By GWEN SISSON
Mary Lowry Nemeth was crowned Starkville‚Äôs Miss Hospitality 2011 in a special Tea Pageant Saturday afternoon at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership Welcome Center.
Nemeth is a freshman at Mississippi State University, majoring in biological science. She is the daughter of Mike and Renee Nemeth of Starkville.
‚ÄúI enjoyed the pageant so much and I have learned so much by being part of it,‚ÄĚ Nemeth said. ‚ÄúI am so honored to represent Starkville.‚ÄĚ
Lowry will receive $1,850 in scholarship money as the winner of this year‚Äôs pageant. MSU donated a $1,500 scholarship; GSDP donated a $150 scholarship; GSDP Ambassadors donated $100; Peggy Buckley donated $50; and Vicki Burnett donated $50 in scholarship money for Miss Hospitality.
‚ÄúWe are thrilled for Mary Lowry to represent Starkville as Miss Hospitality,‚ÄĚ said Vicki Burnett, director of Starkville‚Äôs Miss Hospitality Pageant. ‚ÄúShe will represent Starkville with sophistication and elegance. She has a lovely personality. She is charming and intelligent.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúShe is also a great role model, and that is what you look for in a Miss Hospitality contestant,‚ÄĚ said Tori Ferguson, emcee for the pageant and former Starkville Miss Hospitality.
Anna-Marie Foster was named First Alternate in Starkville‚Äôs Miss Hospitality Pageant. She is a senior at Starkville Academy and the daughter of Jeff and Barbara Foster.
As first alternate, Foster will receive a $500 scholarship, donated by Clark Beverage Group.
Lindsey Norman also participated in Saturday‚Äôs pageant. She is a freshman at MSU, majoring in sports communication. She is the daughter of Don and Peggy Norman.
Serving as judges for this year‚Äôs pageant were Dr. Ann Bailey, Bevery Howell and Dr. Sharon Nobles, former Starkville and Mississippi‚Äôs Miss Hospitality in 1969-70.
As part of Saturday‚Äôs Tea Pageant, the three contestants competed in the five-minute interview portion, which counted for 60 percent of the competition.
They also participated in the ‚ÄúLittle Black Dress‚ÄĚ commercial competition, which counted for the remaining 40 percent of the competition. The contestants wore their favorite ‚ÄúLittle Black Dress‚ÄĚ and recited their 20-second ‚Äúcommercial‚ÄĚ sharing why their hometown is ‚Äúa unique and wonderful place to live.‚ÄĚ
Part of Saturday‚Äôs program also recognized the work of last year‚Äôs Miss Hospitality winner, Paige Watson.
Watson said she has had a wonderful year, getting new insight into city of Starkville.
‚ÄúThis year has been a blessing,‚ÄĚ Watson said. ‚ÄúEveryone has been so supportive and I have had the opportunity to meet so many people in Starkville through this experience.‚ÄĚ
She said some of the highlights of her year as Starkville‚Äôs Miss Hospitality was sharing her faith at 2010‚Äôs National Day of Prayer event, serving as a mentor at local schools and being a celebrity reader at Starkville Academy and the library.
And, Watson said going to ribbon cuttings throughout Starkville have been fun this year.
‚ÄúI have gotten to meet so many people and ribbon cuttings are like mini parties,‚ÄĚ Watson said. ‚ÄúIt is impossible to go to all of them, but the ones I have been able to attend have been fun.‚ÄĚ
Watson said she was impressed with this year‚Äôs contestants.
‚ÄúThey are all so well respected in the community,‚ÄĚ Watson said.
Her best advice to the winner, is to ‚Äústay true to yourself.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThat is what the state judges are looking for,‚ÄĚ Watson said. ‚ÄúThey want someone who is true to themselves, true to the state of Mississippi and has a passion for getting the state‚Äôs name out there in positive ways.‚ÄĚ
Watson shared with the crowd gathered Saturday that in the history of the Miss Hospitality Pageant, Starkville and Hattiesburg are the communities with the most winners. She said Hattiesburg (which is the hometown of the state pageant) has had four state winners and Starkville has had three state winners.
‚ÄúLet‚Äôs work on tying that up this year,‚ÄĚ Watson said.
The 2011 Mississippi‚Äôs Miss Hospitality Pageant week will be July 24-30, with the theme, ‚ÄúMississippi Magic.‚ÄĚ Organizers said the theme will demonstrate ‚Äúthe charming qualities for which Mississippi is known.‚ÄĚ
For more information about Mississippi‚Äôs Miss Hospitality Pageant, contact the Pageant Office at (800) 638-6877, or e-mail at email@example.com.