By Linda Breazeale/MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE — Paige Nicholson has a new personal illustration to use in speeches about dusting yourself off and getting back on the horse, and she will have many opportunities to use it as she travels the country as the 2014 Miss Rodeo America.
Nicholson, who recently graduated in agricultural information science from Mississippi State University, earned the national crown Dec. 9 in Las Vegas. She was the reigning Miss Rodeo Mississippi.
Deshannon Davis of Meridian, Mississippi’s national director for the competition, said the crowd was on the edge of their seats when Nicholson’s horse fell during a special run around the arena.
“It’s a very scary moment when a horse goes down, but she immediately reassured the crowd that she was OK. Paige just dusted herself off and got back on to finish her run,” Davis said. “She really proved her horsemanship skills. We were very proud of the way she handled the fall. The judges really appreciated the recovery.”
Competitors for the national title present a speech about their states, answer an impromptu question and demonstrate their horseback riding skills. Nicholson used Mississippi music for her speech theme.
Davis said this is the third contestant from Mississippi to be in the top 10 since 2010, when Kelli Jackson won the national title. Nicholson shadowed her during her reign as a teen queen.
Nicholson grew up on her family’s farm and showed cattle in the Newton County 4-H program. Her love of horses and rodeo activities lead her to pursue the national title to help her promote agriculture in general and the sport of rodeo in particular.
LeAnne Peters, director of communications for the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association, said Nicholson is very proud of her Mississippi roots.
“Her platform is to advocate for agriculture. An additional goal is to reach out to different demographics to bring them into rodeo and develop or expand rodeo’s fan base,” Peters said.
The official Miss Rodeo America press release reported that Nicholson enjoys horseback riding, team roping, barrel racing, fishing, boating, and working on her family’s beef cattle and row-crop farm. She also writes for Cattle Business in Mississippi magazine. She has served as a volunteer for the 4-H horse project, participated in Relay for Life and assisted as a special-needs horse show instructor.
“Volunteering has allowed me to build connections in several communities in my state,” Nicholson said in the press release. “Service fosters camaraderie and fellowship in groups of volunteers while giving hope and support to recipients.”
Nicholson is a former intern with the Mississippi Beef Council and Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association. She won Miss Dixie National in 2012. While a student at MSU, she was selected as Miss Maroon and White.
Kirk Swortzel, a professor in the Department of Human Sciences, said even as a student, Nicholson was an advocate for agriculture.
“She was active in campus and professional organizations and really blossomed as student in this program,” he said. “Her people skills and ability to communicate about agriculture are her strengths.”