By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – A beauty pageant that once dominated the dreams of young girls and the social calendars of an entire neighborhood will return this year to Park Hill.
The Miss North Side Beauty Pageant kicks off July 5 after a quarter-century hiatus. Its revival coincides with the grand opening of the newly renovated C.C Augustus Community Center, where the popular event had occurred each July from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s.
Tupelo just completed a major renovation of the center, which had suffered structural damage with a rotting roof.
The pageant also dovetails with a reunion for the city’s formerly all-black Carver High School, the alma mater of many previous pageant constants.
“Everybody’s so excited that they’re going to renew it,” said Patricia Neely-Dorsey, who finished second-runner-up to the queen in the 1980 pageant.
Neely-Dorsey recalled how every girl in the neighborhood dreamed of the day they’d turn 16 and enter the contest, which featured interviews, a talent show and swimsuit modeling over the course of two days.
“The lights would be on real bright, and it’d be real dark outside and just the feeling of walking around the pool and everybody yelling and screaming – it was amazing,” Neely-Dorsey said. “The whole neighborhood came. Everybody from young to old looked forward to the pageant every year.”
This year’s pageant will accept girls in three divisions: Little Miss North Side Park from ages 10-14; Junior Miss North Side Park from ages 15-17; and Miss North Side Park from ages 18-21. The pageant is open to girls of all races and backgrounds.
Contestants must pay a $50 entry fee.
The contest begins at 6 p.m. on July 5 with a talent show at St. Paul Christian Life Center. It resumes the next day at C.C. Augustus immediately after its 5 p.m. rededication.
Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children at the Life Center.
“It’s kind of a historical thing,” said Ward 4 City Councilwoman Nettie Davis, one of the event organizers and a beauty contestant in the pageant’s inaugural year.
Former beauty queens and runners-up are invited to attend the pageant as special guests, and many have confirmed they’ll attend, Davis said.