As I woke up at 4 am this morning to get to the airport to travel to Jackson, MS, I realized I am already 122 days into my reign as the 2014 All American Quarter Horse Congress Queen. I flew from Cleveland, OH to Charlotte, NC and then to Jackson. When I arrived in Charlotte to switch flights I ran into some great friends and supporters of the Congress Queen Contest, Eddie and Mary Gwyn Harris. It was great to see some familiar faces that I had not seen since Congress. Upon arriving in Jackson, I met several AQHA judges that were also arriving. Amy Russell picked us up from the airport and took us to the hotel and then out for a relaxing dinner after a long day of traveling. Amy was incredible for the entire week driving the judges and me back and forth and catering to our every need!
The entire show and the southern hospitality were nothing short of first class. This was a very special year for the Dixie Nationals as it was the 50th anniversary! The last time I was at the Dixie Nationals was in 1998, when I competed in the small fry events. It was a thrill to come back as the Congress Queen so many years later. It was a great show with tough competition! The show took place in two arenas so I was constantly running back and forth between the two to present awards. With being the 50th year for the Dixie Nationals, the awards were extra special. The trophies themselves were 50 years old and were generously donated by a family. All the exhibitors loved the special trophies!
On Friday evening, the arena stands filled up for the exciting freestyle reining. I was honored to be introduced as a special guest, as well as present the awards to the outstanding exhibitors. During the freestyle, I met a little girl in the stands fighting cancer. It was special to get to talk to her, as I am an avid supporter of pediatric cancer.
Saturday was filled with more excitement as I participated in a fashion show. Along with the horse show, there is a large trade show and on Saturday there was a fashion show to model some of the great designs from the various vendors. I spoke about my queen outfit, which was designed by the Berry Fit Company. All of the Congress Queen outfits are made by Berry Fit and it was great to have an opportunity to speak about their beautiful designs to the audience. I rushed from the fashion show stage back to the arena to present leadline awards and take part in the stick horse class. The little kids had a blast with the stick horses and I presented them all with a medallion.
I was introduced to a lot of southern food and slang during my time in Jackson. After the show was complete on Saturday, the show crew ordered tons of crawfish and shrimp. I have never eaten crawfish before and I had no idea how to eat it. They all taught me how to break it apart to get to the meat and after a while I got pretty good at it (for a northerner). It was a delicious dinner filled with lots of laughs.
My time in Jackson flew by. I met so many incredible people, exhibitors and lifelong friends. It was great to meet many young women and men from the 4-H Shadow Program. They assisted me in presenting awards throughout the week. I enjoyed getting to know them and talking with them about the Congress Queen Contest. This post is not complete without thanking the entire show staff, especially show manager, Tommy Andrus, and Amy Russell and Tonya Gelston for making me feel at home from the minute I arrived in Jackson. There was never a dull moment that’s for sure!