I am always excited when “Miss North Carolina week” rolls around each June because not only does it bring about a new competition with a new class of girls, but it brings back loads of memories and a number of former Miss North Carolinas who just happen to be some of my very dear friends as well. The last couple of years have been even more memorable for me because I’ve been asked to photograph the luncheon honoring these special women. It was a very special luncheon for two formers in particular — my dear friend Jennifer Vaden [Smith] Barth, who was celebrating the 20th anniversary of her crowning and Maria Beale Fletcher, North Carolina’s only Miss America, who was celebrating the 50th anniversary of her win.
This year’s luncheon was hosted by Jessica Jacobs Marquardt and Elizabeth Williams Grayson in Jessica’s beautiful Raleigh home. Thank you, Jessica, for opening your home to all of us!
The luncheon isn’t just for former winners, though. It’s really more like a reunion of winners, personal friends and mentors who helped them along the way and longtime pageant volunteers — and is always a great time for old friends to catch up.
Former titleholders love catching up on each other’s lives…
Lovely ladies: Katherine Southard (2009), Elizabeth Williams Grayson (1982), Lorna McNeill Ricotta (2000), Jessica Jacobs Marquardt (2007) and Dana Stephenson (1994) Everyone was thrilled that Maria Beale Fletcher (1962), second from left, and Sharon Finch (1964), second from right were able to attend this year…
I think Darryl is in heaven!
Even though I’ve been around the Miss North Carolina pageant for years and years, I still get a little star struck – and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get in front of the camera with Sharon and Miss America!
One of the highlights of the luncheon each year is when the floor is opened up for everyone to recount memories — some embarrassing, some funny, but all fond — from their respective years of service.
Former Miss NC board member and Miss Brunswick County director David Clegg always has a hilarious story to tell on someone involved in the pageant.
Former Miss Randolph County director Lane Ragsdale (and one of my favorite people ever!) can always be counted on for some funny comments of his own.
Maria Beale Fletcher not only shared memories from her year and updates on her current activities, she also inspired the attendees with some of her original poetry. She remains the only Miss North Carolina to also capture the Miss America crown (who agrees she could hold her own in swimsuit competition today!?).
A group photo of all the formers in attendance:
Top row (from left): Jessica Jacobs Marquardt (2007), Elizabeth Horton Peress (2006), Lorna McNeill Ricotta (2000), Dana Reason Evans (2003); Middle row: Elizabeth Williams Grayson (1982), Katherine Southard (2009), Dana Stephenson (1994), Connie Dorn Rist (1972); Front row: Jennifer Vaden (Smith) Barth (1991), Miss America Maria Beale Fletcher (1962) and Sharon Finch (1964)
Thank you again to Jessica and Elizabeth for hosting such a lovely luncheon. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event, which will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Miss North Carolina pageant.