By MADDY VITALE
Twenty-four contestants for Little Miss Ocean City 2020 took to the Music Pier stage Friday night, wowed the crowds and commanded the attention through dynamic dance routines, singing, baton twirling and even ventriloquism.
But in the end, a newcomer to pageantry, Antonella DiAntonio, 11, of Sea Isle City, took the crown.
With tears in her eyes, the girl, who is entering the sixth grade in Ocean City in the fall, was crowned by Stevie Wright, of Ocean City, who, moments before, took her last walk as the reigning Little Miss.
“I am just so overwhelmed,” Antonella said. “I can’t believe it.”
First runner-up was Ava Grundy, 10, second runner-up was Kai Linthicum, of Ocean City, third runner-up was Sarah Avellino and fourth runner-up was Georgia Little, 11,
The contestants, ages 8 to 11, were judged on poise, talent, interview and scholastics.
Antonella did a dance routine “One Night Only” by Beyonce. Even her sister, Arianna DiAntonio, 9, captured the attention of the judges. She won the talent portion of the pageant.
“They have been dancing all of their lives,” said Angela DiAntonio, the girls’ mother. “They love the stage. This is their first pageant. We are going to have a fun year.”
Emcee Carly Del Sordo, Miss Ocean City 2014, read some of the interests the girls told the judges during their interview questions prior to the pageant.
Antonella said she loves swimming, Nutella, crackers and purple. Ava enjoys tennis.
Among the highlights of the show were some interesting and even old-fashioned choices for routines that the judges seemed to like including Sarah Avellino’s performance to “A Bushell and a Peck.” Then there was the power-packed number by Kai Linthicum to “My Strongest Suit.”
To bid farewell to Stevie Wright’s reign as Little Miss, she and her “crown sisters,” Miss Ocean City 2019 Megan Keenan and Junior Miss Ocean City 2019 Julia Wilson performed “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman.”
Julia sang while Stevie and Megan danced.
The pageant was emceed by former Miss Ocean City 2014 Carly Del Sordo. The new Miss Ocean City 2020 Mary Grace Jamison also spoke and performed a dance routine to the delight of the packed Music Pier.
Michael Hartman, special events director for the city, presented Stevie with a key to the city on behalf of Mayor Jay Gillian and said some heartfelt comments to her as she wept.
“You made so many people so happy this year,” Hartman said.
The new crown holder will have a very busy next 12 months. Little Miss Ocean City joins with Junior Miss Ocean City and Miss Ocean City in parades and other promotional events for the town.
The Little Miss Ocean City Pageant has been sponsored by the city’s Recreation Department for the past 30 years.