Veteran contestants prevail on final night of preliminaries

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Tying as winners in the talent competition in the third evening of the Miss Mississippi preliminary competition are Miss Vicksburg Melanie Sanders, left, and Miss Alcorn County Jessica Sparks, center. At right is Miss Northeast Mississippi Community College Tara Tutor, who won the evening’s swimsuit competition. (Jon GiffinThe Vicksburg Post)

[6/25/04] The final night of Miss Mississippi 2004 preliminaries saw yet a third tie between two pageant veterans in talent and a third veteran as the swimsuit winner.

Miss Vicksburg Melanie Sanders and Miss Alcorn County Jessica Sparks tied in talent, each receiving a $400 scholarship. Miss Northeast Mississippi Community College Tara Tutor won swimsuit, receiving a $300 scholarship.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Sanders, a fourth-year veteran, was excited to be back on the Miss Mississippi stage after a two-year hiatus from the pageant, during which she placed in the Top 30 of the first season of Fox’s “American Idol.”

Sanders, 23, competed as Miss Vicksburg 2001, placed second runner-up as Miss Southern Magnolia 2000 and placed fourth runner-up as Miss Vicksburg 1999. Friday night she sang “Fools Fall In Love” from the Broadway play “Smoky Joe’s Cafe.”

“As soon as I heard the song two years ago I fell in love with it. I knew when I decided to compete again I would sing this song. I’m so blessed and so excited for this honor,” she said.

Sparks said she was shocked to find out she tied with Sanders.

“When they said it was a tie, of course I hoped it was me, but I never thought I would tie with an American Idol’ finalist,” said Sparks, 22, a medical student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Sparks placed in the Top 10 last year as Miss Mississippi State University and also received the Women in Medicine award. She competed in 2002 as Miss Alcorn County.

Tutor is a second-time contestant and said she had to talk herself into not falling on stage while walking in her swimsuit and heels.

“It’s tough, but it’s not very long at all, and the judges are smiling at you so you’re not so nervous,” said Tutor, 20, who competed as Miss Pontotoc in last year’s pageant.

In Thursday’s preliminaries, Miss Metro Jackson Jalin Wood won swimsuit, and Miss Magnolia Kristian Dambrino and Miss Dixieland Taryn Foshee tied as talent winners. Wednesday, Miss Byram Tri-County Angela Allen and Miss Heritage Hannah Baskin tied as swimsuit winners, and Miss University April Lancaster won talent.

Throughout the preliminaries, contestants were judged 40 percent on personal interviews with the judges, 30 percent on talent, and 10 percent each on swimsuit, evening wear and casual wear and on-stage questions. The composite scores from preliminary judging will determine the Top 10, which will be announced at the beginning of tonight’s final competition.

The judges’ interview scores are the only scores carried over for the Top 10 contestants. The Top 10 will compete again tonight in talent, swimsuit and evening wear, and the Top 5 finalists will then compete in the on-stage question category. The winner will represent Mississippi in the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City in the fall.

There are 40 contestants competing in this year’s pageant, the 47th in Vicksburg, and over $117,000 in scholarships will be awarded to contestants.