Clay County Arts Council 'Celebration of the Arts' draws large crowd

Thursday, June 11, 2015
State Rep. Joe Jett (second from left) congratulates Clay County Arts Council president Gail Burns (left) and the evening's honorees, Barbara Hamilton (center) and Janet and Don Roeder.

"When I walked into the room at the Community Center (Rector), I was astonished," shared Barbara Hamilton, recent honoree at the Clay County Arts Council's Celebration of the Arts held Saturday evening, June 6.

A color scheme of various shades of rose and pink against a backdrop of black and silver set the festive atmosphere for the evening. More than 200 excited guests arrived to share in the recognition of Hamilton, of Rector, as well as Don and Janet Roeder of Piggott, all community leaders and philanthropists for the arts in Clay County.

The lively chatter in the banquet hall exhibited the relationship among the attendees: residents of Clay County know each other, share friendships and an appreciation for the work of the Arts Council in promotion of the arts.

Shawn Parker of Piggott State Bank led the guests through the evening, serving as Master of Ceremonies. Teresa Roofe, Mayor of Rector, welcomed guests and shared how these honorees are united in their common causes, in their relationships with each other and how they have brought their two communities together. Laramie LeQuieu, pastor of Rector First Baptist Church, echoed her remarks and offered a prayer for the evening and a blessing over the meal.

The head tables began the move through the buffet lines, which flowed exceptionally well with two serving lines, the diners serving themselves on either side of both tables, noted one of the organizers of the event. Roast beef, Hawaiian chicken, scalloped potatoes, baby carrots and steamed broccoli with cheese sauce were complimented by the Traveling Wisk's signature salad with tiny mandarin oranges and sliced strawberries. Two dessert tables held a gorgeous, three-layer, rose motif strawberry cake with a nod to the two ladies being honored and a chocolate cake, also three-layer, was decorated in a Mizzou sporting motif, in recognition of Don Roeder's college alma mater.

Silent auction items received a tremendous amount of attention due in part to the Master of Ceremonies who continued to encourage participation, and in part from Joe Burns who let folks know that higher bids were expected.

"The auction is in support of the scholarship awards from Clay County Arts Council," he reminded the bidders.

The three scholarship recipients were announced formally during the early part of the program with Jane Gatewood making the recognition. Seth McAfee and Connor Boyster from Rector and Piggott came to the stage and received a presentation certificate and rounds of applause from the audience. Jacob Hadley of Corning was unable to attend.

Entertainment for the evening began with the Piggott Elementary School fourth grade musical performers pleasing the audience with their song and dance from "Celebrate You and Me." Spontaneous applause encouraged the four young songsters. Rector First Baptist Children and Youth Bell Choir performed two selections "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" and "My Jesus, I Love Thee." As the group shared the selections, the various ages of the musicians delighted the crowd.

The highlight of this section of the program occurred in the musical talent of scholarship recipient Connor Boyster, recent graduate of Piggott High School. Linda Robinson and Ellen Seay each had encouraged the young man to apply for the scholarship and he was selected for not one, but two of the Council's top awards: The Clay County Arts Scholarship and the Joey Pruett Music Scholarship. He shared his exceptional talent through vocal and instrumental performance on the keyboard.

Testimonials celebrating the honorees began with Dr. Ruth Hawkins, director of the Heritage Sites program through Arkansas State University. She shared how both Don and Janet Roeder and Barbara Hamilton and husband Sherland had been the collective impetus for the purchase, restoration and ongoing educational programming of the Pfeiffer houses on Cherry Street in Piggott. The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center and the Matilda and Karl and Pfeiffer Home and Study Center exist because of these three Clay County visionaries.

The Mobley family spokesman, Will Mobley, shared remarks in tribute to his grandparents, the Roeders. His sister, Jenna, introduced him, saying, "We just can't keep Will off the stage." Mobley, now a professional actor, got his start in the Rector High School drama program. His contribution to the arts was highlighted in the summer 2014 issue of Delta Crossroads magazine.

Piggott Community Hospital administrator James Magee gave tribute to the Roeders and Mrs. Hamilton. His remarks regarding the honorees' contributions to Piggott, Rector and Clay County were followed by the mother-daughter-granddaughter trio of Sherry Jennings, Chrissy Pazanowski and Mallory Pazanowski. "I Enjoy Being a Girl," from the Broadway hit Flower Drum Song, featured each of the vocalists. Three numbers, including "Someone to Watch Over Me," had the audience tapping their collective feet and humming along, marveling at the close harmony achieved by these ladies, popular performers from the Rector community. Overheard remarks from the audience included those which asked, "Do they perform regularly somewhere? They should. They are awesome."

To conclude the evening, State Representative Joe Jett presented the honorees with Proclamations from the Arkansas House of Representatives and made presentations to each with framed plaques. Arats Council president Gail Burns presented each honoree with a stunning art piece, gifts from the Council. Mr. and Mrs. Roeder were overcome with emotion as they received a creative watercolor portrait of their granddaughter, Ansley, by Rector High School art teacher Joel Boyd.

Making the art piece even more special is the relationship between the Roeders and Boyd, who spent many hours with this family as he and their grandson Will were fast friends during high school and attended the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) together.

Jared Vaughn presented Mrs. Hamilton with his painting of a cotton field road traveled by her father's family truck, which she had lovingly restored.

"I've kept the old truck because it represents a way of life most of us have forgotten somewhere along the way," she shared.

The honorees made their response with deference and deep appreciation to the guests and the Council. Their remarks were followed by good-natured auctioneering by Joe Burns and Ted Glaub, who encouraged the bidders to "go higher.

The Celebration of the Arts 2015 was an exceptional event which echoed the remarks of both Mayor Roofe and Dr. Hawkins: our small towns reap big rewards when giving is more important than receiving, when working together overshadows a focus on individual recognition. Don Roeder summed up the philosophy of all those honored by sharing the essence of what Karl Pfieffer had said to him, "Any time the importance of giving overshadows the indulgence of receiving, you and all around you will benefit."

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