The Faulkner County Fair Parade will begin its annual processional through downtown Conway on Tuesday, and leading the way will be the family of Grand Marshal Velma Spradlin and honorees Tom Lindsey and Jim Miller.
Spradlin was honored as Grand Marshal posthumously. She died April 7. And as for its timing, this honor occurs the day before she would have turned 79 in the parade’s 79th year.
A longtime fair supporter and lifelong resident, Spradlin will be remembered for her wit, her love of people and her love for the fair and parade. For more than a quarter of a century, Spradlin assisted with checking in and organization of the fair parade’s horse entries.
"Velma was a great lady with a big heart," said Parade Committee Chairman Rick Sublett. "She loved working with the kids who rode their horses in the parade and made a special effort to make sure that every rider that was awarded a prize was acknowledged and named in the Log Cabin. She will certainly be missed at the horse and wagon staging area this year."
Spradlin’s daughter Shelly Ritchie used to rodeo, and through friends, her mother was able to get involved and "just never quit," Shelly said.
"She got involved with the parade years ago and liked to help," Ritchie told the Log Cabin Democrat this week. "She was always very good at organizing and she put her talents to good use."
The Log Cabin in 2015 featured Spradlin as a "Face of the Faulkner County Fair."
"Toby Hart asked me to be a guest at the [parade] committee," she remembered then. "The next year, she wanted me to join. I signed in the horses on the courthouse lawn, but we outgrew that space in a hurry."
Her best memory of the fair parade, she told the Log Cabin, was from her youth, when her father and sister rode horses in the parade in different years. She also recalled never actually riding a horse herself.
"No, I never rode a horse in the parade," she said. "But I did ride a white mule once."
Spradlin and husband, Jerry, served together on the Fair Parade Committee, and Jerry is known for his 1965 aqua Chevrolet Impala convertible that usually escorts Miss Arkansas down the parade route. Although the Spradlins sold the well-known car this year, its new owner will have it take its rightful place again in 2017.
"Mom was way behind the scenes sitting behind that [check-in] desk in the dust and the dirt," Ritchie said. "She missed out on seeing the parade every year. She would watch it on video later. She did the dirty work.
"She really kept the ball rolling and was always looking for ways to make it better. One year, she color coordinated all the entries by age. She was always whimsical about the horses. It was a job made for her."
Beyond the parade, Spradlin was known for submitting numerous entries in the home economic divisions at the fair. And each year, for more than three decades, included her children and grandchildren in the effort.
"Most everything she did was for her kids and grandkids. Her world revolved around her grandkids," Shelly said. "There are four of them, and she would have them enter crafts so they would have money to play with, their winnings, at the fair.
"She loved crafting. She grew up without anything, and her family worked for everything they had. Being able to decorate and make things pretty was important to her. She could make something pretty out of anything. That’s just the way she was. Even as they grew older and went off to college, she would still call them ‘when are you coming over to do your craft?’ We never broke that tradition, and we have plans of entering things this year just for her — for Granny."
Honoree Jim Miller
Jim Miller grew up on a farm south of Conway. After graduating Conway High School in 1952, he married Patsy Lane, daughter of Cecil and Dorothy Lane. Cecil was a well-known Conway barber, working at various shops around town for 55 years.
Miller served in the Air Force for eight years, spending a year in Korea before returning to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Okla. There he managed the Officers’ Pool and the Airmens’ Pool as well as the off-base Country Club pool.
Returning to Conway in 1960, Miller purchased the Conway Swimming Pool (aka Kuykendall Swimming Pool) from Karl and Margaret Dreyer. He also became active in the Arkansas Pool and Beach Association and was elected its president in 1962.
In 1964, Miller renamed the pool Miller’s Swim Club and made it a private club. He ended that summer season with a huge Labor Day party, draining the pool for dancing. Conway Twitty’s Band, which included Conway native Tommy Markham as drummer, performed at the shallow end.
Miller added a Health Club to the facility two years later. It was Conway’s first health club and included a gymnasium, sauna,whirlpool and massage tables. He also got certified to be an Arkansas State Rescue officer, assisting in the rescue and recovery of drowning victims around the state for five years.
A nine-hole golf course and a driving range were added to the pool and health club in 1968 and the facility was renamed Miller’s Swim and Golf Club. The golf course was 1,620 yards long with a par of 29. The club grew to 300 families during this time. In 1970, it was renamed Briarwood Country Club.
In 1972, Miller purchased Hugh and Zinga Irby’s 147-acre dairy farm and began developing the Nob Hill lots and an 18-hole golf course to be called Cadron Valley Country Club. Miller raised the money to build the golf course by selling lots at Hot Springs Village. He sold $1 million worth of lots in 30 days and then headed home get started.
Miller cleared the land by hand, working from daylight until dark. He transplanted, with the help of a tree mover, the 310 pine trees that still stand today at the Links at Cadron Valley. While he was building the Cadron Valley, Frank Shaw managed Briarwood, riding his bicycle across town to open the pool every day.
When asked why he nominated Jim Miller to be a parade honoree, Shaw, a Conway attorney, said: "Jim Miller was a visionary. He built two golf courses with his own labor, bringing golf to people who had never had the opportunity to experience the game."
Cadron Valley Country Club opened in 1973. Two years later, Miller sold it to 10 of its members for $300,000. He sold Briarwood Country Club in 1976.
Nob Hill’s 50 lots sold for $100,000 each. Miller’s View Road, at the crest of the hill, is named for Jim Miller. By this time, he had accumulated several million dollars and had a beautiful home in the new subdivision. He then became a major investor of First National Bank.
Miller bought the 33-acre Harvey Henson property on Highway 64 in 1977, creating Miller’s Mall. The two streets running through it, Jim’s Lane and Pat’s Lane, are named for him and his wife. In 1979, he purchased the 36-acre Moix farm on Highway 65. He sold 29 acres of it for Wal-Mart and Conway Towne Centre in 1984.
During the 1980s, the Millers moved to Texas where he ran an ice-making company before taking over Granny’s Dinner Playhouse, a popular entertainment venue in the Dallas area. Many top entertainers performed there.
The Millers then moved to Nashville where he and his wife bought Country Music USA magazine, developing it into the No.2 country music magazine in the nation. They moved back to Conway in the 1990s and built another home on Nob Hill.
Honoree Tom Lindsey
Tom Lindsey has lived in Conway almost all of his 90 years except for the four years he spent in the oil fields of Texas and the 18 months he spent on Guam in 1947. He started two companies in the area in 1962: Tom Lindsey Contractors and Lindsey Petroleum Transport.
Tom Lindsey Contractors built highways and streets around the central Arkansas area for 54 years, closing in 2015 as Lindsey began to take life a little easier. He still, however, goes to work every day at Lindsey Petroleum Transport and is still active in the business.
Dickey Fortner, who nominated Lindsey as a parade honoree, said: "Tom Lindsey has been an outstanding business leader in Faulkner County and Arkansas for many, many years. I felt like he was so deserving of this recognition."
Lindsey has raced antique cars for years, participating in the History Channel’s Great American Race. He races as the "Toad Suck Racer" to give recognition to Conway and the annual festival. He once drove an antique car in the Faulkner County Parade and frequently loans them out as mobile thrones for various parade queens and princesses.
Once Lindsey had the privilege of driving the commander of the U.S. Thunderbirds flight crew out on to the airfield for an airshow at Jacksonville Air Force Base. He transported the commander in his 1956 Thunderbird, which was then autographed inside the trunk by the entire Thunderbird team.
In the 1980s, Lindsey’s home on Lake Conway was the place to be in mid-July. Hundreds of his friends and family gathered there to celebrate the joint birthdays of Jim Starkey, Eddie Burnett and himself with a fish-fry. Those fish fries continued for almost 15 years until his wife passed away in 1994.
Lindsey joined the Green Grove Masonic Lodge in 1957, serving as Grand Master in 1965. He is a member of the Scottish Rites. He is also an honorary lifetime member of the VFW Jessie W. Grisham Post 2259, having been recognized for his many donations and site work at the facility.