Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 22, 2004

line streets to see crown-seekers

Clouds move in quickly as the Miss Mississippi 2004 parade rolls by Monday on Washington Street. (Meredith Spencer The Vicksburg Post)

[6/22/04]Despite sweltering humidity at the beginning of the parade and an imminent thunderstorm toward the end, Miss Mississippi contestants, family and fans were in good spirits Monday during the downtown parade.

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“I think we’re going to melt, that’s why my hair’s up,” said Miss Meridian Tara Hughes.

The contestants were relaxing in the air conditioning inside the Belmont Place Retirement Center for Women before they got in their cars for the parade.

“At least we’ll get to work on our tans,” said Miss Mid South Jessica Barksdale.

On Washington Street, more than 1,000 parade-watchers lined the streets, said Sheriff Martin Pace. Some had signs wishing a favorite contestant good luck, some had Santa hats reflecting the pageant’s “We Need A Little Christmas” theme, but nearly all had fans hoping to bring a little relief to the 99-degree heat index.

Friends of Miss W Sally Wells drove from Byram to hold up signs that said, “We Love Miss W,” and occasionally used the posters as giant fans.

“She’s dating my brother, so she’ll be my sister-in-law one day,” said Sara Black, 17.

Miss Dixieland Taryn Foshee’s family had makeshift fans with her picture on them.

“She’s definitely going to give everyone a run for their money, and her talent is incredible,” said grandmother Kay Foshee.

Miss Clinton Priscilla Pulliam had a whole crew of well-wishers rooting for her, including her parents, her directors and children wearing homemade crowns in support of the pageant.

“We’re really also cheering for the six other contestants from Clinton, too. They all know each other, and it’s all friendly competition,” said mother Cindy Pulliam.

Down the route near Grove Street two future Miss Mississippi hopefuls, Felicia Brown and Emily Cookwere, cheering for Tara Tutor.

Lauren and Lacey Higgins, 8-year-old twins, agreed that they both would love to hold the title one day.

“Maybe one can win and crown the other the next year,” laughed their mother, Angie Higgins, who was a contestant in the 1989 pageant as Miss Pontotoc.

The Higgins family drove from Pontotoc for the week’s events and will head back Saturday to watch the final competition on TV.

“This is the girls’ first year to come. Hopefully it will become a tradition. They already have their Top 10 picked out,” said Angie Higgins.

After a short delay, the parade kicked off just before 7:30 with Santa and Mrs. Claus leading the way. City officials and other pageant title holders followed, then entertainment by the Vicksburg Twirlers and Gym South.

Finally the 40 contestants, two to a car, and Miss Mississippi Allison Kellogg made their way down Washington Street, smiling and waving to family and friends.

At about 7:40, halfway through the parade, threatening dark clouds, lightning, thunder and strong winds began crossing over the Mississippi River. The contestants kept smiling and waving while grabbing their crowns as the wind threatened to blow them off their heads. The parade then sped up to 30 mph to beat the storm.

Pace said the parade route was diverted two blocks to cut off at China instead of Jackson for safety reasons. The parade continued down China to Mulberry, straight to the front door of Horizon Casino Hotel, where the contestants were signing autographs after the parade.