City departments provide services to pageant

Published 10:56 am Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wednesday night, the Vicksburg Convention Center becomes a place of magic and mystery as the 44 contestants for Miss Mississippi start performing and competing in several categories to determine the successor to Miss Mississippi 2015 Hannah Roberts.

The pageantry will dominate the convention center and the conversations of many in Vicksburg as the events move toward Saturday and the naming of a new Miss Mississippi.

Presently, the contestants are going through rehearsals at the convention center, and the crews are installing lights and sets for the Wednesday opening.

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And while those crews are at work, another set of workers are further behind the scenes and invisible to most of the audience as the pageant gets underway.

And some of these workers hope they won’t be needed.

Several departments with the city of Vicksburg — public works, police, fire, and building maintenance — play an important role in the preparations for the Miss Mississippi pageant, some start weeks before the pageant, while others use their skills in the days leading up to the pageant or perform their duties during the event’s six-day run.

“We start cleaning downtown weeks before the pageant begins,” said city landscape director Jeff Richardson. The city’s landscape crews clean and spruce up the numerous city flowerbeds and roadsides, while traffic department workers paint crowns on the streets and install barricades to help control traffic and protect the spectators when the parades passes along its route.

When the pageant is on, Richardson says, “We go out every morning and check downtown and around the convention center, and then we get out of the way.”

When the satellite and production trucks show up at the convention center, employees with the city’s maintenance department are there to help connect the trucks to the convention center’s electrical system, connect the service distribution board and perform any needed preliminary electrical work.

“Then we go on standby (for problems),” said maintenance supervisor Sammie Rainey. “In the 20 years I’ve been here, we’ve only had two major problems. In 2012, we had the main waterline to the convention center break, and the three years before that, the main switch went out. We had to replace that between sessions.”

The 2012 waterline break brought workers from the city’s maintenance and water departments together to fix the problem, which occurred while the pageant was underway.

When the pageant is under way, security is provided by the Vicksburg Police Department, which provides officers for the convention center and at the La Quinta Inn, where the contestants stay, Chief Walter Armstrong said.

He said the officers provide another service. Kansas City Southern trains don’t sound their horns at crossings near the convention center during the pageant at the city’s request, “So we have officers stationed at the crossings so the motoring public can cross those areas safely.”

Another public safety agency is also at the convention center and on call.

“We either have an ambulance or a (service) truck at the convention center,” said Fire Chief Charles Armstrong. “We have a paramedic on duty there each night.”

And when the doors open Wednesday night, the convention center staff is responsible, building operations manager Erin Southhard said, “To make sure everyone is safe, secure and comfortable.”

That means making sure the air conditioning is in full operation, the escalators and elevator are working and the sound system volumes are set properly.

“We’re completing the final touches now,” she said Monday afternoon. “We want to make sure the people enjoy themselves


About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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