Carsyn Hughes

Carsyn Hughes represents the Miss Paris pageant in Jackson.

It’s been a long wait for Carsyn Hughes, but she finally gets to compete in the Miss Tennessee Volunteer pageant next week in Jackson.

Chalk up the long delay to the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.

Hughes is the current holder of the Miss Paris Volunteer crown, and that’s the preliminary pageant she’ll be representing at the Carl Perkins Civic Center in Jackson next week.

But she’s actually held the Miss Paris crown for about 20 months. She won the most recent Miss Paris Volunteer pageant at the Krider Performing Arts Center here in November 2019. But because of the pandemic, the statewide pageant was called off in 2020.

Officials decided to let winners of the local pageants from 2019 and early 2020 — prior to the March 2020 onset of the coronavirus — retain their titles and compete this year for the Tennessee crown.

“I’m elated, I didn’t even think I would win the Miss Paris pageant,” said Hughes, a 20-year-old Franklin resident. “I only started in pageants when I was seventeen, and that’s kind of late. Miss Paris was my first big pageant.”

Hughes is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee at Martin. She was homeschooled during her high school years in Franklin.

During the Miss Paris Volunteer pageant in 2019, she sang the Adele song “Someone Like You” during the talent portion of the program.

“That was really my first time singing in a situation like that,” she said.

Her previous pageant experience had included two years in the National American Miss competition, in which she made the national top 10 both years.

AN EXCITING WEEK

Hughes is expecting to have an exciting week in Jackson starting Sunday. All 36 contestants in the state pageant check in that day, and will take part in a public meet-and-greet at a Jackson mall to help promote the pageant.

That will be followed by practices and rehearsals before the pageant starts in earnest on June 16 with the evening gown competition.

The talent competition will be June 17 and the swimsuit event is June 18. The final night of the pageant will be June 19, when the state winner will be crowned.

Hughes said her family in Franklin is “excited, they’ve cheered me on the whole way.”

She’s expecting 15-20 friends and family members to attend the activities in Jackson next week.

She said a live stream of the pageant will be available on the Miss Tennessee Volunteer website.

If she is able to win the state title, Hughes would move on to the national level — the Miss Volunteer America pageant, scheduled for Labor Day weekend, also in Jackson.

The Miss Volunteer America organization now has a presence in all 50 states, so the national pageant should include about that many contestants, she said.

Jackson was the location of the Miss Tennessee pageant for several decades until its ties with the Miss America Organization were severed in 2019 after public disagreements about the Miss America leadership.

That’s when a group led by Allison DeMarcus — a former Miss Tennessee winner who is married to Jay DeMarcus of the country music group Rascal Flatts — launched its own organization, naming it Miss Tennessee Volunteer.

Christine Williamson, who had been Miss Tennessee in 2018, vacated her crown early in order to be the first Miss Tennessee Volunteer two years ago. Kerri Arnold, who is from Holladay in neighboring Benton County, won the 2019 pageant.

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