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Miss Hospitality
Contestants on way to state program

By Staff
HOMETOWN GIRL Jennifer Huggins is Meridian/Lauderdale County's Miss Hospitality. She leaves today for a week of rehearsals leading up to the Mississippi Miss Hospitality Pageant on Friday and Saturday at the Saenger Theatre in Hattiesburg. Photo by Penny Randall/The Meridian Star
By Penny Randall / staff writer
July 20, 2003
Instead of relaxing by the pool or hanging out with friends, Jennifer Huggins, Leigh Allyn King and Leah Bayne have been writing speeches and researching the history of their hometowns.
The three young women say they hope all their hard work pays off for them this week when they join 39 other contestants from across the state at the 2003 Mississippi Miss Hospitality Pageant in Hattiesburg.
Huggins is Meridian and Lauderdale County's Miss Hospitality, King will represent Neshoba County and Bayne is Wayne County's Miss Hospitality.
They leave today for a week filled with public appearances, rehearsals and interviews which all lead up to Friday night when contestants take the stage at the Saenger Theatre in Hattiesburg.
Big hopes
Huggins, 18, Bayne, 21, and King, 18, all hope they are selected to represent Mississippi.
King said the scholarship money was one of the reasons she wanted to participate in Miss Hospitality.
Bayne said if selected as Mississippi's Miss Hospitality she is looking forward to her role as an ambassador.
Bayne, 21, has already shared her Mississippi spirit with others. Last summer she served as a hospitality coordinator volunteer for American volunteers in South Africa.
Unique to Mississippi
The Miss Hospitality Pageant is unique to Mississippi. The event began in 1949 under Gov. Fielding Wright and the Mississippi Legislature.
The purpose of the Mississippi Miss Hospitality continues to be the identification of a young and knowledgeable lady to help promote the state in tourism and economic development.
This week the girls will get acquainted and begin rehearsing for the two-night competition. One-on-one interviews with judges begin Wednesday.
The onstage competition is Friday and Saturday. Contestants will model an evening gown and give a 90-second speech on "How would you promote the state of Mississippi to a visitor?"
On Saturday the 42 contestants are narrowed down to 10 and each will present a 20-second commercial on their hometown, model a black cocktail dress and answer an onstage question.
Wanda Grabert, executive director of the Meridian/Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau has complete confidence in Huggins.
Getting ready
Huggins said her focus has been on practicing her speech.
Huggins said her experience at last year's local Junior Miss program helped her prepare for Miss Hospitality.
If chosen Huggins said she will focus on the hospitality of Mississippi.