MSU student ready to serve as NGC Pageant king

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 14, 2010

NATCHEZ — As an elementary school student, Parker Jones admits he didn’t understand the importance of the Historic Natchez Pageant.

At that time, his biggest worry was having to hold hands with his Maypole partner.

But now, all grown up and representing the Natchez Garden Club as 2010 Historic Natchez Pageant King, Jones has a little different perspective on the event he “took for granted as a child.”

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“Honestly, when I was little I didn’t see the big picture of Pageant,” he said. “Now, I have a better understanding of how much work goes into it and what it brings to our city.”

Jones is beginning the second week of his reign alongside Natchez Garden Club Queen Rebecca Brown.

He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. William “Bill” T. Jones Jr. and the grandson of Mr. and Mrs. T.C. Britt Jr. of Minter City and the late Mr. and Mrs. W.T. “Thurston” Jones Sr. or Natchez.

Jones is a junior industrial engineering major at Mississippi State University. He is a dean’s list student at MSU and a recipient of the Durwood B. Dunn Jr. Memorial Scholarship and MSU academic scholarships.

He is a 2007 honor graduate of Trinity Episcopal Day School and is a member of First Baptist Church in Natchez.

His previous Pageant participation includes Little Maypole, Big Maypole, Wheel Roller, Picnic and Soiree lead. He also served as a page for Chris Gaudet and Suzanne Joseph Cox.

While the preparation for his reign has been enjoyable, he said one big thing is missing — his grandmother who died last year.

Jones said his grandmother, Mary Frances Harrington Jones, loved the Pageant more than anyone else he knew.

“She was there every night taking tickets and doing whatever she needed to do,” he said. “It will be bittersweet this year without her there.

“I’m happy to do it because I know how much it would mean to her to have a grandson that is king, but it will be hard not seeing her there.”

During his two-week reign, which began on March 5, Jones will wear the uniform worn by Chris Gaudet when Jones served as his page.

Jones’ mother, Kathy Jones, said finding her son’s uniform was a mix of fate and luck.

“It was the first one he tried on, and it fit him almost perfectly,” she said. “It is kind of neat how that worked out.”

Also, Jones’ page, Carter Dickey, will be wearing Jones’ page uniform.

“And it fit him almost perfectly,” Kathy Jones said. “It is just a neat circle.”

During Pageant, Jones will carry a sword given to him by his parents as a souvenir of his reign.

Lucky for Jones, a busy engineering student, part of his reign falls during the Mississippi State spring break so he will only have to juggle classes and Pageant for a short time.

Jones said industrial engineering is often hard to explain because unlike other engineering fields of study, industrial doesn’t deal with a final product. It is centered on the system or process that achieves a product.

“There used to be a joke from other engineering students that industrial engineers were imaginary engineers,” Jones said. “But a lot of what we do is look at a product and the system that got to that product and see how it can be reworked to be better.”

When Jones isn’t in the classroom, he enjoys Mississippi State sports, reading, swimming, working on computers and spending time with friends and family. Most recently, a good deal of his free time has been dedicated to cheering on the Mississippi State men’s basketball team, especially during home games at the university’s arena, Humphrey Coliseum.

“It is exciting to get in to the Hump and yell and cheer for the team,” he said. “We’ve had some heartbreaks this year.”

His reign overlaps the SEC basketball tournament, which was a little bit of a disappointment, but Jones said if MSU gets on a roll in the tournament, he will do his best to make it to Nashville.

“I think, if everything goes right, I can make it to Nashville for the finals,” he said. “But (MSU) has to get there first.

“Making it up there is a problem I’d like to have.”