Chandler is NGC queen
NATCHEZ — When Madison Chandler was 5 years old, her mother’s Pilgrimage queen crown spent more time on Madison’s head than in its display cabinet.
“I used to take it out all the time and run around with it on,” Chandler said, laughing.
Now 21, the Berry College senior has a crown of her own and will reign over the first half of Spring Pilgrimage as the Natchez Garden Club’s queen.
When Chandler took the stage Friday on the first night of this year’s Historic Natchez Tableaux, she was wearing the same dress and holding the same scepter her mother, Kristie, used 30 years ago.
“It’s really been special for both of us,” Chandler said. “I think going through similar things and doing similar events like my mother did when she was my age really helps us connect.”
Kristie, a Natchez native, agrees and said she believes being NGC queen this year will allow her daughter to step into Kristie’s shoes and see what it was like growing up in Natchez.
“When you have children, they almost don’t realize that you had a life before they were born,” Kristie joked. “I think it’s been really neat for her to kind of envision what it was like for me to grow up here.
“I think it’s brought us closer, and I hope she’s able to pass that along to her own (children).”
Tableaux is somewhat of a family tradition for Chandler. In addition to her mother’s role as queen, her grandfather Tony Byrne and uncle Kevin Byrne were kings.
Although she is a Birmingham native, Chandler said she also considers Natchez home.
“I think it speaks a lot for Natchez itself and everyone’s willingness to take me in as one of their own,” she said.
Chandler said she is honored to be NGC queen and is glad a longtime dream has come true.
“It’s very exciting because I know my grandmother has been working for this and wanted me to be queen for quite some time,” Chandler said. “It’s another way for me to be closer to my family and participate in the rich culture and history of Natchez.
Chandler has participated in the Showboat and Jefferson Davis Wedding tableaux. She has also received at Linden. Chandler said she enjoys learning about Natchez’s history through Tableaux and Pilgrimage.
“It really brings people together and is something to celebrate for the past and future of Natchez,” Chandler said.
Chandler is wearing a vintage cream antebellum gown and train of silk satin peau and jeweled lace, first worn by her mother, who was queen in 1984.
The dress was originally designed and fashioned by Noreen B. Keyes and Madison’s grandmother, Loveta Byrne, and recently redesigned for Madison by Sandra Stokes.
The 1860’s bodice of satin peau features a sweetheart neckline which flows gracefully into a deep lace bertha. Embellished with pearls, crystals and iridescent sequins, the bertha falls elegantly below the waist in the back from which a paneled train of matching satin peau fans into three scallops, edged with the same jewel encrusted lace.
The silk satin peau skirt, worn over period hoops, with three flounces of silk crystal pleating cascades over the lace and jeweled embellished scalloped inverted V-design over-skirt.
Chandler’s crown is a gift from her maternal aunts and uncles, Mr. and Mrs. Adolf Jonaitis and Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Byrne.
Chandler is majoring in biochemistry at Berry College and plans to pursue her doctorate in pharmaceutical science. She hopes to eventually teach and conduct research about drug delivery and discovery.
At Berry, Chandler’s activities include Presidential Ambassador; president of Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society, Berry College Vikettes Dance Team, Berry College Dance Troupe, freshman mentor; program coordinator for A New Year/A New You wellness program; Emerging Leader; Freshmen Leadership Program, Omicron Delta Epsilon, Economics Honor Society; American Chemical Society; Lambda Sigma and Sophomore Honor Society.
Chandler is the daughter of John and Kristie Byrne Chandler.
She has two brothers Christopher, 17, and Wesley, 11.
She is the granddaughter of Tony Byrne, Loveta Byrne, Peggy Chandler and the late Winston Chandler.