jill conner browne and the sweet potato queens

Jackson is counting down to St. Patrick’s Day, or St. Paddy’s Day as it is known here. And the 2019 St. Paddy’s Day Parade on March 23 is expected to draw 75,000 visitors–pretty massive for a city of 167,000 people. Central to the St. Paddy’s Day Parade is a little somethin’ called the Sweet Potato Queens. You might be thinking, Sweet Potato Queens? Read on.

In 1983, Malcolm White (of Hal and Mal’s fame) decided a St. Paddy’s Day Parade would be fun to produce, so he did. And Jill Conner Browne, a local Jacksonian, decided to be the parade’s Sweet Potato Queen. As Browne explained to the Houston Chronicle:

You know, in the South we’ve got a beauty queen for every event, every organization, every day of the week, every food group. I was pretty far removed from the beauty queen circuit, but I just declared it [being the Sweet Potato Queen] to be so. I just found it funny, and still do.

Sweet Potato Queen

Source: Natalie Maynor via Flickr

The Sweet Potato Queens have a reputation of adding bawdy fun to the parade and since that first parade have mushroomed as a network of 6,400 chapters in 37 countries. No joking. Can’t make it to the parade next Saturday? Consider checking out New Stage Theatre’s Sweet Potato Queens: The Musical, which is based on Browne’s best-selling books and is appropriate for ages 18 plus.

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