When people think of the Bayou Classic, they think of tradition. The Classic isn’t just a game, it’s also the series of events that surround the annual football game.
Every year in New Orleans on Thanksgiving weekend, fellow Louisianans and thousands of others look forward to the Bayou Classic.
An event that was an integral part of Bayou Classic weekend no longer exists. The Miss Bayou Classic Pageant ended in 2001.
The Bayou Classic Pageant first came about in 1976 by Collie J. Nicholson, Grambling’s famed public relations guru. It was an immediate hit and one of the main features of Classic-related activities held at the Superdome.
The first Miss Bayou Classic was Pamela Chenault of Grambling State University.
In 1978 the pageant was moved to the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
In 1997, Southern University queens took Miss Bayou Classic and first runner-up spots. Grambling States’ Serelda Baker earned second runner-up honors during the 23rd Annual Bayou Classic President’s Scholarship Pageant.
The pageant was seen as an opportunity for the women of Grambling State and Southern universities to earn scholarships.
In 1998, the Bayou Classic changed the format. Instead of just one contestant being selected Miss Bayou Classic, two queens were selected – one representing each university.
During that year, Terisha Humphreys, a communication major from Oakland, Calif., was chosen as Grambling State University’s representative. Joan E. Lee was chosen as Southern University’s queen.
Glenn Lewis, university photographer and yearbook director, revealed some little-known information about the pageant. He said the contestants for Grambling State were initially chosen in a closed audition, where contestants would “strut down the hallway,” and be hand-picked by the judges, the staff of The Gramblinite.
Lewis, who taught journalism at the time, said this judging method ended in 1977, where in an open competition five contestants were chosen to represent Grambling at the pageant in New Orleans.
The last crown Grambling State took home was in 1999 by Kelley Butler.
In the last pageant in 2001, Miss Bayou Classic was won by Southern’s Rashaune D. Payton. GSU did claim the runner-up title, won by Michelle Bilberry.
“The Bayou Classic Pageant has been removed from the list of festivities because there is no demand for the event,” said Dr. Ralph Slaughter, vice president of the Southern University system and Bayou Classic coordinator, in 2002.
He said the Bayou Classic Pageant was discontinued “because there is no demand for the event.”
“On top of that, the expenses it takes to put on such an extravagant event lacked support from both schools.
The lack of attendance is for the most part due to the time of the pageant, which was scheduled at the same time as the Greek Show and the Battle of the Bands. At the time, there were no sponsors willing to put up the funds to allow the event to return.
So now, in the pageant’s place, there is a corporate reception dinner in the ballroom of the Hyatt recognizing the events’ corporate sponsors.