Royalty Pageant revived for Bushwhacker Days

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Vernon County's 47th Annual Bushwhacker Days, June 8-11, will bring a renewal of the Royalty Pageant with coronations of the Queen, Princess, Junior Miss and Little Miss Bushwhacker.

The full slate of honorees hasn't been observed since 1998, when Marie Fleming was the queen, Amanda Nichols the princess and Fleming's granddaughter Bailee the little miss. There was no junior miss that year. In 1999 the titles were changed to Miss Bushwhacker, Little Miss Bushwhacker, Miss Pioneer, and Little Miss Pioneer, and this tradition continued through 2005, according to a June 2005 news story published in the Nevada Daily Mail.

"I think it's really great to have all this," said Marie Fleming, who still lives in Nevada. "It's history and it's good for the kids to learn about it."

Bailee Fleming is graduating from Nevada High School May 22 while Amanda Nichols just earned a bachelor's degree in history at Missouri State University in Springfield with plans for University of Oklahoma graduate studies in Mideast archeology this fall, Nichols' father Eric said.

Bushwhacker Days Committee Co-Chairman Frank Arnold said Royalty Pageant contestants will be encouraged to don 1860's-era costumes like sun bonnets and simple Frontier dresses, although a judging panel from the First Baptist Church won't take attire into consideration.

"They used to require period costumes, but they got away from it because it got to be so expensive with the fancy hoop skirts," Arnold said Thursday. "We have in mind common prairie dresses like they had in 'Little House on the Prairie.'

"We're hoping for a good turnout, but we don't know how many we'll have. The winners will officiate and give trophies at some events like the car show and motorcycle show."

Arnold and his wife Pat are seeking sponsorships for the candidates, all of whom will ride in the 6 p.m., June 11, parade forming at 5:15, north of the Square at Ash and Ashland streets.

Pageant entry forms are due May 15 and essays on "What Was a Bushwhacker in Vernon County During the Civil War?" May 25. Queen candidates must write at least 300 words, princesses 250 and junior misses 200. Little misses 5-10 years old will address the subject orally.

Prospective queens must be at least 18, princesses 13-18 and junior misses 10-13. Essays must be taken or sent to the Nevada-Vernon County Chamber of Commerce at 225 W. Austin Boulevard, Suite 200, or emailed to Royalty Pageant Committee member Jeanette Hawkins at hawkins_jean

A 19th Century-style tea party will be held at 1 p.m. June 4 before judging at the Green Room on the north side of the square at 110 W. Walnut St. Coronations will be at 6:30 p.m. June 8 at the main stage on the square's south side.

Entry forms are at May's Floral, Pat's Designs, KNEM Radio and the main office of the First Baptist Church. There is no fee for candidates, all of whom must live in Vernon County, or businesses and organizations taking part in the parade. More information about the celebration is posted at The Arnolds may be reached at (417) 667-4139 or (417) 448-7981.

Arnold said that when he is asked to define a Bushwhacker, he refers people to the 1976 Clint Eastwood movie "The Outlaw Josey Wales."

"Josey Wales was a Missouri Bushwhacker," he said. "It's about the period just after the Civil War when they had had the Kansas Jayhawkers and General Order No. 11 to burn all the houses in Cass, Bates, Jackson and Vernon counties.

"We will be looking for basic knowledge in the essays of where Bushwhacker Days comes from."

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