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Star hopefuls set their sights on the 2003 Colgate Country Showdown, a nationwide search for America's most promising newcomer

With Mississippi native Ashley Thompson still grinning about her January victory over more than 50,000 other hopefuls in last year's 21st Annual Colgate Country Showdown, the 2003 nationwide talent search is now in full swing.

That means country radio stations all over America – more than 420 so far – are sponsoring local talent contests that will send winners to state competitions, regional finals and – for the fortunate few – the national final! That's where finalists will not only perform on the nationally televised program sponsored by the Colgate-Palmolive Family of Brands, they'll also have a shot at winning $100,000 – just like Ashley did!

"I was shocked, excited and happy!" she says of her feelings when she heard her name announced as the winner. But Ashley knows that winning is no guarantee of stardom.

"I just look at the Colgate Country Showdown as being that door for me, that opportunity," she declares.

Many of the participating radio stations are running their showdowns this year as opening acts for major country artists, including a Carolyn Dawn Johnson show in Utah, a Neal McCoy concert in Ohio and an Emerson Drive performance in Kentucky.

For information on how to enter this year's national competition, call your local country radio station or log on to: