City makes 5-year deal to keep Miss Maryland pageant

August 03, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER |

Miss Maryland will continue to receive her crown in Hagerstown under an agreement which, if approved, would keep the annual pageant at The Maryland Theatre through 2016.

The city of Hagerstown has negotiated another five-year rental contract with the theater for an annual rate of $34,000, according to city documents.

Under the new agreement, the city would pay $8,000 annually, the county will chip in $16,000, and the scholarship organization would contribute $10,000 each year, the documents said.

The previous agreement for renting the theater for the pageant extended from 2007 to 2011, the documents said.

The Hagerstown City Council gave city officials its blessing on the terms of the contract and on forwarding the agreements to the other involved parties for approval.

City Clerk Donna Spickler said the city will vote on the final contract and agreements after all parties have given their approval.  That vote is tentatively scheduled for September, she said.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners on July 26 approved  a $16,000 annual subsidy from its hotel-motel tax funds, with Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham voting against it.

Callaham said during a phone interview that she was not opposed to the theater or the pageant. Rather, her "no" vote was against making a five-year commitment before larger discussions on the role of the theater in the community were held, she said.

"Rather than to piece-meal our support to the theater out in various ways, I'd like to see the board of The Maryland Theatre and the county commissioners have a big dialogue on what's the big picture, and how the county might be most effective in providing a positive approach to solving the issues in that really larger picture," she said during the July 26 commissioner's meeting, according to county video minutes.

Sherry Rush, executive director of the Miss Maryland organization, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the agreement.

The Miss Maryland pageant has been held in Hagerstown for more than 35 years, said Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is a sponsor of the pageant.

Riford worked with representatives of the scholarship organization, the city and the county to draft the new agreement. Five years ago, rent for the theater increased significantly, so representatives negotiated to help the pageant stay in Hagerstown, he said.

 Riford estimated the annual local economic impact from hosting the pageant at more than $250,000.

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