Miss USA Pageant Was a Beautiful Sight at Graceland
Banquet and front desk staff resumed their old positions, albeit temporarily for preparation and the event, as more than 550 attendees masked up to ensure the country’s marquee beauty pageants went on—not as scheduled, but better late and a little different than normal.
“It was kind of bittersweet,” said Traci Franzone, Graceland’s director of sales and catering, who supervised the three-day extravaganza. “It just shows how much you miss the business.”
While there was definitely some holding of breaths, the end result was a case study in how corporate events can go on safely during the pandemic. The (un)usual protocols put in place included:
- Pre-arrival COVID testing, as well as an on-site test upon arrival
- 12-hour quarantine while awaiting test results
- Mid-stay testing
- Daily temperature checks
- Mandatory masks throughout, including on-stage
- Social distancing and reminder signage
- Staff and contestants stayed on the third floor
- A quarantine floor was designated (but ultimately not needed)
- No housekeeping during the stay, and extra towels and other accessories were provided in clear garbage bags
- Limits of three people to a round table
- Plated meals and buffets with a serving attendant
- Pre-packaged condiments and plasticware
- Bottled water and juices; coffee served by an attendant
The list sounds long, but necessary, Franzone said. “It’s just what you do nowadays to keep somewhat normal lives,” she acknowledged.
All those health measures were all well and good, but Franzone said the true key to preventing a super-spreader event was communication. Returning staff had to be brought up on the new normal, so that a clear message could be conveyed from the property to the contestants, officials and families on-site. Franzone credited Miss Universe, which runs the two pageants, for educating its group on the importance of following protocols, lest the show not go on.
After all, the event was scheduled for spring 2020 but was rescheduled to November in Memphis.
“Everyone understood this is the life we live in now,” Franzone said.
Franzone added that she was particularly impressed by the young women maintaining distance and having fun with the circumstances. For instance, the contestants added matching masks to go with their elegant gowns and were conscientious about keeping a healthy distance.
“It’s really hard to get a group of girls from teenagers up to early 20-year-olds to social distance—I think they were just excited that [the event] was going to go on,” Franzone said.
Franzone was non-committal about her favorite ensemble but was unabashedly happy to see her home state well-represented by Miss Mississippi, who won the Miss USA Crown.
But the big winner, she said, is Graceland and Miss Universe for staying safe in trying circumstances.
“You hold your breath over those 12 days and say, ‘Did we really pull this off?’” she said.
Photo Credit: Miss Universe Organization