Local News

Mrs. Raleigh Finds Place in Christmas Parade

Posted November 15, 2002 7:41 a.m. EST

— She will not have her own float, but Mrs. Raleigh 2003 will have her place in the city's Christmas parade.

Melanie McNeely asked to ride on her own parade float like other beauty queens, but she was refused by parade organizers.

WRAL-FM extended her an invitation to ride on its float.

"I'm ecstatic," McNeely said. "I feel like I won the battle but not the war."

Parade sponsors said Thursday that they would not stand in McNeely's way.

"They can allow anybody to ride on their float, as long as it's not pornographic. That's their business," said John Odom, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, which sponsors the parade.

The merchants association limits individual floats to title winners in contests sponsored by the Miss North Carolina and Miss America organization, which are open to single women.

In March, the 28-year-old mother of twins beat out 25 others for the title of Mrs. Raleigh, a competition open to all married women.

Orlando, Fla., lawyer Lynn Franklin, who represents the Mrs. North Carolina pageant, threatened to sue not only the merchants association but also the city of Raleigh because city officials sanction the event.

Franklin, a former Miss Wilmington, said the policy amounted to "blatant discrimination against married women."

Franklin said the pageant is considering a lawsuit to force a policy change and is seeking advice from successful pageant litigators, including Chapel Hill lawyer Barry Nakell, who represented Rebekah Revels in her bid to regain the right to call herself Miss North Carolina.