Editor’s Note: Makenzie Bennett of Carlisle was crowned the 2013 Lonoke County Miss Rice during a competition in the spring. Periodically, she will be writing a column for the newspapers.

The Arkansas State Rice Expo was held Aug. 2 at the Grand Prairie Center in Stuttgart. As Miss Lonoke County Rice, I got to participate in the festivities along with several other rice queens.

The day started off bright and early with tastings. The other girls and I got the change to serve samples of our winning dishes to the guests, who were eager to try all of them. Afterwards, we had time to walk around and take in the many exhibits. It was a blast getting to meet so many new people who have such important roles in making the rice industry work, from seed merchants to fertilizer companies. There were also booths for information about corn, wheat, and soybean production.

The expo also featured speakers and presentations on topics such as raised bed gardening, which were informative and interesting. There was a rice recipe cooking contest as well. There was plenty for the kiddos to do while the adults attended the presentations. Activities sponsored by 4H included a make-and-take heating pad, seed identification games, an archery range, and a BB gun range. Once the kids filled up their "passport" of all the activities, they got to pick a prize. After all of the sessions and activities wrapped up, a delicious catfish lunch was served.

On Aug. 10, I got to compete in the Miss Arkansas Rice Contest, in which I placed first runner-up. The contest consisted of an oral presentation, an interview, and a taste-testing of my rice dish. We were also judged on an outline of promotional activities we had attended or planned to promote the rice industry. Through the contest I got to meet five other girls who were rice queens for their respective counties. Though it was a long day with several challenges, it was definitely an experience that I am grateful to have had. Now I can get geared up for National Rice Month in September!