Heart for Youth

Mark and Debbie Smith

No matter your involvement in the Simmental breed, if you haven’t been living under a rock I am going to bet that you know who Mark and Debbie Smith of Picayune, Mississippi are. Their children, son Alan and daughter Jessica have both been active AJSA members and have served on the AJSA Board of Trustees. Mark and Debbie have been outstanding supporters and cheerleaders of the breed and the AJSA. Most importantly, Mark and Debbie are some of the most wonderful people I have had the opportunity to meet.

Debbie is the example of a beautiful Southern lady. She has such a kind heart, beautiful hair (hey, in the South its important), and gentle voice. She speaks the truth with a Southern accent, and gives God all the glory for everything in her life and heart. Mark is always in your corner. He is willing to listen and support however he can. Mark is passionate about our breed and our youth, and there isn’t anyone a bigger advocate than he. They have given many years to serving the Mississippi Simmental-Simbrah Association, its juniors, and have hosted several successful AJSA events.

Coordinating and hosting an event like the AJSA National Classic takes a lot of dedication and hard work. As many of you know from hosting events, shows, and conferences being in a position of leadership can be a thankless job. I can guarantee with Mark and Debbie at the reins along with the Mississippi Simmental-Simbrah Association members, this will be a National Classic you won’t want to miss.  Let’s learn more their hopes for the upcoming junior nationals, and what years of AJSA supporting looks like.

What can AJSA members and their families expect from a Mississippi hosted event?

Number one: Hospitality! Our association is packed with friendly folks to make you feel welcome in South Mississippi. Other things to expect are good food, a family atmosphere, and a relaxed, laid back week. From our southern fried catfish to jambalaya, you’ll be sure to taste some of our culture! Not to mention, with live music almost every night, you’ll get to experience the historical sounds of the south. So just get ready to sit for a spell after supper, yes we still call it supper, and let the music be an enjoyable way to end each day!

The Smith Family (L to R) Debbie, Jessica, Sara, Ross Alan, Alan, and Mark

What is your state association most looking forward to by hosting the national classic?

Giving back to an organization that means so much to all of our children is what has driven us to this point.  Many states have hosted so many wonderful classics, and we want to treat everyone with that same kindness. The AJSA is a family, and we want everyone to feel right at home.

We hope to meet new people, visit with old friends, and make some lasting memories. We hope people see that we are a determined association, maybe small in number but big in heart.
We are so excited for the week and are very thankful to host. We’re also hoping everyone leaves being glad that they came!

What’s the biggest struggle hosting nationals?

The biggest struggle is knowing what to expect: how many hotel rooms you’ll need….how many meals to prepare….how much money will it really take?  Without having a budget or balance sheet from previous hosts, we hope to provide one after this. It could serve as merely a guideline for next year’s host and maybe some in the future. Of course it was a challenge to raise the money for an event this size, but thanks be to God we were blessed by so many sponsors!

What’s the biggest reward?

The biggest reward has to be getting new juniors involved with the AJSA, especially those close to us. Seeing a first-time contestant enjoy a Jr Nationals for the 1st time is priceless.

If the event goes to a rotation of a few cities, it won’t give associations like ours the opportunity to ever host. Which in turn leaves a lot of juniors without the opportunity to ever experience a National Classic. We have been involved and loved the National Classic ever since our first experience in Murfreesboro, TN many years ago.

Your daughter Jessica finishes her  AJSA career this year. Will this be the last event with Mark and Debbie as coordinators?

Good question –  we will definitely stay involved but would like to take a back seat and support someone else while they take the lead. Mark is on the Foundation Board and would like to influence fundraising on a national level. We need this event and the junior association to continue to grow…The Youth is our Future!

Over your years of involvement with the AJSA what’s the biggest change you have seen in the hosting of the Regionals and/or nationals?

MJSSA members at the Dixie National

When we first began traveling the many miles for AJSA events, most states didn’t even have a hospitality stand or much less feed a meal. We loved our tomato sandwiches and bologna, and we made it just fine. But it sure was nice when meals and even snacks were offered. It’s not just being hospitable to provide head amenities for guests, but it serves as a time for members and parents to come together at the table after a contest or at the end of the day and visit.

Another change has been in the junior board and their involvement of the whole National Classic process. It’s so nice to see the junior board being a part of the behind the scenes aspect of jr nationals but also the grunge work that must be done during the event. Many hours of hard work and a great deal of money has been poured into the association to help build the young leaders of today. I wish we could have seen that kind of support in the past for previous trustees, but I’m hopeful for future generations.

Anyone you would like to thank?

Mostly God,  for blessing us with the Simmental cow and allowing us to be stewards on this Earth. Thanks to everyone that has had anything to do with hosting the last 21 years!  Boy do we have a bank of memories!!!!

On a more local level:

Greg, Frank, and Erma Brown, for their influence in our involvement with Simmental breed.

Edwin & Lynn Todd, for allowing thier children to showcase our cattle and letting us tag along with them to all regionals and nationals during those years.

Our MSSA membership, for having the confidence in our abilities and for being in one mind and one accord, and  of course for praying for us. Their support has pushed us onward!

Last but certainly not least, a mighty thanks to our sponsors! We are very blessed from the smallest donations to the largest: this event could not happen without you!!! Thank you!!!

On behalf of the entire Simmental breed and as a family dedicated to supporting the AJSA as well, thank you for all you have done for the AJSA, and for all that you will do in the next two weeks. If you head down to Mississippi, take a moment to thank the Smiths, Branums, and the entire MSSA membership for hosting the 2017 AJSA National Classic.

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