Arkansas Senior America Pageant

The Arkansas Senior America Pageant is Arkansas’s preliminary for the Ms. Senior America Pageant, which is held annually in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Ms. Senior America Pageant was created in 1972 to spotlight women who have reached what organizers call the “Age of Elegance,” exemplifying the dignity and value of all senior Americans.

The Arkansas pageant, generally held in June, has been produced since 1988. Until 2018, it was presented annually at the Alma Performing Arts Center in Alma (Crawford County). In 2019, the pageant moved to its new home in Hot Springs Village (Garland and Saline counties), where it attracted a sold-out audience of several hundred people in its first presentation.

The Arkansas pageant is open to all women sixty years old or older who are citizens of the United States, have lived in Arkansas at least six months, and are not former state queens. During the year of her reign, Ms. Senior Arkansas entertains at venues across the state such as civic clubs, community events, and senior centers.

The four-part judging procedure starts with a personal interview in which each contestant meets individually with the panel of judges to demonstrate her personality, poise, and verbal skills. Later, onstage in front of the audience, each contestant shares her personal philosophy of life. In this brief cameo, she offers wisdom she wishes to share with younger generations as well as senior Arkansans. Next, in the evening gown competition, contestants appear before the audience to demonstrate the beauty and grace that illustrates the “Age of Elegance.” Finally, in the talent portion, each competitor displays a skill that might include art, comedy, dance, drama, music, poetry, sewing, or other abilities.

Judges for the Arkansas Senior America Pageant typically include notable Arkansans as well as dignitaries from the national Senior America organization. Among the judges for the 2019 Arkansas Senior America Pageant in Hot Springs Village were Ms. Senior America 2016 Peggy Brennan, a noted entertainer from Branson, Missouri, who appeared on the television show M*A*S*H. In words that summed up the Arkansas Senior America program for many, she commented, “It’s never too late to dream a new dream and it’s never too late to live out an old one.”

Sharon Morgan Tahaney of El Dorado (Union County) was crowned Ms. Arkansas Senior America 2019. She retained the title in 2020 due to state and national pageants being canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Year Winner Hometown
1988 Betty Wing (hometown unknown)
1989 Mirana Thompson (hometown unknown)
1990 Shirley Baker Searcy (White County)
1991 Mary Fine Little Rock (Pulaski County)
1992 Mildred Minton Ward (Lonoke County)
1993 Velta Ming Mulberry (Crawford County)
1994 Ester Braggs Little Rock (Pulaski County)
1995 Constance Waddell Bella Vista (Benton County)
1996 Joie Jeffords Fort Smith (Sebastian County)
1997 Carma Jean Rivers Conway (Faulkner County)
1998 Betty Beck Mena (Polk County)
1999 Peggy Watson Fort Smith (Sebastian County)
2000 Joan A’Hearn Hot Springs (Garland County)
2001 Evelyn McDonald Fayetteville (Washington County)
2002 Deloris Williams Lafe (Greene County)
2003 Bernice Mitchell Van Buren (Crawford County)
2004 Robbie Brewer Van Buren (Crawford County)
2005 Mary Russell Fort Smith (Sebastian County)
2006 Ruby Coulter Dyer (Crawford County)
2007 Delores Bates Alma (Crawford County)
2008 Judith Burgess Paragould (Greene County)
2009 Virginia Risely Prairie Grove (Washington County)
2010 Judy Hargrave Rector (Clay County)
2011 Foye Shankle Hartford (Sebastian County)
2012 Donna Kingston Paragould (Greene County)
2013 Katy Phillips Prairie Grove (Washington County)
2014 Karen Cagel Rector (Clay County)
2015 Jan Throgmorton West Fork (Washington County)
2016 Patricia Genovese Hot Springs (Garland County)
2017 Sherry Marshall Uniontown (Crawford County)
2018 Dixie Makepeace Ford Hot Springs (Garland County)
2019 Sharon Morgan Tahaney El Dorado (Union County)
2020 n/a (pageant canceled due to COVID-19)

For additional information:
Arkansas Senior America Pageant. http://senioramerica.org/Arkansas.asp (accessed April 21, 2021).

“Arkansas’ Senior America Pageant to be held in HSV in June.” Hot Springs Sentinel Record. March 4, 2019. https://www.hotsr.com/news/2019/mar/04/arkansas-senior-america-pageant-to-be-h/ (accessed April 21, 2021).

Tomb, Devin. “The Fabulous Little World of the Ms. Senior America Pageant.” Good Housekeeping, November 11, 2016. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/inspirational-stories/a41186/ms-senior-america-pageant-2016/ (accessed April 21, 2021).

Nancy Hendricks
Garland County Historical Society

Last Updated: 04/21/2021

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