Outlook: Miss Mississippi Hostesses continue tradition of more than 60 years
When Vicksburg was awarded the contract to host the Miss Mississippi Pageant in 1958, the Vicksburg Junior Chamber of Commerce or Jaycees, as they were referred, were in charge of the competition.
And the Jaycettes, their wives, took on the role of serving as a hostess to each of the contestants.
Meaning their job, according to the 1963 Miss Mississippi Pageant “official working schedule” was as follows: “Each Contestant will be accompanied and properly chaperoned by a hostess for all functions in connection with the Pageant. These hostesses have volunteered their services for the Pageant and they represent the hospitality of the entire citizenry of our town.”
Many things have changed since the first pageant was held in the River City, some of which include the Miss Mississippi Pageant contract changing hands. It is now held by Miss Mississippi Corporation, and Vicksburg no longer has Jaycees or Jaycettes.
The competition itself has also evolved. No longer are there swimsuit competitions, and the evening gown competition is referred to as the Red Carpet phase of the competition. Even the language of the pageant has changed.
No longer is it a pageant, it is a competition and those participating are candidates, not contestants.
However, one thing has remained the same and that is the role of a Miss Mississippi hostess.
Women in the Vicksburg community still volunteer their time to accompany and chaperone each candidate and make sure all her needs are taken care of, because as the pamphlet continues to say, “Contestants will not be permitted to provide their own hostess, chaperones, escorts, accompanist, hairdresser and other aids.”
Mary Beth Grogan-White, who is serving as the hostess chairman this year, said she has been a Miss Mississippi hostess for close to 20 years and was approached about volunteering while teaching school.
“We all were working at Warren Central and Louise Hall called me and asked me to be a hostess,” Grogan-White said.
Trying to beg off by saying she didn’t know what to do with girls, Grogan said, Hall didn’t take that as an excuse.
“She said, ‘You need to be one. You’ll fall right in there,’” Grogan-White said.
Now, Grogan-White said she is glad she decided to serve as a hostess. Not only has she enjoyed the camaraderie with the other women who volunteer their time, but friendships are also made with the girls they play hostess to.
“You are their mom for the week and you still stay in touch with them throughout the year. Some of my girls that I had as a hostess have married and I have been to their weddings — they’ve got babies and we still stay in touch and we still get together. It’s lasting friendships that you develop,” she said.
This year, Grogan-White said there are 36 Miss Mississippi Hostesses.
Those not pictured are: Kristy Brumfield; Miriam Jabour, Nancy Ballard, Carol Duncan, Billye Jones, Linda Banchetti and Louise Hall, who with Ann Morris serves as senior hostesses.