Getting a breather from a tradition well-rooted and cherished in Vicksburg
The first Miss Mississippi Pageant was held in Vicksburg before I was even born.
John Holland, who was the mayor of Vicksburg at the time, had successfully negotiated a deal with Miss America to obtain the franchise, and in 1958, the pageant was held at the Vicksburg Auditorium.
Mary Ann Mobley was crowned Miss Mississippi and then went on to become Miss America. The following year, Lynda Lee Mead won the state title, and like Mobley, she too went on to become Miss America.
Since then, two more state titleholders have become Miss America, and all were crowned right here in Vicksburg.
Vicksburg is known for its history, and for more than 60 years, part of that history includes being home to the Miss Mississippi Pageant.
This week would have marked the 63rd crowning of Miss Mississippi, but like many other events around the country, it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On hearing the pageant, or competition as it is now called, was not going to happen, I can’t lie. I felt a bit of relief.
I have been covering the events leading up to, and pageant week itself, for the past few years, and while there are a lot of perks with this assignment, it is nonstop and it literally wears me out.
From the time the candidates arrive in Vicksburg to the day following the finale, there is always something going on, something to cover.
I seriously don’t know how those girls do it. Age could be a factor.
When I was a young girl, I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the pageant, but there was this one year, I remember when mom took me to one of the autograph parties being held in conjunction with the competition.
She bought me a program book that had all of the contestants’ names and pictures in it.
I remember standing in line waiting for their signature and thinking how beautiful they all were.
And yes, I did pick out a favorite.
When I got older, mom and dad became pageant patrons, which occasionally gave me the chance to attend.
One of those times was the summer after my first year of college.
That year there had been two standout contestants folks were really supporting and on the final night of the competition, things got rowdy.
At the conclusion of one of the contestants’ talent performances, the crowd went wild and began stomping on the floor.
I’m sure it was to let the judges know this was who they wanted as their next Miss Mississippi.
All the noise must have worked because Cheryl Prewitt won the title. That fall she was crowned Miss America 1980.
Vicksburg is very fortunate to have the Vicksburg Convention Center as the venue for the pageant. It certainly allows for more supporters to attend as well as the ability to allow for a television production.
But, it was also exciting when it was held at the Vicksburg Auditorium. A live orchestra played, and the audience always dressed to the nines.
When I became adult enough, like my parents, I also became a patron of the pageant.
At that time, the competition was still being held at the auditorium, and our seats were located just up from the stage.
As a patron you were invited to parties at folks’ homes following each preliminary competition, making even those of us not competing feel special.
Years later, after the event had moved to the convention center, event organizers offered opportunities that made it possible for two of my girls to be on the stage as part of the production and as a princess.
While it’s a part of Vicksburg’s history, I guess you could say the Miss Mississippi Competition has also been a part of mine.
In addition to me grabbing autographs, attending competitions, supporting it financially, seeing my girls on the pageant stage, and covering it as a reporter, my mom had been a Miss Mississippi contestant — Miss Cleveland. She competed in the competition before it moved to Vicksburg from its earlier location along the Gulf Coast.
Indeed, getting a breather this year from all the action has been nice, but like many, I know it will be exciting when the Miss Mississippi Competition returns next year.
And no doubt, all those involved will continue to make it one of Vicksburg’s long-standing traditions.
Terri Cowart Frazier is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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