Mr. Mature America to be crowned in Ocean City this weekend

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Mr. Mature America Pageant committee members and contestants rehearse on Sunday, March 16 at the Music Pier in Ocean City. The pageant will be held 7 p.m. Saturday, March 22. Mr. Mature America Pageant committee members and contestants rehearse on Sunday, March 16 at the Music Pier in Ocean City. The pageant will be held 7 p.m. Saturday, March 22.

OCEAN CITY — Seven contestants will take the stage Saturday, March 22 at the Ocean City Music Pier to compete in the city’s inaugural Mr. Mature America Pageant, believed to be the first of its kind in the United States.

City publicist Mark Soifer says the event, designed for men age 60 and over, will not only shine a spotlight on America’s Greatest Family Resort, it will become an Ocean City tradition.

“We’re really excited about it. It’s going to be very entertaining,” Soifer said. “There are a lot of possibilities, and if all goes well we’ll do it again.”

Like the zany Martin Z. Mollusk – the local hermit crab mascot, who has generated an assortment of crustacean events over the years – the Mr. Mature America Pageant should attract some attention to the city, Soifer said. After thorough research, Soifer said he is confident that Ocean City, the home of the Miss New Jersey Pageant and several local pageants, is the first to host a pageant for senior men.  

The event was created in part to raise money for the Ocean City Ecumenical Council Food Cupboard. 

With Ocean City’s sister city in the Philippines, San Jose Occidental Mindoro, suffering damage from the recent Typhoon Haiyan, half of the funds raised this year will also go to relief efforts there.

Mr. Mature America is designed to be an event where no one takes themselves too seriously.

The seven contestants met for a rehearsal on Sunday, March 16, Soifer said.

“We had a great rehearsal,” he said. “It’s new. There are going to be some mistakes, but it’s going to be funny.

“We’re going to present each contestant with a really, really big ham, because you have to be a bit of a ham to do this,” he said. “The program book is going to include a lot of quips about growing old. We’re going to celebrate aging.”

Soifer brought in a team of beauty pageant veterans, led by Maribeth Neall, to assist in the effort

Contestants will parade in old-fashioned bathing suits, dance and compete in talent. The men will be judged using some of the same criteria as the young ladies in local pageants, such as poise and confidence.

“The interview will be a lot of fun,” Soifer said, adding that humor will be a big part of everything that happens on the stage.

Interview questions could be related to the contestants’ senior citizen status – something along the lines of “What sort of medications do you take on a daily basis?” and “Is your hearing aid working OK?”

The competition will be fun, but also educational, he said.

“The guys are going to be asked to talk about what things were like when they were growing up,” said Soifer, who is 80. “When I was growing up, it was the end of the Depression, before World War II. An ice cream cone cost 5 cents and a movie was 10 cents. There is going to be lots of nostalgia, lots of historical perspective. It’s gong to be very interesting. There will be a lot of things for the guys to talk about.”

Soifer said the pageant will showcase the city’s older population, the backbone of numerous local organizations.

“We have a very active senior population. They’re busy, and they are valuable assets. Most of our volunteers are seniors,” he said.

Senior women, he said, are afforded the opportunity to compete in a similar pageant in Atlantic City each year. Senior men, he said, have long been overlooked.

“A lot of our older men are very talented. They have a lot to offer,” he said. “It’s going to be very different, and it’s going to be exciting.”

Mature women will perform and be honored during the pageant, including Betty Lambert, an 81-year-old baton twirler from Harmony, Pa. who still performs splits.  Peggy King, a singer and actress who has a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame, will do a jazz number. Ocean City soprano Nancy Fox  will sing the runway song, and Ms. New Jersey Senior America Vanessa Shaw, a Broadway vocalist,  will also perform.

Ruth Eni, owner and spokesperson of Dietz and Watson, a major Ocean City events sponsor, better known as Mama Dietz, will also be honored.

Dick Sheeran, Broadcast Hall of Fame member and former Philadelphia Channel 3 anchor, will assist Neall and relate interesting anecdotes during the pageant.

“He’ll talk about what it was like to interview the president of the United States,” Soifer said. “He covered many national political conventions and interviewed a lot of celebrities, including former President Jimmy Carter.”

The contestants are: Frank Faralli, who will sing “Edelweiss”; Joel Fogel, who is flying in from Hawaii to perform on the piano; Eugene Ross, who will recite a poem and sing a song he has written; Jerome Lukas, who will draw an original cartoon in three minutes; international vocalist Rene Sese of Ocean City and the Philippines, who will sing a country music song; aned former Mayor Roy Gillian, who will play a medley of popular tunes on the piano.

Gillian returned from Florida just to compete in the pageant.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun, that’s why I decided to do it,” Gillian said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

The program will open with the singing of the national anthem by Miss Ocean City Carley Del Sordo. This will be followed by a production number featuring all contestants choreographed by Jessica Albertson.

The pageant begins 7 p.m. this Saturday, March 22 at the Music Pier, Boardwalk and Moorlyn Terrace. The Bubba Mac Blues Band will play from 6:30 p.m. until the pageant begins. There will be free parking at nearby boardwalk lots.

Tickets are $10, available at the community services office, second floor of City Hall. Call 609-525-9300. After hours, call 609-364-4010 or purchase tickets at the door.

Mr. Mature America Pageant committee members and contestants rehearse on Sunday, March 16 at the Music Pier in Ocean City. The pageant will be held 7 p.m. Saturday, March 22. Mr. Mature America Pageant committee members and contestants rehearse on Sunday, March 16 at the Music Pier in Ocean City. The pageant will be held 7 p.m. Saturday, March 22.


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