Ready to compete|47 in Vicksburg for state pageant

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 13, 2009

Forty-seven women arrived Sunday at the Vicksburg Convention Center and one of them will leave in a week as Miss Mississippi.

The contestants, ages 18-24, each brought a rack of clothes for the competition, an array of shoes to wear with those clothes and a trunk full of jewelry.

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The Miss Mississippi parade is at 7 tonight along Washington Street in downtown. An autograph party will follow at 7:45 p.m. at Horizon Hotel Casino, 1310 Mulberry.

Preliminary competitions are at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.

Final competition is at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets are $100 for all four nights, $25 for Wednesday and Thursday, $30 for Friday and $50 for Saturday.

For more information, call 601-638-6746

The next stop for the winner will be Jan. 20 in Las Vegas and, perhaps, the crown of Miss America.

The state pageant has been part of every summer in Vicksburg since 1958 and has produced four Miss Americas and many, many finalists. The pageant here has had many firsts, including the first to award scholarships to all contestants and awarding the greatest amount of higher education aid.

Amid all the fancy things, the contestants appeared poised and ready, some citing preparation as the key to good competition.

“The preparation has been so much fun so I’m just ready to get going,” said Miss University of Southern Mississippi Maggie Evans, who was also the first to arrive for registration.

She summed up her summer, so far, as being filled with practice interviews, a workout regiment and endless tryouts of clothing and makeup.

Some among the 47 have been wearing their crowns as local preliminary winners since October. And there are pageant veterans, too.

Miss University Brooke Beard, who is in her third state contest, enlisted her father, Billy Beard, to keep her up-to-date on current events for interviews with judges which, along with evening wear, talent and swimwear, are categories in which contestants are awarded points.

Up from last year’s 45 contestants, this year’s pageant will feature two more misses, a Miss Vicksburg again and the first-ever Miss Riverbend.

Vicksburg did not have a contestant in 2008 due to the lack of a director for a local contest.

The Miss Riverbend title will be making a first appearance on the Miss Mississippi stage being represented by Vicksburg native De’Lisha Wiggins.

As contestants piled in for registration, pageant hostesses braced for the week-long duty of being at the beck and call of contestants, who are severed from the outside world after signing in.

“Everywhere they go, we are with them and we take care of them if they are in need of something” said hostess Debbie Freeman, a retired Vicksburg school teacher and hostess to Miss Rankin County-Southwest Shelby Corn and Miss Holmes Community College Lesley Fulton. “We’re their liaison between them and their families.”

Contestants, who are paired up and matched to a hostess, are not allowed to have cell phones with them during the week and family visits are allowed for limited time.

This year, 26 contestants will sing, 13 will dance, seven will play the piano and one will play the flute in the talent portion of the competition, which makes up 30 percent of the contestants’ overall score.

Of the field, 32 contestants are in their first state pageant.

“There’s a lot of new girls, so everybody can relate to each other,” said Miss Jones County Tiffany Magee, who is competing in her first Miss Mississippi contest.

She said she’s hoping to gain “fellowship with everybody and getting to know all the girls” while she’s here in Vicksburg.

Hosting this year’s show, with a theme of “Star” is Michael Young and the 2006 Miss Mississippi Taryn Foshee.

With two new co-producers, Allen Ditto and Norman Ford, following the retirement of long-time executive producer Pat Hopson, the show is described by pageant insiders as “modern” and “more technology-based.”

The final competition on Saturday will be televised live on Jackson’s WLBT, local cable Channel 3, but all preliminaries and the final show will be available for viewing on the pageant’s Web site,

Preliminaries will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday with each separate group competing in different categories each night.

A parade of contestants is at 7 tonight on downtown Washington Street, and fans will have the opportunity to meet the women after at an autograph party at Horizon Hotel Casino.

The women also will make public appearances at autograph parties at George Carr Motor Company on Wednesday, the Outlets at Vicksburg on Thursday and at Washington Street shops on Friday. All will be from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.


Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at