Miss Lamar County excited about pageant week

By BETH BUNCH,
It’s not hard to notice how excited Hannah Rogers is to be competing in this year’s Mississippi Miss Hospitality pageant.
 
From her bright pink shorts to her exuberant and bubbly personality, Rogers, who is practically “at home,” is having a great time during pageant week and it was only Monday.
 
A recent high school graduate, she has spent her summer vacation days busily preparing for this week-long journey.
 
Rogers serves as Lamar County’s representative in this year’s pageant taking place this week. 
 
The state’s Miss Hospitality serves as a goodwill ambassador across the state and nation. At home, she touts the same for her hometown. Emma Grace McGrew of Booneville is the reigning title holder. 
 
The Purvis High School honors graduate and Mississippi Scholar is proud to represent Lamar County and welcome contestants to South Mississippi. 
 
A Forrest General Spirit Girl for two years, Rogers had worked with the Miss Hospitality pageant prior to being a contestant. Spirit Girls, who perform 24 hours of community service a year, serve alongside the contestants, helping them prepare to go on stage, make quick clothes changes and really whatever is needed.
 
“It’s so much fun,” she said.
 
Her days preparing for the pageant have included speaking to representatives, going to local businesses and visiting “our very own public libraries, which I like so much.” Here, she’s talked to little kids and their moms to find out what can be done to improve the libraries and education.
 
She’s also spent some late nights doing research about Lamar County and Mississippi.
 
“Lamar County has so many opportunities and we have open arms for whoever wants to enter,” she said. “There’s so many things people don’t know about. Yesterday we were eating dinner and I was telling them how Coney Island has been open for 100 years and the Saenger Theatre been here since 1929; The Bottling Company was originally the Coca-Cola facility in Hattiesburg and now it’s a wedding venue, where I’ve worked. I want everybody to know as much as possible, and even though it may seem small, it’s really big in the heart.”
 
For her 20-second Lamar County commercial, Rogers talks about the school district, “which is an A-rated school district, that I’m very very proud of; our churches since Lamar County has the most churches per capita in the state. I live in Purvis and every time you turn around there’s a new church. And then the food. We have the most catfish houses – three in Purvis and countless numbers around the area between Purvis and Sumrall.”
 
Rogers is also proud to brag that Lamar County is the second fastest-growing county in the state, which she considers absolutely amazing.
 
“While we may not get as much tourism as we would like, we are getting all these people who would like to come live here,” she said. “Because we have such great resources, great local governments, that everybody is so excited about, they’re ready to embrace our county.”
 
Rogers, who will attend the University of Southern Mississippi this fall and major in biological sciences, has enjoyed making new friends and exchanging hometown gifts.
 
“We’re having fun and that’s the best part,” she said. 
 
During the week, the 31 contestants from across the state have enjoyed a tailgate party in the president’s suite at The Rock on the USM campus, visited Main Street Books where they had the opportunity to paint pottery pieces, volunteered at Edwards Street Mission, and visited Forrest General Hospital where they visited with young patients. They’ve also had one-on-one time with each of the pageant judges. 
 
An autograph party is set for 12:30-2 p.m. Friday, July 20, at the Hattiesburg Zoo. 
 
Contestants have also spent a lot of time in rehearsals preparing for Friday night preliminaries and Saturday night’s naming of the Top 10 on the journey to crowning a new Miss Hospitality. The show gets underway at 8 p.m. both Friday and Saturday nights at the Saenger Theater.
 
This is the Hub City’s 21st year to host the state pageant, which brings the best and brightest young women to town. The winner will serve as full year as the state official ambassador of economic development and tourism.
 
For the first time, the competition will include a Little Miss Hospitality component. Each local representative has selected a young girl between the ages of 6 and 10 from her hometown to mentor throughout her reign. Little Misses will appear on state during competition and be invited to official events. Miss Lamar County’s Little Miss is Lily Reynolds.
 
Presented by VisitHattiesburg and the Mississippi Development Authority, in conjunction with the University of Southern Mississippi, the City of Hattiesburg, Hattiesburg Saenger Theater and Forrest General Hospital, the state pageant annually awards more than $100,000 in scholarships and prizes to the top finalists.
 
Tickets to the competition are available online at HattiesburgSaenger.com or by calling the Saenger Box Office at 601-584-4888. Tickets can also be purchased at the Saenger in advance or at the door.