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Miss America pageant helps to make Las Vegas the special events capital of the world

Miss America pageant helps to make Las Vegas the special events capital of the world

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Did you catch the Miss America Pageant on ABC this past Saturday night? 8 million viewers tuned in for this live telecast, which ended with 23 year-old Laura Kaeppeler of Wisconsin being awarded the tiara and that $50,000 scholarship.

Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011, transfers her crown to Laura Kaeppler

That was a fun two-hour-long block of television, don't you think? But had you been out in Las Vegas over the past 10 days or so, you would have seen that the Miss America pageant isn't just some one night affair. There's actually a full week of preliminary competitions which then led up to Saturday night's broadcast.

Now factor in that - in the days prior to the pageant - these 53 beauty queens just seem to be everywhere in Sin City. There was their official welcoming ceremony at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on January 5th, which was then followed by a pancake breakfast the next day to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. From there, these 18-to-25 year-old young ladies plunged right into hours of rehearsal and orientation as they readied for the big event.

And as busy as their days might have been (with promotional events like walking the runway at the Fashion Mall, then signing autographs and posing for pictures with all the shoppers there), their evenings were equally full. Take - for example - the night of January 7th. When the titleholders from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands went over to the Venetian Resort Hotel & Casino to catch a special performance of PHANTOM: The Las Vegas Spectacular.

The 2012 Miss America pageant contestants at "PHANTOM - The Las Vegas
Spectacular." Photo by B. Vartan Boyajian. All rights reserved

You'd think that - in a town where glitz and celebrity are almost commonplace - that a 91 year-old event like the Miss America pageant wouldn't make all that much of a splash. But tourists and locals alike obviously get a real kick out of seeing the girls with their sashes posing in front of such iconic Las Vegas spots as the Fremont Street Experience and the Bellagio fountains.

Which explains the mad scramble for tickets for the first few nights of preliminary competitions. Which is where Ms. Kaeppeler initially showed that she was a comer by winning the preliminary talent competition with her operatic performance of "Il Bacio (The Kiss)" from Luigi Arditi.

But once Laura had officially been crowned on Saturday night... Well, those 52 other young ladies who didn't take home a tiara were determined not to leave Las Vegas empty-handed. Which is why - the very next day - a number of Miss America contestants and their family members then invaded the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino.

Which was a very smart move on their part. Given that -- with its selection of 170 specialty stores, 15 restaurants and three live entertainment venues -- there's no better place on the Planet to do a little retail therapy than by wandering along the Miracle Mile.

Longtime Las Vegas visitors may remember this $300 million retail / entertainment complex as the Desert Passage Mall, which used to be attached to the Aladdin hotel. But when the Aladdin was transformed into the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino back in 2007, this Moroccan-themed retail center underwent a similar sort of transformation. With the Desert Passage trading its authentically bumpy, cobblestone streets for a flat, shiny black floor as it then became an Los Angeles-themed fashion district.

And given that - on average -- 80,000 people now visit the Miracle Mile Shops every day, it's clear that locals as well as Las Vegas visitors approve of this mult-million dollar makeover. Where during daylight hours, shoppers can take advantage of all sorts of breakfast & lunch specials before they then sample goods from some of the world's best-known brands. H&M, Wild Pair, Sephora, American Apparel, Victoria's Secret and Urban Outfitters among others.

But as afternoon gives way to night, a second wave of humanity comes pouring into Planet Hollywood's retail complex. And these folks aren't coming here just so they can then catch the Miracle Mile Shops' fountain show with all of its color-changing fog and lighted-water effects.

No, what brings the crowds into this corner of Las Vegas at that time of day are the great shows that are presented at two of the Miracle Miles Shops' live entertainment venues, the V Theater and the Saxe Theater.

The fun actually gets underway at 5:30 p.m. Where - depending on your taste in music - you can either recapture the glory days of Motown with "Hitzville - The Show" at the V Theatre or enjoy a recreation of the Fab Four by catching a performance of "BeatleShow!" over at the Saxe Theater.

"Hitzville" really goes all out when it come to recreating that authentic Motown sound. This show features a male quartet which skillfully covers The Temptations' hits, not to mention a female trio that channels the Supremes. Now fold in the Saxe Theater's live house band (which features musicians who have worked wih Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and Diana Ross) and the show's leading lady, Jin Jin Reeves and you've got the sort of tight, fast-paced musical revue that Berry Gordy Jr. himself used to present in Detroit back in the 1960s.

And speaking of the 1960s ... If you catch a performance of "BeatleShow!" over at the V Theater, you're going to feel like it's 1964 all over again. As first that Ed Sullivan impersonator comes out onstage and then introduces the audience to four talented young musicians. Who then do everything they can to convince the audience that they're actually seeing the real Beatles live in concert.

And make no mistake, folks. "BeatleShow!" isn't some lip sync show. The music that you're hearing is live. The instruments, the vocals - everything that you're seeing & hearing is being performed right in front of you. Which is why so many Vegas visitors walk away from this show at the V Theater raving about the great sounding musical revue they just saw.

Mind you, once "Hitzville - The Show" and "BeatleShow!" wrap for the night, the Saxe Theater and the V Theater quickly reset and then become home to two other live entertainment presentations -- the Sin City Comedy Show and V - The Ultimate Variety Show.

The Sin City Comedy Show is just what its title says it is. This live stage show liberally mixes the Sin City Dollz' racy dance routines in with stand-up routines by two nationally-known comics. And given that a new name comedian rotates into the Sin City Comedy line-up every week, you're never ever going to see the same show twice here.

Variety is also the spice of life over at the Saxe Theater.  Depending on which day of the week you catch V - The Ultimate Variety Show, you'll see acrobats, comedians, magicians or impressionists onstage here. Each of these acts will be presented in the traditional variety show format that is hosted by a witty emcee who knows how to keep things clean. Which (given how popular this particular live show is with Vegas' younger visitors) is one of V - The Ultimate Variety Show's real virtues.

In short, if you're looking for a stop along the Strip that features great shopping, affordable food as well as a unique assortment of live entertainment opportunities, the Miracle Miles Shops at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino is definitely worth a look-see.

So if you missed out on seeing the Miss America pageant live in Las Vegas this past week (Don't worry, Those beauty queens will definitely be next year. This annual pageant is supposed to use the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino as its base of operations at least through 2015), you can at least do what many of this year's runners-up did this past Sunday. Which is enjoy some great shopping, affordable food as well as a unique assortment of live entertainment opportunities by visiting the Miracle Miles Shops.

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