Trinity alumna shares Spring Pilgrimage dream with grandmother
By sarah cook
The Natchez Democrat
NATCHEZ — For Madeline Iles, her role as the Pilgrimage Garden Club queen in the Historic Natchez Tableaux is more than wearing a hoop skirt and bejeweled crown.
“Mostly, I’m excited to share this experience with my grandmother, who has been involved with pilgrimage for over 50 years,” Iles said. Since her first pageant experience at age 3, Iles, now 21, has unknowingly been preparing for her prestigious role.
Iles has admired the ornate gown and glowing smile the queen always donned for decades now, she said.
Iles’ mother, Carrie Iles, said she saw tears of joy in her own mother’s eyes when Madeline was announced as this year’s queen.
“Madeline serving as the PGC queen is the culmination of two long held dreams — hers and her grandmother’s,” Carrie said. “My mother, Lou McGee, is a tireless, dedicated member of the garden club. And Madeline has loved the Tableaux since she was 3 years old, never hesitating to participate when asked.”
“(Tableaux is) a story about antebellum Natchez — and I’m thankful to have been chosen to be a part of it,” Iles said. “I guess I have been building up to be the queen, but I never expected to be chosen. This is a huge honor.”
Iles is a 2012 graduate of Trinity Episcopal Day School and has lived in Natchez — and participated in the Historic Natchez Tableaux — all her life.
She is the daughter of Greg and Carrie Iles and is currently a student at Millsaps College, where she is studying history and communications.
“Most of my friends at school, they don’t really understand what the pilgrimage pageant and Tableaux are,” said Iles, adding that a few of her friends will travel to Natchez to see her as queen. “They don’t really know what to expect, but I think they’ll really enjoy it.”
At Millsaps, Iles serves as a freshman orientation leader and is part of student government and Phi Mu sorority.
Coming home to Natchez, though, is something to which Iles always looks forward.“This is my home,” Iles said.
Iles’ dress was originally worn by Jacquelyn Benson Currie. Roseminette Gaudé made the cream-colored dress, which features elaborate embroidery and lace detail.
Iles will also borrow her crown and scepter from Virginia Scarborough.
“I’m close with both families — so borrowing the dress and crown just make it that more special for me,” Iles said.
And while the outfit holds the sparkle and shine, Iles said the story of Natchez’s rich history is the true jewel of Pilgrimage.
“There have been a lot of efforts to revamp the production this year, and I’m really excited to be a part of that,” Iles said. “The performance this year will be much more inclusive, and I think people will like it.”