BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A wretched forecast couldn't keep the 2015 Miss USA contestants from climbing to the top at one of their first Baton Rouge outings on Wednesday.
But, just a few hours before ten of the contestants were set to arrive, the staff was frantically trying to clean up after some extreme weather. According to the special facilities director Brandon Smith, the staff used shock vacs and brooms to push out puddles.
However, like Tiger Stadium, it was not to rain on Miss USA. The clouds lifted and as the girls arrived, the park was dry.
"They've been wonderful," said Miss North Carolina USA Julia Dalton. "Everyone has treated us so well. We're so blessed to be here."
For Dalton, the quest for the crown is a family affair. Both her sister and her mother once bore the title she currently holds, with her sister winning Miss USA in 2009. She said she's been preparing for this moment her whole life.
"It's been a lifelong dream of mine"" said Dalton.
Others dreamed of competing as a young girl. Miss Massachusetts USA Polikseni Manxhari said, at 10 years old, she was dazzled by the confidence of the women in Miss USA and wanted to achieve that for herself.
"There came a point when I almost gave up competing for the title and they just kept pushing me," said Manxhari. "[My family] said this is your dream you're meant for this. I gave it one more shot. I gave it my all."
All of these women have invested years and thousands of dollars to reach this point. As they stand just before the ultimate goal, a slippery phrase from the organization's co-owner Donald Trump cost them even more.
Trump's questionable comments on immigration during his presidential bid announcement has resulted in the pageant losing sponsors, hosts and even their spot on national and international television.
"It is disappointing, but you know it is still a once in a lifetime opportunity and we still get the job of being USA and nothing after that changes," said Dalton of the backlash.
"A lot of people are like, this is the moment," said Manxhari. "But, what I say is I didn't work to be on TV. I worked to represent who I am. To show people my platform and how far I've made it in my life."
Manxhari was born in Albania and was brought to the US when she was five. She said the controversy surrounding immigration only makes her more proud of her roots. And, just like tackling the Louisiana elements, the contestants said they won't slow down even as they stand stuck in the national crossfire.
"My whole platform was 'it doesn't matter where you come from or where you are, you can make it' and I'm showing that here at Miss USA regardless of what's happening in the media," she said.
The preliminary competition begins Wednesday July 8. The final event will be Sunday, July 12.