As local icon Miss Maggie embraces a new generation, she seems as fresh as ever
There are many things that come to mind when folks think of Maggie Valley.
Some think of soaring ridgelines to the North and South, while some think of fly fishing in the crystal-clear streams. Some think of an elk traffic jam while some think of the short, rugged drive into the picturesque Cataloochee Valley with all its history. But quite a few imagine a young woman wearing her iconic green and red dress with a yellow apron and bonnet. Those people think of Miss Maggie.
There’s a long history of local women assuming the role of Miss Maggie, but it’s hard to argue that many have fit it quite as well as its current iteration.
Warm and friendly, this Miss Maggie also looks the part, with short red braids protruding from beneath the bonnet. Visitors can catch Miss Maggie most weekends and during popular events, standing on the side of Soco Road waving to passersby or greeting visitors in any of the town’s shops. Plenty of people seek her out believing a photo op with her is every bit as crucial as capturing a bull elk on camera.
Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Teresa Smith commented on Miss Maggie’s resurgent popularity, which has been on the rise since the pandemic began waning and gathering restrictions eased.
“I get calls every day from people asking when she’s going to be out,” Smith said. “People are totally in love with Miss Maggie because of how friendly she is. She embraces the whole spirit of Maggie Valley.”
And Miss Maggie has also entered the world of social media, recently creating both Facebook and Instagram pages, which has only expanded her popularity locally and beyond.
Last week, The Smoky Mountain News sat down with Maggie Valley’s greatest ambassador for an interview. Here’s what she had to say.
- Miss Maggie, seen above with Katie Heise, loves stopping to strike a pose with her excited fans.
The Smoky Mountain News: When did you become the latest iteration of Miss Maggie?
Miss Maggie: It’s been a couple of years. Oh gracious, I officially got the outfit just before COVID hit.
SMN: How do you like it?
Miss Maggie: Love it. Truly a dream come true. I love meeting the people. I love interacting with the people and hearing stories. There’s just so, so many things about it.
SMH: How’d you become Miss Maggie?
Miss Maggie: I’ll try to keep it to the short version. So we honeymooned here in Maggie Valley. We were eating breakfast at Joey’s [Pancake House] and Miss Maggie walked in. I told my husband at that time before we even moved here that whenever we get to Maggie, that’s what I was going to do. And of course, I was 20 and he looks at me and laughs and says, OK, whatever. And then we would vacation here, and over the next many years, every time we saw her, I told him, “that’s what I’m going to do one day.” And then we moved here in 2017 and my dreams came true.
SMN: Do you ever get bored of it?
Miss Maggie: I’ve already planned that when I can’t walk anymore, [my husband] is gonna either pull me in a wagon or push me in a wheelchair … there’s really nothing I don’t like. I do find it comical that sometimes people think Miss Maggie is like a milkmaid. Or they’ll ask if that’s how I mow my lawn.
- Miss Maggie has been well known over the years as one of the town’s greatest ambassadors, and it seems that tradition will continue for quite some time.
SMN: Kids and adults both really seem to like and respond to Miss Maggie. What are some of the typical responses you get?
Miss Maggie: It’s either they absolutely love Miss Maggie and are surprised, or they’ve looked forward to meeting her. Or they are completely confused and think I am just this crazy lady dressed in the weirdest outfit ever. So, they either know who she is and just get so excited, or are just so confused. It made my day the other day when I went in to order a coffee, and the lady looked at me and she was like, “OK, weird question, but are you Miss Maggie?” And I said yeah. And she said, “I took my picture with you the other day. I have been waiting years to do that.” And that happens maybe once or twice a week where I just I go in somewhere and people recognize me. And it’s the weirdest thing to me that people wait this long to meet this person dressed like a stoplight. I don’t think of it as like Miss Maggie is a Disney princess.
SMN: That’s kind of what it seems like.
Miss Maggie: It’s weird, but it’s incredible.
SMN: How do you greet people?
Miss Maggie: Oh, I just go up to them. With little kids, I just get straight on their level. I just go right up, and 99% of the time, I have a sticker in my pocket, and I’ll offer a sticker. If it’s a teenager, and they look embarrassed, I dive right in. Adults, sometimes I go in, sometimes I don’t. It just depends.
SMN: You said there was one person who has been waiting forever to get a photo of Miss Maggie. Are more people starting to know who Miss Maggie is before they get here?
Miss Maggie: There are a lot. Now we have the Facebook page and the Instagram page. And there are people that message the page all the time, asking where Miss Maggie will be and where they can meet her and when can they get a picture with her. There have been a few instances where people have just laid it on our heart to meet up with them. And we’ve met up with people after work before just because they wanted that picture so bad.
- Miss Maggie takes part in the Polar Plunge at Canton’s swimming pool.
SMN: Do you think your celebrity will grow even more?
Miss Maggie: I don’t know. It’s one of those things where maybe you don’t want it to because you want to be able to keep up with appointments and people who want to see you. But at the same time, you want everybody to know about our beautiful little town. That’s kind of the purpose of it, to welcome everybody to our beautiful little town and show them how hospitable and beautiful and incredible and amazing the people here are.
SMN: There’s a long tradition here with plenty of other Miss Maggies who’ve represented the town. What does it mean to be part of that?
Miss Maggie: It is such an honor. I’ve had the incredible privilege to meet a handful of them. And they are such amazing, incredible, beautiful women. And every once in a while, I’ll be out walking, and I’ll run into one of them. And I’ll always get a picture with them. They’re all so sweet, and it’s such an honor to be able to fall in the ranks with them.
SMN: Do you have any more ideas for Miss Maggie’s future?
Miss Maggie: I have no clue. We just started the Instagram page a few weeks or months ago, maybe only because my kids said nobody really does Facebook anymore. But I have no idea what else we’ll do.