Spring Break Surprises! Week 36!

Spring break … ah!  I hope all of you relaxed during last week’s spring break!  I got a chance to catch up on movies, books, and friends.  What a refreshing week!

Sunday, I met with the Photos For You photographer, David Lear.  We had a great time taking photos around downtown Little Rock even though it was a little windy.  I was especially impressed with David’s constant observation of our surroundings!  In fact, he even pointed out three black Suburbans around Little Rock with men in suits, earpieces, and wide eyes.  We will never know if they were really undercover policeman or not, but I started asking him if everyone we bumped into was in the FBI.  He thought I was funny!  Haha, I guess I don’t notice the people or places around me like I should!  Anyway …. I am really excited to see the pictures since he takes such great notice of detail! 

Tuesday morning, I headed to the Channel 11 news station for a 6 a.m. segment about the Military Warriors Support Foundation!  This organization supports wounded veterans by assisting them with houses, jobs, and so much more!  They currently have over 1,000 homes to give away but have not received many applications from Arkansas citizens.  With my involvement, they hope to bring more support and awareness of this outstanding organization to our state.  In case you missed it, check out the interview here.  I was very proud the interview because the link later made one of the Pentagon newsletters! 

I was so so so excited to receive my new bedroom suite on Wednesday from Arkansas Furniture Co. in Hot Springs!  Mike and Elaine Muzny own this business and are proud sponsors of the Miss Arkansas Organization.  I met them in July when they gave me my excellent Miss Arkansas mattress and helped me pick out the living room furniture that I purchased.  They were excited to see me again and provided superb service as I chose my bedroom furniture.  I found exactly what I wanted in their three warehouses of furniture!  I hope you consider Arkansas Furniture Co. next time you go shopping for furniture!  They even deliver for free! 

Thursday was a fun day!  After a workout, I headed to Breathe Salon for Dennis to give me a fresh new haircut.  Then I asked if he could give me an elegant up-do for my dinner event that evening!  I rarely wear my hair up, but I really loved the bun!  It added just the right touch of glamour to my stunning red dress!  I talked to Tommy Lyons earlier in the week, and he dropped off two options for me to wear to this event.  I was so pleased with the red MacDougall dress, and you can find it at Venue! 

Once I was ready, I hopped in my car to go pick up my PawPaw.  He was dressed in his tuxedo and looking sharp!  I was so thankful that he offered to escort me to the Homes for Heroes formal dinner at the Governor’s Mansion.  We gathered with many generals, politicians, and businessmen who support the organization.  After dinner, they handed the keys of two entirely free homes to wounded warriors.  One of the soldiers knew about his free house, but the other was there “to support his friend.”  His wife started crying as he was surprised with a free home of his own.  I was especially touched when he asked to speak.  He mentioned, “I am forever grateful for this house, but this isn’t the reason why I serve my country.”  I will never understand the sacrifice soldiers give while expecting very little in return.  I think my PawPaw summed it up best by saying, “Those were some fine people!”  He repeated it the whole way home! 

Handing over the keys to his new home!

Saturday was a beautiful day!  After Mom and I attended a wedding, we drove to Clarksville for the Miss Ozark Highlands Pageant!  The director, Carol Martin, puts on a very organized pageant, and I was excited to see nine strong contestants competing for the title!  Congratulations to Abby Lindsey for winning Miss Ozark Highlands!  Only three more preliminary pageants remain! 

Congrats Abby!

Instead of leaving you with a piece of advice, I would like to end this week’s blog with thoughts of appreciation for the Miss Arkansas Board members.  Most people don’t realize how much work the board members give in order to run a non-profit organization!  They meet at least once a month and have even more committee and conference calls.  In addition to the business and fundraising aspects of running a non-profit, they also organize and execute the grand Miss Arkansas Pageant, which literally takes a year of preparation.  All of this must be done while satisfying the expectations of the Miss America Organization and sponsors.  I have so much respect for the Miss Arkansas Board members, and I especially admire our executive director, Jessie Bennett!  She knows when to be stern and when to be compassionate.  A businesswoman and former Miss Arkansas, she generates fresh new ideas and works without a selfish agenda.  I could not think of anyone more perfect for the job.  Arkansas is blessed to have her as our executive director!

Speeches and Smiles! Week 35

This was a busy week! Monday, I headed to Hazen to speak at the Chamber of Commerce Banquet. I grew up 20 minutes from Hazen so I knew many individuals in the audience and was happy to be there. My parents and grandparents also attended the banquet to support me! I opened my speech by talking about the one and only time I entered a pageant in Hazen. My mom entered my picture in a pretty baby contest before my first birthday. I was the only baby who did not receive an award. Thankfully, my pageant career didn’t end in Hazen!
Posing with those who received outstanding awards from the Chamber!

Tuesday, I attended a luncheon fundraiser for single-parent mothers attending National Park Community College in Hot Springs. I shared stories of the pregnant teenagers I worked with at the Promise House and their struggles as single parents. However, my story was overshadowed by the honest testimonies of those who were previous scholarship recipients at NPCC.  According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau in November 2009, there are approximately 13.7 million single parents in the United States today, and those parents are responsible for raising 21.8 million children (approximately 26% of children under 21 in the U.S. today). I am so thankful for the scholarships offered to these single- parent mothers because education is the most powerful tool in providing for a brighter future!

I traveled to Ashdown on Wednesday for my first visit to that southwest city in Arkansas. I spoke to the students of Margaret Daniel Primary School and had so much fun! They showed my introduction youtube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKpJYellDUI) that describes my job as Miss Arkansas. The kids ooo’ed at every picture, except for the picture of me riding on a yellow corvette convertible. For that picture, the boys cheered! I got so tickled! Also, the kids told me so many funny things! “You are tall for a 22-year old!” They also asked me about having girlfriends/boyfriends in second grade. They couldn’t believe it that I had my first boyfriend in 10th grade!

Dad joined me on Thursday for another father/daughter banquet at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock. We had dinner and a delicious raspberry/oreo ice cream dessert! I shared a few stories from my childhood and then introduced my favorite game, “Name that Tune!” However, for this event, we played “Princess Name that Tune” and the girls knew every song and every princess! I ended by telling the girls that they are all princesses to their daddies! We can never love or trust our daddies enough!

Friday was a good day to run errands! Thankfully, the accountants who always support the Miss Arkansas Organization offered to help me with my tax returns. I give a huge thank you to Jordan, Woosley, Crone, Keaton Ltd. for your help with those wretched tax forms! Then, I headed to another wonderful Miss Arkansas sponsor, Allen Tillery Chevrolet! They always welcome me to the dealership and give me a nice car wash! I realize that future oil changes will never be as fun as getting an oil change as Miss Arkansas! 

Friday evening, I attended a reception for the Independent Tire Dealers' Association. They invite Miss Arkansas every year, and I met several people who have photos with many Miss Arkansas titleholders! Thank you for the appetizers and pictures!

Saturday was one of my best days! During the lunch hour, I celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Hot Springs Mall by signing autographs, taking pictures, cutting the cake, and entertaining. They invited a Hot Springs dance studio to perform after me, so I had the most fun meeting the dancers and cheering for them all! Elle was one of my biggest fans! I even let her try on my crown… something little girls rarely get to do! Thank you to the Hot Springs Mall for always hosting the Miss Arkansas Autograph Party during the week of Miss Arkansas. Also, a big thank you one of my favorite sponsors, Dillard’s of Hot Springs! Dillard’s provided me with a $3,500 allowance that enabled me to gather everything I possibly needed before the Miss America pageant. Wow… I could not have done it without them!!

Hamp Wilson with Dillard's of Hot Springs!

Have you ever heard of the Hot Spring’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade?! Well it is outrageous! It is labeled “The Shortest Parade in America” because it lasts only a block. There is a limit of only 40 parade entries, but it collects over 40,000 spectators! I asked my sister to ride with me and help throw beads from my motorcycle-pulled-carriage. We had so much fun! As we were making it up the first hill, the clutch went out on the motorcycle. I had no idea what that meant, but we idled throughout the rest of the parade with a few extra pushes. Thankfully, we weren’t expected to drive faster than 5 mph! 

I always like to leave you with a bit of advice!  Here are some thoughts concerning wardrobe worries when preparing for Miss Arkansas! Without a doubt, the wardrobe seems to require more money and create more stress than expected. My advice to you is to pick out pieces that you absolutely love and use them more than once! It is absolutely acceptable to wear a gown or costume to a state competition multiple times. I wore my dance costume and swimsuit two years in a row and won while wearing those outfits for the second time. Also, I wore my black evening gown from my first year at Miss Arkansas in nine separate pageants. I am not ashamed! I encourage you to do the same!

Miss Arkansas Loves Cheesecake! Week 24!

Sunday was not a good day for Miss Arkansas.  I got caught in a traffic jam on I-40 that caused my two-hour trip to take five hours.  I had planned to attend a reception in West Memphis but entirely missed the appearance.  Thankfully, C J Wilson met me in West Memphis to help me get settled into the hotel once I finally got there!  I was grateful to see C J after a tiring trip! 

Monday morning, CJ and I headed to the Governor’s Conference on Tourism to cut the ribbon!  While I was in the parking lot, a police officer stopped, and I thought something was wrong.  Getting out of his car, he said, “Miss Arkansas, can I get a picture with you?”  Haha, I love policemen! 

Tuesday, I returned to the Governor’s Conference on Tourism for the final celebration.  I met with the Executive Director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Mr. Richard Davies, before the banquet to take pictures.  We then enjoyed a phenomenal meal, including cheesecake.  When I got up to speak to the crowd, I mentioned, “Good thing Miss America is over because I fully enjoyed that cheesecake!”  It was a pleasure to thank the State Parks, Recreation, and Travel Commission for their service and dedication in making our state more welcoming and entertaining for both visitors and residents! 

Stuttgart received a volunteerism award!

On Thursday morning, I drove to Ouachita Baptist University for lunch with the board members.  I invited Miss Ouachita Baptist University Mary Lacey Thomson to go with me, and we had a wonderful time!  We enjoyed our meal (and cheesecake dessert!) with OBU President, Dr. Rex Horne.  I am so thankful for the support that Ouachita gives to Miss OBU! 

After lunch, it was time for me to put on my white coat and walk over to the science lab.  I had been asked to speak at an upcoming Girls of Promise Conference to encourage 8th grade girls to consider a career in the sciences.  However, the conference did not fit into my schedule.  Thankfully, Ouachita offered to film my motivational speech to be shown at the Girls of Promise Conference.  It will be posted online in one month, and I will share it with you then!

I woke up very early on Friday morning to participate in the Radiothon benefitting Arkansas Children’s Hospital.   Since the Miss America National Platform is Children’s Miracle Network, I think it is very important for Miss Arkansas to volunteer with Arkansas Children’s Hospital.  I was happy to answer phones and collect donations in order to save lives!  It was a wonderful way to start my day!

B98.5 helped us out with the radiothon!  Thank you Jeff and Lisa!

On Friday evening, I hopped into the car with my dad and PawPaw.  We traveled to Brinkley, as I was the keynote speaker at the annual Chamber of Commerce meeting!  After finishing a piece of cheesecake, I grabbed the microphone and began to speak about my platform, “Second Chances through Mentoring.”  I reminded the audience that teenagers often make mistakes if they do not have positive role models in their lives.  I challenged the group to invest in my generation and always set examples of service and excellence.  Afterwards, they gave me a standing ovation! 

Saturday was a beautiful day, and I was happy to spend it in Fort Smith!  We arrived in time for the Miss UAFS Princess Tea.  Over 40 girls, all donned in pink t-shirts and sparkly tiaras, signed up to participate in the princess program!  We played “Pin the Crown on the Frog” and “Princess Name That Tune.”  I asked the girls, “Who wants to be Miss America?”  Every girl raised her hand!  I encouraged them to set goals and work very hard to accomplish those goals, no matter how many setbacks you may have! 

A little girl came up to me at the Princess Tea and asked if I had a tan.  I answered, “I have a spray tan.”  She whispered to me, “I can tell.”  Haha!  There was no fooling her! 

My parents and I joined the judges and the Miss UAFS pageant directors for dinner.  Once again, we had cheesecake for dessert!  I can’t believe I was served cheesecake four times this week.  I am so glad that I don’t have to report to my personal trainer like I did before Miss America because I never refuse a piece of cheesecake! 

The director of Miss UAFS, Mr. Stacy Jones, has recruited an army of volunteers to put on an incredible production!  I was most impressed with Stacy’s commitment to the original purpose of the Miss Arkansas Organization.  He found sponsors to pay both the Children’s Miracle Network fee and the typical pageant fee, dropping the average cost for contestants of a preliminary pageant from $200 to $0.  He then recruited 20 girls, most of whom had never competed previously.  He didn’t require polished talents or perfect wardrobes; he just wanted the contestants to benefit from competing. He was proud to hand out almost $20,000 in scholarships!   Without a doubt, he accomplished his goal for the girls to gain interview skills and self-confidence.  When directors remember the basic purpose of preliminary pageants, I like to call them “difference makers”!

Me, Miss UAFS Savannah Valentine, and Sarah Davis

Congratulations to Savannah Valentine who was named Miss UAFS!  Also, Miranda Johnson will be the first Miss Henderson State University to compete in Miss Arkansas!  Congratulations to the new Miss Cotton Belle, Mollie Parker!  All three queens were crowned on Saturday night! 

Rain covered Arkansas all day Sunday!  Thankfully, I was inside Crabby’s restaurant in Rogers for a fundraiser.  Many local titleholders, media personalities, and local celebrities joined together to raise funds for the Joplin High School Prom. We had lots of fun meeting customers and waiting tables.  Several Joplin students present talked about the F5 tornado that came through their hometown and destroyed their high school.  They now have a temporary high school in an old mall.  We were tickled to find out that we raised $1270 in tips! 

Ashton and I were shaking hands and kissing babies!  haha! 

I would like to leave you with a bit of advice as you prepare for Miss Arkansas, and life for that matter.  I encourage you to surround yourself with a few trustworthy friends and advisors.  I’ve always considered my close pageant circle to include my mom, dad, dance teacher Mrs. Micki, and friend Mrs. LoraNelle.  Always listen to advice given by directors and judges, but never forget who you really are. Don’t accept every piece of advice but learn to discern the good advice from the bad. Your circle of trustworthy friends will help you with that.  

Do you think one of us girls will ever be Miss Arkansas?! Week 33!

If you were awake early on Tuesday morning and watching an Arkansas news station, then you probably saw me on air!  I arrived at the IHOP restaurant on Chenal Parkway at 5:30 a.m. to celebrate National Pancake Day and was surprised to see Channels 4, 7, and 11 at the restaurant!  Alyse Eady, Miss Arkansas 2010 and THV’s morning co-host, was my first interviewer.  I then interviewed with Wendy Suares on Channel 4 and Alyson Courtney on Channel 7.  It was a big morning, and I was honored to be a part of it!  On National Pancake Day, IHOP gives a free short stack to every customer while encouraging a donation to Children’s Miracle Network.  Since the Miss America Organization has adopted Children’s Miracle Network as the national platform, crowns all over America showed up at IHOP!  I was pleased to see many Miss Arkansas contestants visit restaurants around Arkansas while all of my Miss America sisters were tweeting about their pancake experiences! 

Alyse Eady and me! 
Emma Grace represents Arkansas Children's Hospital with the biggest smile!

On Wednesday, I released the online application for the New Beginnings Scholarship.  I started this scholarship last year by raising funds to award scholarships to first generation college students graduating from my alma mater, Stuttgart High School.  This scholarship gives new opportunities to students whose parents did not receive a college degree.  As Miss Arkansas, I advocate for my generation and always promote scholarship.  The New Beginnings Scholarship is one more way to accomplish my Miss Arkansas mission!

Scheduled to speak to the youth group at Union Valley Baptist Church in Beebe, I arrived to find the plan had changed.   I instead spoke to children, youth, and adults in the sanctuary.  The kids were restless, and I never seemed to take control of the audience.  Sometimes a public speaker doubts if the message was effective, and I definitely doubted myself after speaking on Wednesday night. 

When the kids were invited to ask questions after my message, I distinctly remember two questions.  One wide-eyed little girl posed, “Do you think one of us girls will ever be Miss Arkansas?!”  My heart melted.  The other question was much more difficult.  A young boy had been listening intently to my platform speech, even the part when I talked about mentoring pregnant teenagers.  He questioned, “How does a 13-year old get pregnant?  I don’t understand.”  The room burst with laughter, and the boy’s face turned red as a tomato.  I quieted the room and turned to the boy to say, “That is not a silly question!  I encourage you to talk to your parents about the details.  However, I would like to say that teenagers often make mistakes if they don’t know any better.  If teenagers do not have positive role models in their lives, we shouldn’t be surprised by their bad decisions.”  After finishing this appearance, I wasn’t quite sure it was my best performance. 

 The sweet girl on the right asked me the question about becoming Miss Arkansas!

Thursday, I drove to Lonoke to speak at the Lonoke Chamber of Commerce.  It was a beautiful day, and I was tickled to meet my PawPaw for the appearance!  We had delicious BBQ, and I shared Miss America and platform stories with the crowd!  I had a great time!

Me and PawPaw!

Once I made it back to Little Rock, I met Justin James for a photo shoot in Little Rock!  We took several photos in downtown Little Rock, and I can’t wait to show you his work! 

Friday, my parents picked me up in Little Rock on the way to Northwest Arkansas for the weekend.  We received a phone call while in the car from a good friend, Betty Curtis.  She had been listening to 94.1 radio station when the DJ started talking about how Miss Arkansas spoke at his church in Beebe.   He was very complimentary, especially on the way that I answered difficult questions from the kids.  He may never know how much his words encouraged me! 

Friday night, Dad and I attended a Father/Daughter Date Night at Cross Church in Springdale.   The theme for the evening was “Academy Awards” and we entered the facility on a red carpet!  Escorted by their dads, the girls arrived with rhinestones and big smiles.  My dad first spoke to the audience and did an outstanding job!  He encouraged the dads to take active roles of spiritual leadership and building self-confidence in their daughters.  Sharing lots of stories from my childhood, I encouraged the little girls to respect and listen to their dads.  Dad and I fully enjoyed this appearance!  We work well as a team!

Dad and I before the Father/Daughter Date Night!
All the girls were waiting for me to call their name to win a door prize!  

Saturday, we started the day at a couple of museums in Bentonville.  We first toured the Wal-Mart Visitor Center at the old Walton’s 5-10 store.  Then, we viewed the state-of-the-art Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, featuring walls and walls of historical art!  Arkansas is blessed to have a museum with millions of dollars of prestigious American art within our own back yard!  I encourage everyone to visit Crystal Bridges, and thanks to Wal-Mart … admission is free!

Saturday night, we crowned three new queens!  Congratulations to Sarah Liz Carter who was crowned Miss Magnolia!  Simone Mullinax will be returning to the Miss Arkansas stage as Miss Frisco Springs along with her sister queen, Miss Lakes of the Northwest Rebecca Wheeley.  I enjoyed watching Simone and Rebecca compete and was tickled to see the two redheads in purple dresses take home the crowns! 

 The Miss Lakes of the NW/Frisco Springs Pageant family plus me!  Congrats girls!
 Simone Mullinax, Miss Frisco Springs!
Rebecca Wheeley, Miss Lakes of the Northwest!  

As I wrap up this blog post, I would like to share an observation.  Character is the most attractive quality.  Judges are captivated by young women who display strong character and a goal-directed life perspective, which are qualities conveyed through the way you answer questions. Judges want to see girls who are strong with and without the crown…. you don’t want to be desperate for the crown but instead prove that you have other life goals and plan to make a difference in this world however you can.  In addition, developing strong character will promote excellence beyond pageants.  Successful women exhibit professionalism, leadership, passion, sincerity, and innovation with and without a crown.