The Miss America contestants have arrived in Atlantic City for the first day of events and activities leading to the pageant on Sunday, September 15.

Their first unofficial event today was a group picture taken at Atlantic City International Airport today.

Miss America contestants at Atlantic City International Airport (Facebook)


Map signed by all 53 contestants at welcoming ceremony (Twitter via @MissAmericaOrg)

The Press of Atlantic City reports that the picture was staged as none of the contestants actually took a flight to the airport because only one carrier currently serves the airport.

Their first official event was a welcoming ceremony at Kennedy Plaza on the boardwalk across from Boardwalk Hall with Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and the current Miss America Mallory Hagen for all 53 contestants.

They participated in the traditional signing-in ceremony, in which each of them signed her state on a map of the United States and gave a few words of introduction. Most spoke of how happy they were that the pageant had come home again.

"I really couldn't be happier that Miss America is back here in Atlantic City!" said Miss Alabama, Chandler Champion. "It's my very first time in Atlantic City," added Miss Alaska, Michelle Taylor. "Thank you so much for welcoming us back!" Miss Massachusetts, Amanda Narciso, added, "We appreciate you, we love you and we can't wait to perform for you!"


Mallory Hagan unveiled a statue modeled after her that will be featured on the Boardwalk (@MissAmericaOrg via Twitter)

Three nights of preliminary competition will begin on Sept. 10. The traditional Show Us Your Shoes Parade will be held Sept. 14, and the nationally televised finale will be held on Sept. 15.

The loudest cheer went up among Boardwalk spectators for the hometown entrant, Miss New Jersey, Cara McCollum, who proclaimed, "It's been too long since New Jersey has had Miss America!"



Tuesday's welcoming ceremony also included the unveiling of a sculpture of Hagen's Miss America holding out a tiara to a successor on the Boardwalk.

Over 1,000 cupcakes made by The Food Network’s Cupcake Wars pastry chefs were served as well.

The Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce will host a clam bake in their honor at the Trump Plaza beach bar as well.

Hagen unveiled a new tribute to the tradition of Miss America during the welcoming ceremony.

Miss New Jersey Cara McCollum arrives in Atlantic City (Twitter via @MissNI2013)

The pageant is returning to Atlantic City, where it was founded, after a six-year run in Las Vegas. Guadango was instrumental in negotiations to return the pageant to Atlantic City after several years in Las Vegas.

The competition will end with the crowning of the next Miss America on Sept. 15 in a nationwide television broadcast hosted by Good Morning America's Lara Spencer and Chris Harrison, host of The Bachelor.

Last year, the Miss America Organization and its state and local organizations made available more than $45 million in scholarship assistance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report