A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.
Whoever wins Miss Gay Arkansas America 2012 will have some pretty big high heels to fill. The 41st annual pageant — sometimes called MGAR, for short — will see a new winner crowned on Aug. 18 at Argenta Community Theater.
Zia D'Yor, Miss Gay Arkansas America 2011, has spent almost every weekend this year performing at benefits for charity groups such as Arkansas AIDS Foundation, Renegades for a Cause (a local group that provides benefits for other LGBT charities), PFLAG, the Center for Artistic Revolution, Red Ribbon Pageant System of Arkansas (a local group that benefits other AIDS organizations), the Diamond State Rodeo Association, Helping People with AIDS, Northwest Arkansas Center for Equality and others.
D'Yor said that winning the pageant "has been one of the most rewarding and life changing experiences of my life. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to promote an amazing pageantry system with so much history that allowed me to give back to my community. After all, it's why we are here, to give back."
In 2008 and 2009, D'Yor was MGAR first alternate, essentially first runner-up, but couldn't seem to push it to win the title. She took a year off in 2010 and spent the time preparing.
In August 2011, she won Miss Gay Arkansas America by 47 points. D'Yor's grandparents were migrant workers from the blue collar town of Waukegan, Ill., so hard work and dedication seem to come to her naturally.
On Saturday, D'Yor will relinquish her crown to one of eight hopefuls: Jazmyn Turrelle, Chloe Jacobs, Veronica Duvall, Diamond Rose, Diamond Dior, Veronica Adams, Lisa Laws and Blaze Duvall.
"Winning the title will give me expanded opportunities to open eyes, and help out those in the LGBT community in need," Laws said.
Rose said winning the pageant would be a "dream come true" that would "give me the chance to promote the system that I really believe in."
Jacobs is a relative newcomer.
"Having only been in the art of female impersonation for eight months, this has been the most incredible journey," she said. "Winning Miss Gay Arkansas America would give me the opportunity to prove that Arkansas has a full family of equality supporters. I want to be able to show that no matter what, we are all human and are equal."
The MGAR crown is decided on four categories. The male interview portion is the afternoon of the pageant and is not open to the public. The interview can net the contestant up to 150 points based on: general appearance, personality, ability to communicate and answer content.
Pre-judging in evening gown attire with an onstage question begins at 7 p.m. The evening gown portion is worth up to 150 points and contestants are judged on suitability of evening gown and hairstyle; presentation, including modeling techniques, poise and smile; and general appearance, including makeup, shoes, gown condition and accessories.
The pageant itself begins at 8 p.m. with each contestant performing a solo talent of no more than three minutes in length. This portion of the pageant is worth a possible 100 points, and includes the contestant only, with no back-up dancers or onstage props. It's judged on choreography, appearance, quality and entertainment value. Probably the most anticipated part of the evening is the last event – the long talent. This portion of the contest can be no more than seven minutes and always features an amazing array of props, dancers and talent. The long talent is by far the most point-heavy single portion of the pageant, with a possible 300 points on the line. It's judged on showmanship and set design, choreography, physical coordination and stage presence, quality and value of presentation as entertainment.
The first Miss Gay Arkansas America was Norman Jones, owner of Discovery and Triniti nightclubs, who, as Norma Kristie, entered and won the first Miss Gay America pageant in 1972 in Nashville. In 1975, Jones assumed control of the contest from the original owner, and eventually sold the pageant in 2005. Jones is writing "My Life, My Pageant, My Crown," a book about the pageant that will be available soon via www.normakristie.com.
Tickets, $25 for general admission and $40 for premiere seating, are available at the door or online at www.missgayarkansas.com.
In addition to Saturday's event, there are several other MGAR-related celebrations on Friday night, starting with the Trax Annual Luau, 8 p.m. at Trax in North Little Rock; Renegades for a Cause drag show, which supports PFLAG, at Miss Kitty's Saloon, 10 p.m., and the Miss Gay Arkansas America Review Show, featuring a cast of former Miss Gay Arkansas winners such as D'yor, Kelly Cruise, Debbye Taunts, Vicki Valentine, Shanel Herrington and Kamrin Mikaels, starting at 11 p.m. at Triniti Nightclub. On Saturday evening, things start off at 5 p.m. with a Farewell Mixer for Zia at Trax before the pageant at Argenta Community Theater.