Bicentennial

You know her as ‘MS Congeniality,’ but soon she will be ‘Miss Issippi’

Hancock County Chamber of Commerce director Tish Williams and David Thornton of Transmedia snap photos of Jaimee Dorris and Jim Miller of the Gulfport Historical Society at Centennial Park in Gulfport on Saturday, March 18, 2017.
Hancock County Chamber of Commerce director Tish Williams and David Thornton of Transmedia snap photos of Jaimee Dorris and Jim Miller of the Gulfport Historical Society at Centennial Park in Gulfport on Saturday, March 18, 2017. jclark@sunherald.com

It’s a party 200 years in the making. And like any good party, the upcoming Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration will need a great hostess. A Bay St. Louis resident is ready step up and into history by reviving a character created more than 100 years ago.

Jaimee Dorris hosts the online series “MS Congeniality,” which streams on both Facebook and YouTube. She’s ready to take on what could be her most challenging role yet — playing the part of the century-old “Miss Issippi.” She’ll serve as hostess and mistress of ceremonies for the bicentennial bash at Centennial Park in Gulfport on March 31 and April 1.

“The character came about 100 years ago when the original centennial was being planned — they wanted a mascot that would be Miss Issippi, but it never happened,” Dorris said. “The character was drawn up and it didn’t happen, but they wanted to bring the character back for the bicentennial and I was asked to play her.”

Sun Herald origins

Jim Miller with the Historical Society of Gulfport said Miss Issippi was drawn for the original centennial.

“Miss Issisppi was drawn by a member of the Wilkes family when they owned the Daily Herald (predecessor of the Sun Herald) in 1917 — it was designed by their youngest son, Parks Wilkes, to represent Mississippi,” Miller said. “There was a woman that traveled around in a costume to promote the centennial celebration, visiting different parts of the state.”

Miller said the state’s long-planned centennial celebration never got off the ground.

“It was supposed to have taken place on Dec. 10, 1917, but World War I broke out right before that, so it was postponed until Feb. 22, 1919,” he said. “But in the interim a lot of things happened, including the Spanish flu, so it never picked up.”

‘Just to be fabulous’

Dorris on Saturday saw the first incarnation of the Miss Issippi costume she will be wearing during the bicentennial celebration. And though her dress will need some alterations before the big day, she said is she is “honored” to have been chosen to play the role.

“I’m so excited because I feel it goes right in line with my show ‘MS Congeniality,’ which showcases what is wonderful about Mississippi,’ she said. “They could have chosen anyone and they chose me and that’s a great honor.”

While the dress gets hemmed and revamped, Dorris said she’s looking forward to learning what her responsibilities will be.

“I’m not really sure what my job is except just to be fabulous,” she smiled. “That’s a hard job but someone has got to do it.”

Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration South

Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1

Centennial Plaza in Gulfport

Events include a parade, a Friday-night concert by the Coast Big Band and a Saturday-night concert by The Band Perry.

Find more information at https://www.facebook.com/events/364703380573258

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