LAS VEGAS – The Miss America pageant has gotten under way in Las Vegas, and judges have cut down the field of contestants from 53 to 16.
Beauty contest winners from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands took the stage to vie for the title Saturday night at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
The competition is the culmination of a week of preliminary competitions and months of preparations.
The remaining contenders include the fan-voted selection of Miss Montana Alexis Wineman, the first competitor with autism, and Miss Iowa Mariah Cary, who has Tourette's syndrome.
Also, remaining are:
-- Miss South Carolina Ali Rogers
-- Miss Texas DaNae Couch
-- Miss Utah Kara Arnold
-- Miss Oklahoma Alicia Clifton
-- Miss Wyoming Lexie Madden
-- Miss Tennessee Chandler Lawson
-- Miss Alabama Anna Laura Bryan
-- Miss Maryland Joanna Guy
-- Miss Illinois Megan Ervin
-- Miss Indiana MerrieBeth Cox
-- Miss New York Mallory Hagan
-- Miss Florida Laura McKeeman
-- Miss Kentucky Jessica Casebolt
-- Miss Washington state Mandy Schendel
Miss District of Columbia Allyn Rose, who made headlines by announcing plans to undergo a preventive double mastectomy after the competition to reduce her risk of breast cancer, was eliminated.
The competition winner will receive a $50,000 scholarship and is expected to embark on a yearlong speaking tour to advocate for her chosen cause and raise money for the Children's Miracle Network, the pageant's official charity.
The contestants all week have been on 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.
The remaining women will face off in swimsuit, evening gown, talent and interview competitions.