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Some Hope Pageant Can Revive Tourism In Mississippi River Cities

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 28 Jun 2011 04:24pm | comments
Pageant contestants prepare a dance number.

The Miss Mississippi pageant begins tonight in Vicksburg. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that some hope that the pageant will revive Vicksburg businesses hit hard by the Mississippi River flood.

The contestants in the Ms. Mississippi pageant rehearse and prepare for tonight's opening night of the four day contest.

The pageant is an annual tradition that brings thousands to Vicksburg.

Pageant executive director David Blackledge says the annual pageant generates about a million dollars a year in economic impact.

“I mean the florist, the businesses, as far as the restaurants; just see a tremendous increase in their business during pageant week. We have approximately 2,000 people per night in the convention center each night,” Blackledge said.

Fears of historic river flooding caused many tourist to avoid Vicksburg and other river cities which are dependent on tourism dollars.

Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Bill Seratt says the city needs the attention, because several key tourism indicators declined compared to last year.

“The hotel occupancy in May was down 11%. We don’t get individual numbers on casinos, but here 2 of our casinos remained opened and I believe they were down 25-30% during that time period,” Seratt said.

Less than a mile from the pageant is Crown to Heels, a women's clothing store that also sells formal evening gowns some of the contestants wear.

Owner Lurline Lawrence says the pageant usually brings an increase in business, as the friends and family members of pageant contestants shop and spend.

“From the visitors that come into the city for the pageant. Just people that are in town walking up and down the street. They come browsing in each of the downtown stores,” Lawrence said.

One pageant contestant alone says she sold 36 tickets to each night of the four day competition.

Pageant organizers also hope that the attention from the pageant, and the televised finale on Saturday, will serve as a billboard to others that it is safe to return to the delta.



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