by MIKE CHAIKEN
A piece of Miss America history will play out in southeast Connecticut this weekend.
On Monday, Miss America contestants from all 50 states will step off in Mystic, Conn. for the Show Me Your Shoes parade. It will be the first time the event has been held in Connecticut after years of being held in Atlantic City, N.J.
Atlantic City had been the traditional home and the birthplace of the competition. But this year, the event will be held at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville.
The contest was canceled last year due to COVID-19 concerns. The last Miss America contest was held in 2019.
The last Show Me Your Shoes parade was held in 2018 before Miss America vacated New Jersey.
Leading the organizational charge for the relocated Show Me Your Shows is the reigning Miss Connecticut Sapna Raghavan of Ellington.
“The Show Me Your Shoes Parade is an iconic piece of Miss America’s history,” Raghavan explained. “Every year, (Miss America candidates from) all 50 states make a shoe that represents their state and the history of their state.”
Each girl will ride in a car, and everyone says, ‘Show me your shoes.’ And she kicks her leg up and shows off her shoes.”
“It’s a real celebration of our country’s history. And, of course, the (Miss America) pageant and what it represents for so many people,” said Raghavan.
The competition this year will be held in December.
But, Raghavan said the parade is being held this weekend because, “the Miss America pageant used to happen during (the) Labor Day (weekend) in Atlantic City. So, our 100th anniversary is actually (this) weekend.” Thus, the parade is keeping its traditional slot on the calendar.
With the competition celebrating its centennial this year, Raghavan said, “We’re so lucky to have it in Connecticut. And I’m so happy to show off our great state.”
As the Miss America organization organized the parade, Raghavan said the community of Mystic in Groton has been “awesome” to work with.
“I think it’s really important, especially after COVID, for all those small businesses that really keep the state going… to show off what they’ve got and show off really what the state has to offer– which is definitely some local charm, but also a lot of heart.”
Despite COVID-19 concerns, especially regarding travel, Raghavan said all the contestants are expected to make it to Connecticut for the parade.
“There’s definitely protocols in place, but everyone from what I know is coming,” said Raghavan. “So, we’ll have 50 women coming to Windsor Locks into Bradley (International) Airport.”
For many of the contestants, Raghavan noted Connecticut is unfamiliar territory.
“It was really funny to hear about everyone thinking of logistics on how they’ll get to Windsor Locks,” said Raghavan. “So, it’s nice to see that our little towns are getting a spot on the map.”
An additional dimension of the logistics has been securing cars for all the contestants – plus cars for a few previous Miss America winners — to ride in the parade.
“It’s actually been very interesting,” said Raghavan. “My parents own a small business in South Windsor in manufacturing. So, we’ve handled a lot of stuff going on with the automotive industry.”
There has been a shortage of semiconductors, which has resulted in a shortage of new cars, she explained.
“It was a lot (of work) to try to get these cars, but I know that (parade organizers have) been working really hard, and we’ll have convertibles for all the women,” said Raghavan.
“It’s going to be a really iconic weekend for fans coming out,” said Raghavan.
In a pitch for spectators, Raghavan said, “If you’re a fan from Connecticut, I think there’s someone you might want to see (pointing to herself). I want to see you” along the parade route.
Additionally, Raghavan encouraged people to come out because “It’s just such an amazing opportunity for everyone to get involved with what the Miss America competition is.”
With the competition calling Connecticut its home for the next three years, she said, “Why not get involved in all the excitement now?”
Besides the parade this weekend, Miss America will celebrate its centennial with a gala at the Mohegan Sun. “Celebrate with all the former Miss America winners,” said Raghavan.
The Show Me Your Shoes parade steps off at 10 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 6. The parade begins at the intersection of Route 27 and Coogan Boulevard, Mystic. The parade then proceeds, in order, to Clara Drive, Coogan Boulevard, Route 27, to Willow Street, Broadway Avenue, East Main Street, Holmes Street and Route 27 in Mystic. The parade is free.
The gala will be held Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Mohegan Sun.
For information and tickets, visit MissAmerica.org.
Here, Miss Connecticut Sapna Raghavan poses for a fashion editorial around one of Hartford, Conn.’s most iconic historical sites, the Colt Armory with its immediately recognizable blue onion dome.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN