Miss Hospitality crowns new winner
By Charles Herrington, Reporter
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hundreds packed out the Saenger Theater to witness the 68th Annual Miss Hospitality competition. Anna McDaniel, of Meridian, walked away with the crown on Saturday night.
Tavia Moore, of Stone County; Kinley Thornton, of Greene County; Maddie Sullivant, of Panola County; and Victoria Bean of Lauderdale County rounded out the top five with Moore winning first-runner up. Representatives from the Pine Belt made it to the top 11 including Lauren Parker of Hattiesburg; Natalie Welch of Jones County and Nicole Wiggs of Petal.
Contestants participated in the commercial and evening gown portion of the competition on Friday night. The two-night competition followed a week’s worth of activities in the Pine Belt. On July 15, thirty-one contestants were welcomed to the University of Southern Mississippi. The young women visited Forrest General Hospital on July 17, where they received an inspiring message from representative Missy McGee of House District 102.
“I was chosen by the people of my city to represent them, and so were you," McGee said during her speech. "You were chosen to represent your city or your county because the people there saw something special in you. For me, that has been the privilege of a lifetime. All of you are leaders, and no matter what happens this week, you have done an incredible thing by stepping out and representing the people of your hometown and your county.”
Before the last night of finals kicked off, the contestants gathered at the University of Southern Mississippi for one last social event. Pageant speech winners--- Kinley Thornton, Tavia Moore and Katlyn Thomas were recognized. Additionally, the top ad sales winners--- Tavia Moore and Madalyn Ogelsby---were awarded during the "Women of Distinction Farewell Brunch" at the Trent Lott Center. Featured speakers included current Miss Hospitality Emma Grace McGrew.
"I've been so happy that I've been able to connect with so many people this year and I'm happy because I know that, through this organization and through this title I've been able to hold, that so many doors have been opened," said McGrew, who plans to attend Mississippi University in the fall.
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was a Miss Hospitality contestant representing Lawrence County in 1979, spoke during the event.
"This is just a good foundation for these ladies," said Hyde-Smith. "This exposure to be here all week, to participate, it's such character-building and there are so many skills that they are developing."
The first Miss Hospitality Pageant was hosted in 1949 and the City of Hattiesburg has been the host city since 1997.