- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - The watchwords seemed to be “be yourself,” as the 66th Miss Hospitality pageant got underway Sunday in Hattiesburg.

Thirty Miss Hospitality contestants arrived in the city for a week of activities leading up to the Mississippi Miss Hospitality pageant Friday and Saturday at the Saenger Theater.

Miss Hospitality Lamar County Shainah Chabert got advice from her friend Kelsey Addison, who was Miss Hospitality Lamar County last year.

“She just told me to be myself - go out there and be myself,” Chabert said. Chabert also got some schooling in the history of Mississippi from her grandfather, Lamar County Supervisor Joe Bounds.

She’ll need that if she is crowned the winner.

“The young lady who will be crowned will be an official goodwill ambassador for the state of Mississippi,” said Kristen Brock, a member of the board of directors for Miss Hospitality. “She will travel across the state and the country promoting tourism and economic development in Mississippi.”

The Hattiesburg American reports (https://hatne.ws/1S6Kfom) the contestants spent Sunday afternoon checking into their rooms and meeting their roommates at the Century Park dormitory at the University of Southern Mississippi. Then they headed over to the Saenger Theater for an orientation and to attend their first rehearsal.

Southern Miss student and Miss Hospitality Marion County Sarah Hibley, 20, was ready to get started.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “It’s going to be so much fun. I’m ready to make a lot of friends.”

Hibley had some words of advice for herself as the week unfolds.

“Just to be yourself and to have fun whatever happens,” she said. “To be the best you can be and that’s the best way to succeed at anything you do.”

While this is the 66th year for the state’s Miss Hospitality pageant, it’s only the 17th year it’s been held in Hattiesburg.

Miss Hospitality began in 1949 under Gov. Fielding Wright and the Legislature. Since then, the pageant has called the Gulf Coast, Starkville, and now Hattiesburg, home.

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Information from: The Hattiesburg American, https://www.hattiesburgamerican.com


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