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Officials expected big audience for Wednesday night pageant

February 6, 1997

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) _ A boat, a car and a $20,000 diamond broach were among the prizes Wednesday for top finalists in the Miss USA pageant, an annual spectacle co-owned by Donald Trump and CBS.

Marla Maples Trump and George Hamilton were the hosts and the judges included race car driver Michael Andretti, sports announcer Greg Gumbel, NFL kicker Nick Lowery and model Gayle Gurchick.

Fifty-one young women were on hand in this northwestern Louisiana city to compete for the right to succeed Ali Landry as Miss USA. The title comes with more than $170,000 in cash and prizes, and a chance to compete in the Miss Universe pageant in May.

The list of 51 was trimmed to 10 at the start of Wednesday night’s nationwide telecast. They were Miss Florida, Angelia Savage; Miss Rhode Island, Claudia Jordan; Miss Alabama, Autumn Smith; Miss Oklahoma, Trisha Stillwell; Miss Utah, Temple Taggart; Miss Hawaii, Brook Lee; Miss Idaho, Brandi Sherwood; Miss New Jersey, Jennifer Makris; Miss Texas, Amanda Little; and Miss Tennessee, Towanna Stone.

The 10 were to be pared to five and then to three finalists before judges select the new Miss USA.

Contestants were judged on interviews, a swimsuit competition and an evening-gown competition.

Included in the winner’s awards were a boat valued at $23,000 and a 1997 Pontiac Sunfire convertible, a $20,000 diamond broach, a diamond and gold watch valued at $15,000 and a one-week Hawaiian vacation for two.

The prize for the first runner-up was $4,000. The second runner-up’s prize was $2,000.

Local officials hailed it as an economic boon and a rare promotional opportunity for the Shreveport-Bossier City area, which is building a tourist trade around riverboat casinos on the Red River.

The pageant was moved to Shreveport from South Padre Island, Texas after the city reportedly promised nearly a quarter of a million dollars in cash, plus free hotel rooms for all the contestants.

In return, the local tourism bureau and the city were to receive ticket revenues from events associated with the pageant and part of the television money.

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