Pageant expected to fill hotels

Published 11:42 am Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bookings from 32 hotels and motels in Vicksburg will surge when the Miss Mississippi 2011 Pageant begins next week, a tourism official said.

“It’s better than the average week,” said Bill Seratt, executive director of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, the agency charged with promoting tourism in Vicksburg. “Every girl in the pageant brings an entourage with her. Historically, several hotels sell out.”

The 45 contestants from across the state featured in the annual pageant will arrive in Vicksburg Sunday. Most of their families and entourage will arrive on Saturday and stay through the following Saturday, which is the final night of the pageant, said David Blackledge, chairman of the Miss Mississippi Corporation and executive director of the pageant.

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“That’s over eight days they are here,” he said. “I expect about 2,100 people. That’s normally our capacity crowd at the (Vicksburg) Convention Center.”

The economic impact on the local businesses during that week has been recorded in previous years to be well over $1 million, said Blackledge, who is employed as the vice president of RiverHills Bank.

Families of each contestant, 43 of whom are from out of town, will shop, eat at area restaurants and visit attractions while here, he said.

Lynn Foley, director of sales for Southern Hospitality Services, is expecting to sell out of rooms at her four properties during the pageant’s final two nights, but expects strong bookings throughout the week.

“We’ll be running strong during the week leading up to Friday and Saturday,” she said. “We’ll see parents, friends, grandparents, aunts, uncles of the contestants.”

The four properties include 315 rooms from Courtyard by the Marriott, Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Suites and Econo Lodge, and each sold out of rooms during the final two nights of the 2010 pageant.

The pageant, in its 54th year in Vicksburg, will begin June 29 and run through July 2 at Vicksburg Convention Center.

Pageant attendees were offered through Miss Mississippi Corporation discounts at participating hotels including Foley’s properties.

All contestants will be housed at the La Quinta Inn & Suites on South Frontage Road as they were the last year.

Contestants were housed at the former All Saints’ Episcopal School campus on Confederate Avenue before it closed in 2006.

Horizon Casino, now operating as Grand Station Casino, also has hosted the pageant contenders.