Five take top honors first night|[07/11/07]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A packed audience watched Tuesday night as five winners were announced during the first night of competition for the Miss Mississippi 2007 title.

The three-way swimwear tie and two-way talent tie relieved the five winners, who felt the pressure of their competition.

The Tuesday night crowd swelled to near capacity at the Vicksburg Convention Center, with very few empty seats.

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&#8220I’d say there were close to 2,000 there, which is great for opening night,” said David Blackledge, executive director of the Miss Mississippi Corporation, which stages the event.

A few tickets for the preliminaries tonight and Thursday remain, Blackledge said.

Sharing the Tuesday’s preliminary swimwear honors were Miss Pontotoc Tara Tutor, 23, Miss Tougaloo Jasmine Chardae Hughes, 21, and Miss Northridge Stephanie Batchelor, 22. Each won a $200 scholarship.

Tutor was a preliminary swimwear competition for the fourth year running. This is the University of Mississippi pharmacy student’s fifth year competing in the pageant.

&#8220That group was so hard – I’ll take a tie any day,” she said.

Hughes, who attends Tougaloo College, is a first-year contestant.

&#8220I’m thrilled and privileged,” she said. &#8220I’m surprised we didn’t have more winners.”

Batchelor, a second-year contestant, attends Delta State University.

&#8220I’m shocked.” Like her fellow winners, Batchelor praised her competition. &#8220There are so many beautiful girls; it’s an honor.”

Talent winners Miss Mid South Catherine Carter, 22, and Miss Leaf River Valley Natalie Goldman, 22, will be awarded $300 scholarships.

Carter, who is competing for her third year in the pageant, sang &#8220Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The University of Mississippi dentistry student placed in the Top Ten her first year and was a non-finalist talent winner.

Goldman, a University of Southern Mississippi graduate, is a second-year contestant. She was a non-finalist talent winner and swimwear winner in 2005. This year, she performed a lyrical dance to Josh Groban’s &#8220You Raise Me Up.”

&#8220I’ve worked so hard, and it’s so amazing to win out of this group of girls,” she said.

Talent and swimwear scores are announced during each of the three preliminary nights and are the only scores revealed. Preliminary competition also includes evening wear and an on-stage question. This year, the on-stage questions were composed by former title-holders.

The scores from the preliminary nights and an off-stage judge’s interview will be compiled to determine the Top Ten for Saturday night’s telecast. The Top Ten will then compete in evening wear, swimwear and talent, culminating with the 50th Miss Mississippi crowning in Vicksburg.

Preliminaries are usually Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. The schedule was rearranged this year to accommodate a 50th anniversary gala on Friday night. The Miss America preliminary is older, but has been in Vicksburg since 1948.