Junior Misses take stage
MAKE-UP – Moss Point's Junior Miss Katie Miles gets ready Thursday before the opening number of the Mississippi Junior Miss Scholarship Program. Photo by Carisa Mccain / The Meridian Star
By Penny Randall / staff writer
August 2, 2002
Thunderous applause came from a packed house at the Temple Theatre in downtown Meridian Thursday as the first of three nights of competition in the 2003 Mississippi Junior Miss Scholarship Program began.
The opening number featured all 37 contestants from across the state dressed in red, white and blue shirts, blue jeans and white sailor hats performing a high-energy dance routine, followed by the introduction of master of ceremonies State Sen. Terry C. Burton.
For the contestants who arrived Sunday, a week of rehearsals and public appearances have been an experience of a lifetime.
Be your best self'
Madison County's Jayme Robertson said competing in Junior Miss is a way to better herself.
But for Mike Ryals, father of Neshoba County's Junior Miss Tara Ryals, the night brings back memories. Ryals' older daughter, Laney, also participated in Junior Miss and was named first alternate in Neshoba County's local program in 1999.
Ryals said he encouraged his daughters to participate because of the scholarship money.
The contestants were divided into two groups Diamond and Sapphire. The Diamond Group competed in talent and the Sapphire Group in physical fitness and poise.
The physical fitness routines, choreographed by Meridian dance instructor Suzie McCraw, had dance moves, crunches, jumps, push-ups, lunges and other aerobically challenging moves.
In between the talent and physical fitness presentations, Natalie Pope, Mississippi's Junior Miss 2002, made an appearance onstage. She spoke about her year as the state's Junior Miss and the national competition, where she was named first alternate.
In the poise competition, the Sapphire Group, dressed in white gowns, was escorted by officers from Naval Air Station Meridian. They were asked, "As Mississippi's Junior Miss what cause, other than the Be your best self' belief, would you promote?"
Responses addressed leadership, organ donation, self-respect, volunteerism and literacy.
The evening culminated with all of the contestants returning to stage dressed in pink shirts and blue jeans and performing a dance routine to a medley of songs from the movie "Grease."
Mary-Brandon Norman, Lamar County's Junior Miss, believes this week's experiences have helped her grow as a person.
The competition continues tonight at 7:30 p.m. with the announcement of preliminary winners.