Baltimore celebrates Miss USA announcement

City is named as host of next year's pageant

October 08, 2004|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Billionaire Donald Trump was a no-show, so a radiant Miss USA 2004 and a gaggle of local dignitaries crowned Baltimore as host of the Miss USA 2005 pageant at the Hippodrome Theatre yesterday without him -- an announcement that had been expected but was nonetheless much celebrated.

"The pageant will focus the eyes of the world on Maryland," said Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele after an official announcement by a representative of the Miss Universe Organization -- parent company of the Miss USA event.

"It is not every day that an event comes along that has an immediate economic impact, and we know this one will," Steele said.

Besides revenue from hotel stays, restaurant meals and T-shirt sales, the pageant, which will be televised live on NBC, will provide Baltimore and the state with 12 minutes of precious on-air time, a promotional gift worth about $4 million, officials said.

Public relations spin-off from the event -- viewed this year by about 13 million people in this country and millions more in 99 nations worldwide -- could be huge, officials say.

"We could never pay for the coverage we will receive by hosting this event," said Leslie Doggett, president of the Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association. "It will have a tremendous economic benefit."

The timing of the event -- which will be held in April -- couldn't be better, said Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. "The audience will see our city just as our tourist season begins," he said. "They will see a very beautiful city."

The 51 contestants and a large production crew will arrive in Baltimore three weeks before the pageant to practice and prepare, said Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, which is co-owned, along with the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants, by NBC and New York real estate mogul and reality TV star Trump.

Miss USA 2004 Shandi Finnessey, 25, of St. Louis, who will be on hand in April to crown her successor, said she is eager to learn more about this city.

"I just found out that Baltimore is called Charm City because it is a charming place, and although I've only been here for a couple of hours, I can see that it is," she told the gathering at the Hippodrome.

Shugart said Baltimore was chosen 2005 host after it pulled a close second to Los Angeles for the 2004 pageant -- when the newly opened Hippodrome had a scheduling conflict.

"We really wanted to work with Baltimore," she said. "We were looking for a city with a metropolitan, glamorous feel. We wanted that kind of a backdrop for the show, and Baltimore has it."

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