Cara McCollum, 20, was crowned Miss New Jersey 2013 Saturday evening, June 15, 2013 on The Music Pier in Ocean City, New Jersey.
As McCollum stood on stage in tears, the out-going Miss New Jersey 2012, Lindsey Petrosh, of Egg Harbor City, first placed the sash and then the crown on McCollum’s head as the audience on the pier stood, applauded and cheered.
The new Miss New Jersey, McCollum has gone on from winning her title of Miss New Jersey to standing on the Miss America stage at the famed Atlantic City, Boardwalk Hall and competing for the title of Miss America 2014.
What was the first thing you did when you arrived in Atlantic City as a Miss America contestant? “ Funny you asked that,” said McCollum, “I had my interview Monday morning so I was absorbed and nervous and not paying attention to my surroundings. After my interview I walked into Boardwalk Hall, saw the stage, walked out on the stage and looked out into the empty room.”
Pausing a second, McCollum added, “I had never been in Boardwalk Hall or on a stage for a national program and here I was competing for the title of Miss America in Atlantic City where it all began, it is awesome.”
So far her experience has been both “exhilarating and exhausting,” said McCollum quickly adding, “ I am feeling like a rock star. It is like a mini parade because when you go somewhere as a crowd of fifty-three (Miss America Contestants) and that size of a group draws a crowd and being Miss New Jersey in New Jersey provides me with enormous support from the public when I am out.”
The attention paid Miss New Jersey apparently does not go unnoticed by some of the other contestants. “I have had a few contestants come up to me and tell me they could not stand the constant attention and they are glad that they can get time for themselves. Other contestants have come to me and said how wonderful it must be to have that kind of support everyday and everywhere, they are envious of me and I love it, I love the su[pport.”
McCollum was one of 23 contestants vying for the title of Miss New Jersey when she competed in her first pageant ever. “People think I was involved in pageants all my life. The truth of the matter was I had never really been involved in pageants other than as a spectator watching Miss America on television,” said McCollum. With a little laugh and a big smile, McCollum said, “I had always thought of being the President before I thought of being Miss America.”
McCollum is an English major at Princeton University. Her scholarship will be put on hold until she is ready to use it. “I am putting off my senior year to fulfill my reign as Miss New Jersey.” When asked what she hoped will be the outcome of her Miss America experience, she said, “The ultimate of course would be to win but I am truly hoping to get into the top fifteen so that my family and friends that are not here can see me perform.”
Once the pageant is over Cara McCollum has a full schedule as Miss New Jersey 2013 if she is not Miss America 2014. Her interest and Miss New Jersey platform is “Giving The Gift of Reading,” where she puts a lot of time locating and collecting books and then makes a concentrated effort to provide the books to children. She has already made inroads and has brought her program to local libraries in Margate, NJ and to the New Jersey State Library in Trenton.
No matter what happens, both the Miss America Organization and the Miss New Jersey Organization have an intelligent, attractive, talented and very enthusiastic representative who will surely make them proud.