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Ashley News Observer- Features

COLUMN: Musical Meccas and sports pilgrimages in unlikely places
There are no rules when making a bucket list, and the possibilities are endless. If you look around, you might find an interesting spot that you didn’t know you were looking for.

Arkansas has produced its share of interesting people and in turn, those legacies immortalized places in our state that might otherwise be forgotten.
You’ve probably heard of Bill Clinton and his library in Little Rock or his birthplace in Hope, but Arkansas was once home to a few other names that you might recognize as well.

If you like country music and know who “the man in black” is, you might find it interesting that his birth place can be found about 60 miles from here in a place called Kingsland, which has built a small memorial to honor its famous son, Johnny Cash.

One block away from the memorial, you can find a small Cash collection inside the post office. The memorial is available any time day or night, but the post office is only open during normal business hours.

If you’re a fan of Cash like I am, then a stop in Kingsland would be a good addition to your bucket list.

If you’re up for a longer road trip, Arkansas has even more to offer Cash fans. It’s not quite as close to Ashley County, but Cash’s childhood home and museum can be found in Dyess.

Arkansas State University started efforts to restore and preserve the Cash home in Dyess in 2011.

The singer-songwriter’s family moved to Dyess with a colonization project established by the federal government as a part of the New Deal. After the Great Depression, families of sharecroppers and tenant farmers were chosen to relocate to the colonies, where they would work to own the homes and surrounding land.

The Cash home, built in 1935, has been restored to its appearance when the Cash family lived there, from 1935 to 1954, and the house is furnished based on the memories of the family members.

Cash lived there from 1935 until he joined the U.S. Air Force in 1950.

Cash isn’t the only big name musician to turn a normal spot in Arkansas into a tourist attraction.

Fans of Elvis Presley might find a pilgrimage to the northwest side of the state worth their time.

A barbershop in Fort Smith became famous 60 years ago when Elvis made international headlines by shaving his iconic hair and sideburns. “Hair today, gone tomorrow,”was all the superstar had to say after the Arkansas barber shop gave him an army haircut.

Headlines called the haircut, “the haircut heard round the world,” on March 24, 1958, when Elvis suspended his music career to serve his country in the U.S. Army.

The Chaffee Barbershop Museum not only lets the visitor ‘step back in time’ to that day in 1958 but also serves to honor Fort Chaffee and the important role it played during that time and decades that followed.

A little closer to Ashley County in Dallas County, travelers will find another interesting spot.

Iconic football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant made a name for himself coaching the Alabama Crimson Tide, but he was born southeast of Fordyce on Highway 8 not too far from where Cash was born. Bryant’s house was just as close to Kingsland as it was Fordyce, but he played football for the Fordyce Redbugs, so he called Fordyce home.

In 1981, Bryant became the winningest coach in football history. He got his nickname “Bear” when he wrestled a bear at a carnival.

In 2012, before a nonconference game against the Crossett Eagles, Fordyce High hosted members of the Bryant family for a ceremony to dedicate and rename the stadium in Bear’s honor.

On Highway 8, you can view Bryant’s home, and in Fordyce you can see the field where he played lineman in 1929, and if you really want to learn about Bear’s history, you visit the Dallas County Museum.

These are just a few of the places marked forever by names you might recognize, and if you look around you’ll see that Arkansas has other unique places to check out.

Even the fictional world left its mark on Arkansas as some locations became sacred because of a film or television show.

“Gone with the Wind” gave the Old Mill in Little Rock something special to add to its tourist resume by filming scenes there. Even southeast Arkansas was marked by the stars who visited the area to film the movie Mud.

The Villa Marre house in Little Rock will forever be known by fans as the Designing Women House, a popular television show in the eighties.
You can ride by 1321 Scott Street in Little Rock and snap a picture of the show’s mansion, or if you’re a huge fan, purchase it. The house is actually on the market right now for those super fans who have “owning a movie location” on their bucket list.

The excitement in Arkansas is out there, you just have to look around as the attractions are unique in their own way.

Plenty of interesting people got their start in our state and left something special behind such as the actor Billy Bob Thornton and the author of the popular show “True Blood.’

Joe Jackson, the father and creator of the Jackson Five, was born right here in Ashley County, though he left the Fountain Hill area when he was 12.

Unfortunately, some of these places aren’t even marked with a sign, but others are places worthy of being added to your Arkansas Bucket List.

Ashley County 4-Hers attend O'Rama
Five Ashley County 4-Hers participated in the Delta District O’Rama in Forrest City recently. The 4-Hers gave talks and competed against other 4-Hers from the Delta District in a number of subject matter areas. Those who competed and placed included, from left, Haleigh Boston, first place in Human Development; Phebe Dawson, first place in Food Fair; Rachel Junior, second place in Public Speaking; Trinity Foster, first place in Public Speaking; and Joi Holden, first place in Consumer Economics. For more information on 4-H or how to join, call the County Extension Service at 870-853-2080. (SUBMITTED/News Observer)

Crossett's Langley heads to Miss Arkansas pageant
An Ashley County woman will participate in the Miss Arkansas pageant this weekend.

Rachel Langley of Crossett is the reigning Miss South Central Arkansas and will travel to Little Rock Friday to spend the week competing for the state title.

Langley said there are five stages of the competition and she will begin with an opening interview on Monday. Langley said she thinks the interview is her favorite part.

“I always get excited talking about my platform, Sheep Dog Impact Assistance, because it’s an organization not many people know about, and I love being an ambassador and a spokesperson for them,” Langley said.

After the interview, Langley will spend the next few days competing in the swimsuit, evening gown and on-stage question portion of the contest.

“It may sound crazy, but I’m really not nervous,” Langley said.

Langley said she feels prepared and plans to present the best version of herself to the judges.

According to Langley, the most important part of the experience is the impact she has on the younger girls who look up to her. Langley mentors young girls through the Miss Diamond State Princess program. This program allows young girls to take the stage with local title holders so that they may learn what the organization is all about.

“I started as a Diamond State Princess and am now competing for the Miss Arkansas title,” Langley said.

As a former Miss Diamond State Princess, Langley said she is excited to say she now has three princesses of her own to mentor — Kaylynn Sands of Magnolia, Lauren Hunter of Benton and Bethany Austin of Jonesboro.

Langley said she wants to encourage young ladies interested in pageants to try it out.

“Pageants are so much more than just getting dressed up and walking across the stage,” Langley said.

She has gained so much from competing, Langley said, she has learned life skills and the importance of volunteering in her community.

Langley said scholarships are another big reward for those who participate in pageants.

The Miss Arkansas Pageant is giving away $184,300 in scholarships this summer, and according to its Website, it is the largest scholarship provider for young women in the state.

Langley said one of her goals is to collect enough scholarships to graduate college debt free and maybe even win enough to pay for a portion of law school.

Langley is not the first in her family to fall in love with the pageant world, and said her big sister and former Miss Arkansas contestant, Randee Jo Langley, was her biggest inspiration and the reason she started competing.

“She has showed me what true determination is and I have loved watching her in pageants,” Langley said.

After years of following Randee Jo to the Miss Arkansas stage, it is finally Rachel’s turn, and Rachel said Randee Jo will be there as her biggest supporter.

“She is always the loudest in the crowd cheering me on and I know that she will always be my biggest fan, just like I was hers,” Rachel said.

The Miss Arkansas pageant will begin June 12, and the new Miss Arkansas will be crowned live on Channel 7 on June 16.

Govan publishes "Awakened by Destiny"
Last Saturday, guests from Mississippi to Maryland traveled to Crossett to attend a book release event for Shanae Govan of Crossett.

Govan’s second book, "Awakened by Destiny," was officially released Saturday afternoon.

Shanae Govan of Crossett recently published her second book, "Awakened by Destiny." (VAL GAUGHT/News Observer)
Govan’s former college professors, pastors and players all spoke at the event with the keynote speaker, Dr. Priscilla Belin, of Baltimore, attending as the keynote.

The book is the second part of Govan’s life story that she began telling in her first book, which was released in 2016.

"Awakened by Destiny," follows Govan’s first book, "Purpose and Adversity." Both are narratives about Govan’s life that she said are meant to inspire her readers to face whatever adversity life throws at them.

“I wanted to inspire people, especially young people, because adversity is what makes us who we are,” Govan said.

"Purpose and Adversity" is about growing up in rural Arkansas and the trials that Govan faced.

Govan said her second book picks up where her first book left off.

The second book starts at the time in Govan’s life when she returned home, to Crossett, to take over as coach of the Lady Eagles basketball team.

The keynote speaker, Belin, compared the book to "Love and Basketball," a popular film released in 2000. Belin told members of the audience that Crossett should be proud to have Govan home and “enjoy her while she is here .”

“Because bigger things are going to come for her, and the offers are going to come, they are already coming, the East Coast wants her,” Belin said as she told about Govan traveling to the East Coast to speak at a conference last year.

“ I’m so amazed at this milestone God has allowed me to embark on," Govan said. "I want to encourage anyone who has a goal that you’ve set, go for it.”

"Awakened by Destiny" can be found at Books a Million, Amazon and other book stores.

Jackson goes 'hog wild' with winning sketch
A Crossett student won first place and best of show in the 2018 Wildlife of Arkansas Student Art Contest Awards.

Crossett homeschool student Reagan Jackson’s sketch “Hog Wild” won first place and best in show at the 2018 Wildlife of Arkansas Student Art Contest. (SUBMITTED/News Observer)
Approximately 1,000 students submitted artwork to the annual ‘Wildlife of Arkansas’ art competition, which showcases Arkansas’ wildlife diversity, and 11th grade home school student Raegan Jackson won first prize in her category with a sketch she named “Hog Wild.” Jackson is the daughter of Perry and Shelly Jackson of Crossett.

“It was something I had in the back of my sketchbook and when I saw the competition, I knew I wanted to use it,” Jackson said.

The Arkansas Wildlife Federation (AWF) and Creative Ideas joined together to host this competition. Their goal was to promote wildlife education and the arts.

The 2018 Wildlife of Arkansas student art winners were recognized at an awards ceremony May 4 at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center in Little Rock.

Jackson said it was an honor to attend the banquet, and this was her first art award of this kind.

“I really didn’t expect to win, but it feels awesome,” Jackson said.

Now Jackson’s painting is on tour all over the state and will be featured in a series of art displays over the next few months.

--For the complete story, see the print edition.