The Miss America pageant, which organizers announced this summer would move to cable network CMT to showcase the pageant's Middle American "traditions and values," is relocating . . . to Sin City.

The beleaguered beauty pageant, which throughout its eight-decade history has been in Atlantic City, will be staged in Las Vegas next year, organizers said yesterday. The pageant will be held Jan. 21 at the Aladdin Resort and Casino and will be telecast live on Nashville-based CMT, formerly known as Country Music Television.

Art McMaster, president of the Miss America Organization, hopes the new location will add "glitz and glamour" to a ceremony that TV audiences have been increasingly ignoring in recent years.

Last year, ABC announced it was dumping the pageant after eight years -- and a month after the show drew its smallest audience since its TV debut in 1954. Last summer, CMT bought the rights for two years with the option to pick up the show through 2011.

"It's no secret that our ratings were declining over the years," McMaster said yesterday by phone. "As part of this rebranding process, just going to another city isn't as important as finding that correct city.

"Miss America needs Las Vegas. They need that excitement. They need that energy."

No word from pageant officials on where in Vegas the winner will take her traditional, morning-after dip in the water.

-- John Maynard