Area residents, pageant goers form lasting bond

Published 10:25 am Friday, June 3, 2016

The economic impact of the Miss Mississippi’s Outstanding Teen and Miss Mississippi pageants are obvious, but it’s the connection the visitors make with the city and its people that truly leaves a lasting impression.

Helen’s Florist owner Nancy Gray said many of the contestants and their supporters come back year to year and it’s a treat to serve the repeat customers.

“Some of them have been in for years and we become friends with the parents and the sponsors,” she said. “They come back and visit, and that we enjoy. It’s really fun.”

Nancy Gray’s daughter Mary Kaylin Gray added they’ve watched some of the girls grow from princesses to contestants.

The florists sell more than just flowers, Nancy added, including Mary Kaylin Gray’s handmade pottery, personalized art and custom teddy bears they start working on in February.

“They’re white bears with nothing on them,” Nancy Gray said. “We trim their hair, put the eyelashes, the earrings, the crowns, the rouge, then we make the dresses ourselves here.”

Nancy Gray said the month of March is nearly entirely devoted to working on the bears, including taking them home on the weekends. The shop completed more than 150 bears this year, including some with swimsuits.

“It’s a big event, but we also keep a register of all the contestants,” she said. “It has all their pictures and we write what they’re getting, so they don’t get duplicates.”

Nancy Gray said this is one of their busiest seasons.

“It’s different from Valentine’s Day because it’s a whole week long,” she said. “We’re busy; it’s just like a holiday.”

Hall’s Gifts and Treasures Floral Design owner Jacke Hall said he stays busy too, adding the traffic from the pageant helps his store thrive during the summer months.

“It’s pretty good to the store,” he said. “During this time of year after Mother’s Day, it tends to slow down. The pageants come and kind of support us for the months of June and July. It has a positive effect on the comment.”

Hall said he sends out coupons to all of the hotels hosting pageant members in preparation for a busy June month.

“Their parents and their significant others will come by and call the shop and place orders,” he said. “We’ll take orders over the phone, or they’ll come into the store just to see what we have.”

Hall said the pageant fans love buying fresh flowers, stuffed animals and the gift baskets the shop makes.