 21-year-old Princeton University student who was a Top 10 finalist in last fall's Miss America Pageant. In addition to placing the ceremonial crown on the head of the new winner Saturday night, Paige will perform throughout the weekend.

Soifer is just happy to have the event remain in Ocean City, which he calls "a perfect place for a Miss America preliminary pageant". Though the 21 contestants who are here this week equals last year's low total, he and Allegretto are working to increase the number of local pageants in the hope that they will receive a more permanent franchise in the fall.

The preliminary competition began on Thursday night and will conclude with Friday night's show, starting at 7:30. The 10 contestants who score the most preliminary points in the four combined categories (interview, evening wear, swim suit and talent) will compete again on Saturday night for the title.

The judging will be handled by KYW-TV meteorologist Tom Lamaine, Women's Wear Daily publisher Stephanie George, retired Philadelphia reporter Trudie Haynes, Miss PA judge chairman Paul Breese and Miss New Jersey 1981 Debra Naley.

This is a special time for one of the 21, Jamie Ginn of Palermo, who won her title of Miss Cape May County on the same Music Pier stage. Ginn will compete in the state pageant over the weekend and then graduate from Ocean City High School on Thursday.

One of 12 first-time contestants in this pageant, Ginn plans to major in chemical engineering at either Rowan or the Florida Institute of Technology. A former Miss Ocean City, she is a kickboxing student, was a varsity tennis player and will dance in the preliminary talent competition on Friday night. Her platform issue is "Saving lives through CPR".

Ginn, 18, is joined by two other OCHS grads - Stacie Holmes of Ocean City, Miss Shore Resort, and Robin Williams, now of Cape May Court House, Miss Southern Shore.

Holmes, 21, also competing in the state pageant for the first time, is a pop singer from Rutgers who will also perform her talent Friday night. She hopes to be a corporate lobbyist and served an internship in the office of Congressman Frank LoBiondo. Her platform is "Organ and tissue donation".

Williams, 24, is the oldest of the 21 contestants and, unlike her fellow OCHS grads, has been in the state pageant before. In fact, she was in the Top 10 each of the last two years. Williams, who received a scholarship for teacher education from the Miss America Organization, will play the flute in Friday night's talent competition. Her platform issue is "Making education priority one".

Three other contestants are from the immediate area.

AnnMarie Hamilton, 22, of Somers Point is a Mainland Regional and Richard Stockton College grad who is Miss Atlantic County. A singer, she has hiked the Appalachian Trail and was nominated for the American College Theatre Festival's Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. Hamilton, who competed in last year's state pageant, works with the platform "Breast cancer awareness".

Patience Krown, 19, is back for her second year, this time as Miss Brigantine. A resident of Rio Grande and a Middle Township graduate, she attends Marymount Manhattan College. She hopes to attend law school at Columbia and become a prosecuting attorney. A singer, she has performed with Jay Leno, Howie Mandell and Patti LaBelle. Krown's platform issue is "Organ and tissue donation".

And Kim Strother, 18, of Mays Landing, a graduating senior at Oakcrest, is Miss Mays Landing and at the state level for the first time. A member of Oakcrest's championship track team, she hopes to become a track and cheerleading coach. Strother's talent is gymnastics and her platform is "Fitness for life".

There are six other young women who have been in previous state pageants:
Kelley Faulkner, 21, is Miss Bergen County and was second runnerup here in 1996. She toured the country for six months in "Big - The Musical". Her talent is singing and her platform in "Community service".
Jill Horner, 21, finished the highest in last year's state pageant among those competing again this year. She was second runnerup to Victoria Paige last year and in the Top 10 in 1998. If there is a favorite, it would be her. A Triton Regional and Rutgers grad who is currently the assignment desk editor at News 12 New Jersey, Horner will sing in Friday night's talent competition and her platform is "Environmental education".
Julie Barber, 23, a Vineland and Montclair State graduate who is Miss Central Coast, competed in 1998. She once interviewed Billy Joel on VH-1, her talent is dancing and her platform is "Mentoring".
Nicole Lagado, 22, is Miss Essex County and competed here last year. She will graduate from Kean College in December, has achieved the Dean's List five times and still manages to care for 12 hamsters, two rabbits and two dogs. Lagado is a singer and her platform issue is "Active children equals active dreams".
Kameelah Majied, 23, is Miss Ramapo Valley and competed here in 1997. She was president of the student government at Camden Catholic and just graduated from Stevens Institute. A singer, her platform is "Volunteer networking".
Arielle Riposta, 22, is Miss Union County and competed here in 1998. Currently a reporter for WMBC-TV, she won the "Great Legs Award" at the John Harms Theatre in Englewood. Riposta will dance in Friday night's talent competition. Her platform is "Lyme disease awareness and prevention".

The remaining nine young women are first-time state contestants. They should be encouraged, however, by the recent Miss New Jersey history of selecting rookies as winners. They are:
Vanessa Baker, 20, Miss Burlington County, who was invited to choreograph the Philadelphia 76ers Dance Team, is featured on an Adidas commercial and has a secret recipe for Buffalo Wings. A dancer in Friday night's talent, her platform is "Feed hungry children".
Tricia Hernandez, 18, Miss Glen Rock, has volunteered at a soup kitchen in Harlem and is a National Starpower Champion. She hopes to dance at Radio City Music Hall. Her platform is "The treasure of life - cord blood donation".
Anne-Marie Howe, 18, Miss Camden County, is the youngest of the 21 contestants. A recent graduate of Gloucester Catholic, she will attend Douglass College toward a degree in public relations. She will sing during Friday night's talent. Her platform is "Senior service - community involvement in the classroom".
Maureen Humphreys, 20, Miss Liberty, was the most improved field hockey player at Penns Grove High School in 1998. A singer now attending Gloucester County College, her platform issue is "Self esteem".
Jamie Montgomery, 22, Miss Northern Valley, is a Cherokee High School and Temple graduate. She is a Republican Committeewoman in New Jersey's 11th District, was a three-sport athlete in high school and works for State Senator Diane Allen. A clog dancer in talent, her platform is "Political awareness".
Jessika Rovell, 23, Miss Laurel Valley, is a Penn State graduate currently in law school. Very active in her college sorority, Theta Alpha Pi, she will sing in Friday night's talent. Her platform is "Grant-based financial aid".
Diera Shaw, 18, Miss Mainland, is attending Seton Hall with the hopes of eventually becoming an attorney in entertainment law. She claims to be able to wiggle her ears. A tap dancer in Friday's talent, her platform is "Youth development through peer leadership".
Amy Stillwell, 21, Miss Gloucester County, was Salutatorian of her high school class at Williamstown who toured Europe with the concert choir at William & Mary, where she is studying biology. A singer in Friday night's talent, her platform is "Domestic abuse counseling and education".
Alison Woldanski, 23, Miss Garden Cities, is a Douglass College graduate studying for her law degree at Seton Hall. She also holds four jobs and hopes to become involved in politics. A ballet dancer who will lead off Friday night's talent competition, Woldanski's platform is "Domestic violence education and awareness".

These 21 young women will be reduced to 10 finalists on Saturday night and to just one by the end of the evening. That one will win an $8,000 scholarship and many more opportunities throughout her year as Miss New Jersey.

1999...*VICTORIA PAIGE, Sparta
1998...*STEPHANIE FERRARI, Glen Rock
1997...*KATHY NEJAT, Voorhees
1996...*MELANIE BELL, Vernon
1995....DENA QUERUBIN, Waterford
1994....JENNIFER MAKRIS, Cherry Hill
1993....MICHELE SEXTON, Spring Lake Heights
1992....HEATHER HERTLING, Randolph
1991....AMY FISSEL, Ocean City
1990....LYNETTE FALLS, Ridgewood
1989....LAURA MURRAY, Livingston
1988....TRICIA BOWMAN, Ocean City
1987....ROBIN LANGE, Medford
1986....TONI GEORGIANA, Cherry Hill
1985....KARYN ZOSCHE, Pine Brook
1984....PATRICIA LaTERRA, West New York
1983....SUZETTE CHARLES, Mays Landing
1982....CHRISTINA SHONE, Pequannock
1981....DEBRA NALEY, Rockaway
1980....THERESE HANLEY, Jersey City
1979....MARY McGINNIS, Somers Point
1978....LAURIE BERCHTOLD, Ocean City
1977....MARY D'ARCY, Yardville
1976....LORI JOHNSON, Medford
1975....NANCY CRAIG, Trenton
1973....SUZANNE PLUMMER, Wildwood
1972....LINDA GIALANELLA, Maplewood
1971....LYNN HACKERMAN, Mt. Laurel
1970....HELA YUNGST, Hillside

(*won at Music Pier)

Be sure to read The Sandpaper in the Ocean City area and The Beachcomber in the Wildwood area throughout the summer months for similar features.