A ‘surreal feeling’ in Vicksburg on a pageant week without a pageant
Contestants would have moved their clothes and accessories into the Vicksburg Convention Center Saturday. Sunday would have seen rehearsals and Monday, crowds would have lined Washington Street for a parade.
But, due to the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, and concerns about the health and safety of everyone involved, the 63rd Miss Mississippi Competition was canceled, leaving many in Vicksburg with an empty spot on their calendar and the Vicksburg Convention Center with an empty exhibition hall.
“It is certainly a surreal feeling,” Miss Mississippi Board Chairman David Blackledge said.
For the past 36 years, Blackledge has been part of the Miss Mississippi Organization.
During his tenure, he has spent countless hours serving, which has included giving up a week of his summer to be on hand for the event.
“Not being with all of our volunteers, staff, candidates, Miss Mississippi hostesses and everybody associated with the competition just feels bizarre,” Blackledge said. “We miss not being with them.”
However, Blackledge said, he has no regrets in the call that was made to cancel this year’s Miss Mississippi competition.
“First and foremost we look out for the health and welfare of all of our candidates and everybody associated with Miss Mississippi,” Blackledge said. “And when you put that into perspective and think about the suffering that people have gone through with the coronavirus pandemic – we continue to think about that during this time and realize that is why we are not able to be together.”
Winky Freeman, who is the vice chairman of the board, echoed Blackledge’s sentiments.
“We made the decision and Miss America made the decision and we followed their decision,” Freeman said. “You know there is just a much more pressing situation that exists now than having a competition.”
But while the health and safety of those involved in the competition and those who would have traveled to Vicksburg to watch were taken into consideration to cancel this year’s event, Freeman said the decision was “bittersweet.”
“It’s a little bittersweet, really. We all look forward no matter how much we complain about how much work we have to do,” Freeman said. “We all look forward to it every year.”
And like Blackledge, Freeman said he does miss the camaraderie.
“You know there are a lot of people that come to the competition year after year that we won’t see this year with this crazy virus,” Freeman said.
Also, Freeman said he would miss all the excitement that precedes the crowning of a new state titleholder.
“I am glad (Miss Mississippi Mary Margaret Hyer) decided to continue on, but there is also the excitement when you are going to get a new Miss Mississippi,” he said.
Officials with the Miss Mississippi Competition announced on May 8 the event — along with the Miss Mississippi Outstanding Teen Pageant — would be canceled after the Miss America Organization announced it was postponing its event until late 2021.
The Outstanding Teen pageant will return in April 2021, while the next Miss Mississippi Competition will be held in June 2021.
New dates for the Miss Mississippi Competition are scheduled for June 23-26, 2021. The new date for the Miss Mississippi’s Outstanding Teen will be April 23-25, 2021.
Vicksburg’s efforts to purchase land on Oak Street for a new animal shelter have not been put on the back... read more