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story.lead_photo.caption Savvy Shields, a Fayetteville native and University of Arkansas student, was crowned Miss Arkansas July 9 in Hot Springs. - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

HOT SPRINGS -- The city should know in less than a week whether its 58-year reign as home of the Miss Arkansas Scholarship Pageant will come to an end in 2017.

The Miss Arkansas Scholarship Pageant Inc. recently sent out a request for proposals to host the pageant. Responses were due Monday.

The decision to seek requests for proposals came after the Miss America Pageant, which moved back to Atlantic City, N.J., with a September date a few years ago, required state titleholders to attend a mandatory meeting in Washington, D.C.

This year, Miss Arkansas was the final state preliminary pageant and Miss Arkansas 2016 Savvy Shields was swept away to the mandatory Miss America meeting less than eight hours after being crowned.

Gallery: Miss Arkansas 2016

[GALLERY: Photos from the 2016 Miss Arkansas pageant in Hot Springs]

"The preparation committee had to stay up all night," said Kelly Bales, Miss Arkansas Scholarship board president. "No one slept just to get her prepared in order to get all the forms filled out and get her on the plane at 6 a.m. in the morning to get to Washington, D.C."

While the pageant has been trying to switch back to June dates for some time, the added pressure this year forced the Miss Arkansas Scholarship board to seek a more immediate solution.

The request for proposals specifies that the proposed time of the event "must be in the first three full weeks in the month of June, each year, to coincide with the Miss Arkansas Pageant."

The Miss Arkansas board sent requests to Conway, Hot Springs, Little Rock and North Little Rock.

However, because of convention and meeting contracts that extend as far out as 2025, the Hot Springs Convention Center will not be able to provide the requested June dates, according to Visit Hot Springs.

"We have dates booked out until 2025. So it is not just as easy as switching from July to June," said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, the convention and visitors bureau. "We just don't have the space. We have contracts with various clients. They are in contracts with hotels, production and their whole events. It's just not that easy.

"If we had the available dates, great," Arrison said.

The requests for proposals ask cities and venues to submit a proposed minimum five-year contract, along with an advertising and promotion plan. Additionally, the cities and venues are asked to submit a second proposal for the possible addition of Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen, which relocated to Russellville from Hot Springs a few years ago.

The board says it will review the presentations and decide if Hot Springs will continue to be the pageant's home, or if a new city will win the bid.

"Advertising and promotionally, it is really important that a city gets behind wherever we are," said Jessie Bennett, Miss Arkansas Scholarship Pageant executive director. "It is very important for a city to continue to support us, promote us and what we do for young women in our state."

Bales said the Hot Springs Convention Center anticipated the earliest available June dates would be in 2020, but pageant officials felt they could not wait that long and that a date in 2018 or 2019 would be more manageable.

The Fourth of July dates the pageant has had the past few years proved to have a higher cost, as far as production costs and hotel rates, are harder on volunteers, and create a shortened time frame to get Miss Arkansas' paperwork filled out and submitted, according to Bales.

"When Miss Arkansas is crowned, she has to fill out forms immediately and get them sent in," Bales said. "We are the last state pageant held. There is so much we are required to do for Miss America.

"She has to have her talent turned in so she knows what she is going to do for talent. If it is already taken, then she can't have it and might have to change. There is no window there."

The Hot Springs Convention Center submitted a bid on the pageant, although it was not able to provide the requested dates. The available dates it listed are June 24-30, 2018; May 25-June 1, 2019; May 23-30, 2020; and May 29-June 6, 2021.

"We are bidding on it with dates that are not what they asked for," Arrison said. "We would like for it to stay. It is just one of those unfortunate things that our level of business books in the advance. June is a very busy month for us."

State Desk on 08/30/2016

Print Headline: Dates jeopardize pageant's future in Hot Springs


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  • Foghorn
    August 30, 2016 at 8:28 p.m.

    Are you KIDDING me? Forms? That's the concern?! Any remaining 'beauty' pageant, including this one is an archaic, sexist, misogynist, disgusting display. Shut it down on any basis. Award scholarships on the basis of merit and not physical appearance.