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Pageant hopefuls parade for fans

Miss University Misty Rea of Houston waves to onlookers during the Miss Mississippi Parade Monday night on Washington Street. To the right of Rea is Ole Miss mascot Colonel Reb. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[07/10/01] Monday night’s heat wilted hairdos but not spirits as the 39 young women competing to be Miss Mississippi 2001 paraded through downtown Vicksburg waving to hundreds and later signing autographs.

“We’re melting absolutely melting but we’re enjoying it,” said Miss University Misty Rea, who wore a red strapless gown with a long train.

The mercury soared to high 90s as the Washington Street parade rolled at 7 Monday up Washington Street from Veto to China and contestants were presented publicly for the first time for the pageant, beginning its 44th year in Vicksburg.

Despite the heat, Miss Vicksburg Melanie Sanders, was dressed in black velvet.

“They say velvet is for all year round, but I don’t know about today,” said Sanders, who has competed in the pageant twice and was last year’s second runner-up. “All the hair spray in the world can’t beat this sun.”

As Sanders, the other contestants and various public officials paraded, they were greeted by hundreds of well-wishers and contestant wannabes. Sylvia Baylot, secretary at the Miss Mississippi Pageant office, said nearly 600 people attended Monday’s parade.

Kristen Osborne, 15, waited anxiously for the festivities to start. “I just want to be in it the pageant,” she said.

As the parade began, another onlooker, Norris Suttles, snapped pictures of the contestants and his daughter, Shalrekio Houston, who is a member of the Hinds Community College Hi-Steppers. Suttles traveled from Louisville to watch Houston, who is a sophomore at Hinds, march in the parade.

“This is a glorious event,” Suttles said. “It’s set up so nice. I hope to return next year.”

Other participants in the parade included Miss Mississippi 2000 Christy May; Mayor Laurence Leyens, who strolled with about 75 children waving American flags; and three local legislators Rep. Chester Masterson, Sen. Mike Chaney and Rep. George Flaggs who waved to the crowd from a Culkin Fire Department engine.

This week, the Miss Mississippi hopefuls will make public appearances at four autograph sessions and prepare for Saturday night’s finals, which will be televised. Three nights of preliminary competition begin Wednesday, with contestants to be judged in swimsuit, talent and evening wear. A fourth category, personal interview, is judged privately during the week. Talent represents 40 percent of a contestant’s score, with personal interview weighing 30 percent. Evening wear and swimsuit are each worth 15 percent.

A few tickets to the Miss Mississippi competition were available Monday afternoon, pageant organizers said. They are $20 per night and can be purchased by calling the Miss Mississippi Pageant office at 638-6746.