Tradition renewed: Little Miss/Young Miss Dorchester are back

Young Miss Dorchester 2022 Savannah Washington and Little Miss Dorchester 2022 Ryleigh Mahoney are shown on May 21 at the First Parish Church.

Jha’Niyla Tinker, 2019’s Little Miss Dorchester, and Angie McGrath, that year’s Young Miss Dorchester, likely hold the distinction of having served in their roles for the longest of any Young Miss or Little Miss.

As the girls entered the First Parish Church on May 21, a flood of memories from 2019 came rushing back – thoughts of a neighborhood tradition before Covid-19 that had been put on hold for two years. Both girls had aged out of the contest and moved on to new chapters in their lives, but the competition that day brought back something they had lost and brought in a fresh new group of young Dorchester ladies to jump-start a renewal and keep the tradition going.

“It’s great to be back and I’m glad we get to participate because we really didn’t get to do a lot of things that normally come with winning the contest,” said McGrath. “It really brings back a lot of great memories for me,” said Tinker.

“I agree,” said McGrath, now a high school student. “We have grown up and being back does bring back memories of my childhood and things I did before the pandemic.”

Little Miss Dorchester 2019 Jha'Niyla Tinker and 2019 Young Miss Dorchester Angie McGarth are shown with Annissa Assaibi George. Because of the pandemic, the two young ladies hold the distinction of likely being the longest Little Miss and Young Miss contest winners – with the contest being on hold since 2019. Photo courtesy Annissa Essaibi George

The Little Miss/Young Miss Dorchester contest has been a neighborhood mainstay for generations and is tied in with the Dorchester Day Parade. With the parade cancelled and virtually every other Dot Day festivity on hold since 2019, re-starting any tradition can be challenging. However, long-time coordinator Annissa Essaibi George – a former city councillor – said it was good to be back and to see traditions revived and not retired.

“So many years have passed, and we’re so excited the parade is coming back this year and Little Miss and Young Miss Dorchester with it,” she said. “We’re starting up again one of my favorite things – the Dorchester Day Parade.”

The gathering on May 21 featured several contestants in the Little Miss category, ages 9-12, and several young ladies in the Young Miss category, ages 12-15. Contestants were invited up to the front of the First Parish sanctuary lectern to talk about themselves, and after a round of that, they were asked to read their required essays on what they like about their neighborhood.

Many favorite things were mentioned, with virtually every competitor showing poise and character.

In the end, the reigns of Tinker and McGrath came to an end, and the 2022 winners were crowned – Young Miss Dorchester Savannah Washington, 11; and Little Miss Dorchester Ryleigh Mahoney, 9.

They will march in the parade on June 5, and all the other participants will also be marching along with them to highlight the contest and get the ball rolling for next year.

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