Special to The Star
The Meridian Star
Two local young women will join others from across the state to compete at the 64th Annual Mississippi Miss Hospitality Program.
Meridian's Miss Hospitality Hailey Thomas and Lauderdale County's Miss Hospitality Alyssa Griffin will join the group of 40 contestants vying for the title of Miss Hospitality. A tradition that began in 1949, this year's program is scheduled July 21-27 in Hattiesburg.
"Hailey and Alyssa are excellent representatives for Meridian and Lauderdale County," said Penny Randall, Meridian/Lauderdale County Miss Hospitality Program director. "I know they will do their very best to promote tourism and economic development in our area."
The Meridian/Lauderdale County Miss Hospitality Program is sponsored by the Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau.
"We could not hold this program without the support of the Tourism office," Randall said. "We were lucky to join with the Jimmie Rodgers Festival Pageant and hold the two pageants together this year. We hope to continue the partnership with the Jimmie Rodgers Festival Pageant. It worked out amazingly well and we were able to hold the pageant on the beautiful Temple Theatre stage."
Thomas, 20, is the daughter of Roy and Melissa Thomas. She is a 2013 graduate of Meridian Community College and a 2011 salutatorian graduate of Clarkdale Attendance Center.
While attending MCC, Thomas was the H.M. Ivy Award and Golden Key Award winner, and earned the Faculty-Staff Scholarship. She served as president of Phi Theta Kappa, and was a member of the All-Mississippi Academic First Team and the Dimensions show choir.
Her volunteer work includes March of Dimes Walk, Adopt-a-Highway Clean-up, and the Queen City's Race for Life and Street Strut for Breast Cancer Awareness.
Thomas has been accepted into the pre-med program at the University of Mississippi. Her goal is to attend medical school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center to become a pediatrician.
Griffin, 18, is the daughter of Tricia Driggers and Jason Griffin. She is a 2013 graduate of West Lauderdale High School, where she served as secretary of the Student Council and treasurer of West Lauderdale's Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) Chapter, which was named first in the state. She was a member of Future Farmers of America, crowned the school's 2013 homecoming queen.
Griffin is a volunteer with East Mississippi Animal Rescue and Area 5 Special Olympics.
Griffin plans to attend Meridian Community College for prerequisites for a bachelor's degree to become nurse anesthetist. She will transfer to the University of Mississippi to complete her degree.
Contestants, age 18 to 24, will compete for more than $100,000 in scholarships and prizes. The winner will travel more than 30,000 miles during her reign, promoting Mississippi's tourism and economic development and serving as the state's goodwill ambassador, sharing the spirit of the hospitality state with everyone she meets.
Thomas and Griffin will compete in various events such as:
Panel Interview – Direct, concise, and relevant questions ranging from world affairs to state and local politics, information on the State of Mississippi, ambitions and goals and personal interests.
One-On-One Interview Competition – Each judge will meet with each contestant for three minutes. The basic tool for conducting this interview is the contestant's fact sheet, which is a resume of personal credits and a guide for getting to know the contestant.
Mississippi Speech Competition – Each contestant will have 90 seconds to present an original speech on "How would you promote our state to a visitor of Mississippi."
Commercial/ Black Dress Competition – Contestants will model a black cocktail dress during which the contestant will present an original 20-second commercial on the importance of their city or county.
Evening Gown Competition – Contestants will model an evening gown of any color on stage.
The mission of the Mississippi Miss Hospitality Pageant is identify, honor, and utilize young ladies between the ages of 18 and 24 for the purpose of promoting Mississippi's tourism, industry, and economic development by serving as Mississippi's Goodwill Ambassador.
In 1949, under Gov. Fielding Wright and the Mississippi Legislature, the Miss Hospitality Pageant began. In 1986 the legislature voted to discontinue the pageant. The Starkville Area Chamber of Commerce asked and received the sponsorship. The pageant was incorporated in 1987, and remained in Starkville until 1997. In 1997, the Starkville Board of Directors began searching for another city to serve as the State Pageant's new location. Hattiesburg petitioned and received the sponsorship in December of 1997.
The pageant is presented by the Hattiesburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, the City of Hattiesburg, and the University of Southern Mississippi. During the pageant week, contestants are provided with opportunities to polish their public speaking and interview skills, as well as their poise and interpersonal relations among fellow contestants, judges, and pageant officials.
Mississippi Miss Hospitality represents the state through the Mississippi Development Authority and makes countless appearances throughout Mississippi during her reign.
For more information about the Meridian/Lauderdale County Miss Hospitality Program contact, Penny Randall at (601) 481-5712.