Newbies, veterans all anxious|[7/04/05]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Miss Mississippi 2005

Sunday’s 8 a.m. registration couldn’t come early enough for the 42 young women anxious to see which one of them will be crowned Miss Mississippi 2005.

The contestants, some newbies and some veterans, arrived at the Vicksburg Convention Center all smiles as they said goodbye to their parents for the week and hello to staff members and other competitors.

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“I’m not nervous at all. I’ve worked hard to prepare for this, and it’s time for it to be here,” said first-time contestant Lacey Cofield, who is competing as Miss New South.

“I’m really looking forward to this week. I’m expecting a lot of fun and a lot of new friends,” said Cofield, 20.

Miss Dixie Tara Tutor, competing for her third time this year, said the pageant gets easier every year she competes.

“I’m very relaxed. I know what to do. I know the staff, too, which makes it easier to feel comfortable. I knew what to pack, but I still kept feeling like I was forgetting something this morning,” said Tutor, 21, who placed in the Top 10 last year.

“I think the hardest thing about the week is keeping your stamina up, which is hard every year. It is a long week, but there’s a lot of excitement involved to keep you going,” she said.

For Jalin Wood, whose reign as Miss Mississippi 2004 ends Saturday, it’s bittersweet to know one of the young women will be her successor.

“I’m pumped up. I’m excited to see these girls, and I’m excited for them. It’s fun to be involved like this, and I’m ready for the preliminaries to start because I’m ready to dance! I’ve always been on the back row, and now I get to be at the front!” said Wood, 24.

After a short devotional and a welcoming from pageant officials, Mayor Laurence Leyens assured the contestants that temperatures would indeed be hot enough for them to melt again this year during the parade Monday.

“Each year we try to figure out how to make the Miss Mississippi Pageant bigger and better, and I think we do a good job. Our community is proud to have the pageant here in Vicksburg, and I think it puts a huge mark on our city and our state. Thank you all for your participation to make this great, and have fun,” Leyens said.

The contestants spent the rest of the day rehearsing for the competition production, which starts Wednesday.

Tickets for all nights of competition are still available. A four-night set is $100, or tickets are available for individual nights: $25 for Wednesday and Thursday; $30 for Friday; and $40 for Saturday. To purchase tickets, call the pageant office at 601-638-6746.