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MISS UTAH '72 WILL RETURN TO ATLANTIC CITY WITH THIS YEAR'S CONTESTANT - HER NIECE

Whether you chalk it up to coincidence, tradition or genetics, Utah's two representatives to this year's Miss America Pageant are related.

The current Miss Utah, Jennifer Ward, and her aunt, Sally (Peterson) Brinton, Miss Utah of 1972, will be participating in the annual pageant during the next two weeks. Brinton, who was named Miss Congeniality during the 1972 pageant, has been invited to return and perform 20 years later. Ward is hoping to claim the coveted title of Miss America.What is coincidental is how they got to this spot.

It seems that the current Miss Utah has subconsciously been influenced by the Miss America Scholarship Pageant from her first breath. The story goes something like this:

Esther Jane Ward was to attend the Miss America Pageant to support her sister, Sally, in 1972. Instead she ended up in the hospital.

"Mom was at the hospital delivering me when my aunt was in Atlantic City competing," Ward said. "As a non-finalist she won one of the very last Miss Congeniality Awards."

Although her aunt had been Miss Utah, Ward never really intended to pursue the same title.

"I knew that she (Brinton) was Miss Utah. It's funny it never had an influence on me. I just stumbled on the pageant when a neighbor asked me if I wanted to be in the pageant."

Conversely, Brinton was looking forward to seeing her niece crowned Miss Utah. But the night Ward became the new Miss Utah, Brinton, like her sister, couldn't make it: She was in the hospital delivering her seventh child.

Brinton missed the pageant, but she got to see the newly crowned Miss Utah from her hospital bed.

"It was about 1:15 in the morning. I looked over and Jennifer had come to introduce herself as the new Miss Utah. She even had her crown on," Brinton said.

The family tradition could have repeated itself 20 years from now, except Brinton delivered a boy.

Now both Miss Utahs will be able to celebrate together as they go to Atlantic City, walk the runway, perform their talent and take a ride in the famous Boardwalk Parade.

Brinton, who used pageant scholarships to get her master's degree at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, will take a walk on the runway and perform "Cappriccio in F Minor" by Dohnanyi for the piano.

Ward is looking forward to the competition. She is one of seven finalists for the National Quality of Life Award sponsored by Fruit of the Loom, one of the pageant sponsors. The winner will recieve a $10,000 scholarship. The award goes to the Miss America contestant who does the most to enhance the lives of others through volunteerism.

"I am confident that I will do my very best. I have prepared to the utmost," Ward said. "If I come back with awards or the title of Miss America it will be an added plus."