BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The 2015 Miss USA pageant officially kicked off its week of festivities Thursday, capping off a day of good news.
The organization announced Thursday that the pageant will air on Reelz Channel. The independent cable outlet claims to reach some 70 million homes.
Although that's far fewer than NBC, Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden was defiant. Speaking at a reception of the 2015 Miss USA kickoff, he said even if there is a smaller audience, the Capital City can still make a lasting impression on the national stage.
"To quote a number when nobody has a crystal ball to say how much is going to be there is unfair," Holden said. "There are a lot of other states and cities that would love to be in our shoes."
Still, many officials continued to turn a critical eye toward NBC.
"I think the punishment really didn't fit the crime. It punished the girls," said Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.
"NBC should have taken a lot harder look," said Mayor Holden. "[Trump's] comments were horrible, but do you sacrifice all the work that these families have put in?"
For some of the contestants, the impact of Thursday's announcement hit close to home. Girls who had spent time and money prepping for the show said they were relieved their loved ones could tune in.
"My biggest concern was 'Oh no, my family and friends back in Nebraska won't be able to watch,'" said Hoang-Kim Cung, Miss Nebraska USA.
With the rough road behind them, the focus turned to the days ahead.
"It's such a big deal for these girls, many who are visiting Louisiana for the very first time, and for us to give them a taste of what our culture is," said Peter Sclafani, co-owner and head chef at Ruffino's in Downtown Baton Rouge.
Ruffino's hosted the opening night reception, at which contestants were treated to crawfish, oysters and other Louisiana dishes.
"I've never had grits before, and I don't think I'm ever going to be able to go back," said Natasha Martinez, Miss California USA.
The pageant will take place on Sunday, July 12.