SIKESTON -- As the 60th Annual Miss Sikeston and Miss Cotton Carnival pageants approach this weekend, many of the annual event's past queens recall their own pageant days.
"It was such an honor to be picked out of your senior high class for a contestant in Miss Sikeston," said Teresa Houchin, Miss Sikeston 1973.
In the earlier days, contestants for the Miss Sikeston contest were junior and senior girls who were selected by their homerooms, pointed out former Miss Sikeston Pat Reynolds Patterson.
"About this time each year, the school was abuzz with who would be selected from your homeroom. I was a junior in the fall of 1960 when my homeroom honored me by selecting me to represent them in this contest. This was a really big deal!" noted Patterson, who won the crown that year.
At 16, Dorothy (Matthews) Moore was the very first woman crowned both Miss Cotton Carnival and Miss Sikeston 60 years ago. She received a bouquet of flowers and $100.
Moore competed against eight other girls for the title of Miss Cotton Carnival and had been nominated by her home room and elected by the student body as Miss Sikeston just two weeks prior to the competition.
"I just wore a dress I'd worn to a formal, one I had in the closet. Girls didn't go to all of the expense that they do now, and I am sure I put the money I won in a savings bond," said Moore.
Today Moore continues to attend the Cotton Carnival each year and looks back fondly on her reign as Miss Cotton Carnival and Miss Sikeston, she said.
"I have many wonderful memories of the carnival, but being crowned Miss Sikeston was certainly the most exciting," noted Miss Sikeston 1965 Barbara Irwin Johnson, who now lives in southern Maryland.
Bonnie Jean Farris Jackson, 1950 Cotton Carnival queen, said she remembers her friend took her to St. Louis so she could buy the dress that she wore the day of the pageant.
"My husband says that I 'walked across the stage during the judging like I owned it,' so I guess I felt pretty good. He and I ended that big day by attending the dance at the Armory that evening," Jackson recalled.
And winning the Cotton Carnival Queen Contest was a high point of Jackson's high school days, said the Morehouse native who lives in Texas today.
"It was an honor to represent Morehouse in the competition," Jackson said.
Miss Cotton Carnival 1984 Teresa Eakin Awalt remembers wearing an off-the-shoulder red chiffon dress with a big hoop skirt.
"A friend had volunteered to drive me in the parade in her brother's white T-top Cutlass," Awalt said. "The parade was great! My family was dispersed throughout the streets to wave to me. I had fun riding and listening to the marching bands.
"Plus, my sponsor was Boss Hogg's Cafe of Bell City. The sign on the car brought lots of cheers from the audience," Awalt added.
Awalt admitted she was so surprised when the winner was announced, she had to look at the number on her card to realize she'd won.
"I couldn't believe it! Chaos surrounded me. I stared as my family and friends in the audience went crazy jumping up and down. The smile seemed to be a permanent fixture," Awalt recalled.
Current Attorney General John Ashcroft, then the soon-to-be-elected governor of Missouri, shook Awalt's hand, she said.
"I had a crown that wouldn't stay on my head, a huge trophy, a ribbon and a large bouquet of roses. What excitement!" Awalt said.
Remembering back seven years ago seems like only yesterday for Lindi Prindle Rains, who won the competition in fall 1997.
"The Cotton Carnival always had a standard of prestige which was associated with the pageant. Even now, I look forward to seeing the contestant in the newspaper and watching the pageant each year," said Rains of Oran.
Today Rains' 4-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter are in the pageant circuit as well. Although many tell Rains she's living vicariously through her children, she said she'd hate for them to miss out on the wonderful experiences she had.
Rains said: "So, if history repeats itself, perhaps one day my daughter, too, will seek the title of Miss Cotton Carnival."