So … what’s a Hamfest?  It’s not a pork sandwich festival or an event to celebrate the best/worst of being funny (a la …  being a “ham”).  Whatever it is …  it’s gotta be something special to celebrate  50 consecutive years on top of the second highest mountain in Arkansas … Rich Mountain, in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains at Queen Wilhelmina State Park.

Okay … so what is it?  Simply put, Hamfest is a gathering of amateur Ham Radio operators.



The black and white photo above is of the founding Hamfest  attendees taken in 1969 … fifty years ago.  And once again, hundreds of vendors, radio operators and curiosity seekers came together these first few days of September to learn, have fun and communicate with Ham radio folks from all over the world.  I was pleased to attend for the second time … this time as Arkansas Tourism Director.  My real fascination is watching and listening to an operator skillfully using Morse Code.  Wow …  this is so amazing that one person can click away with dots and dashes at 25 to thirty words a minute and actually communicate with another person hundreds or thousands of miles away.   AMAZING!IMG_9511.JPG

If the main event is not enough, there are plenty of other options.  One can stay in the beautiful lodge, or camp.  One can eat at a campsite or in the wonderful lodge restaurant. One can hike or relax and for sure enjoy the awesome 360 degree views.  Put this on your bucket list … it is a must visit.  This is truly one of my favorite spots in Arkansas … and did I mention … there’s always a breeze and cooler temperature.

Finally, I cannot say enough about our Park’s Staff at Queen Wilhelmina State Park … they are without a doubt …THE BEST!  

Below … Janelle, Jackie, Brent and yours truly. My personal thanks to each of you and your entire dedicated team.


Queen Wilhelmina State Park  at: Arkansas.com



Finally, thanks to you … our Hamfest guests.  Not only do you bring uniqueness, you bring tradition, friendship and your warm smiling faces.  … see you next year.

Jim Dailey … Arkansas Tourism


My wife just found my official Pikes Peak Marathon T Shirt …


And … here is the story of that 1984 adventure:

My buddy, JC and I often ran 10K and 15K races plus a marathon or two together… more in his case.  We had also spent time skiing and hiking in Colorado.  When it was suggested, or I should say, when we were summoned by the Marque de Sade (from which the word “sadist” comes) we had no option but to sign up for this ultimate challenge. With a height of 14,115 feet and a vertical of almost 8000 feet (that’s 16,000 feet up and down) we started training.  I was so nervous that Patti and I went to Colorado one month before the marathon so I could train at altitude.  To cap that off I had her drive me to the top one afternoon and I ran the 13 mile Barr Trail downhill so I could see and assess what I was in for. Frankly,  this scared me even more.  In fact I could hardly walk for two days. Needless to say,  back in Arkansas, I spent countless additional hours training by running up and down Pinnacle Mountain, a 1000 foot vertical peak in West Little Rock.

Saturday, August 18, 1984. 

JC and I plus our wives actually arrived on the 17th to join about 50 other slightly insane Arkansans at a Manitou Springs pizza and pasta restaurant for a little carbo loading.

Race Day …  after a relatively good nights sleep, I added hot water to a packet of instant oatmeal, called that my breakfast and drove to meet JC at the starting line.  Even at base elevation it was cold … in fact there was a slushy snow on the ground and on the trail all the way to the top.

jC pikes peakjim pikes peak

Full disclosure, JC was and still is a much better runner than I and he finished about two hours before I did.  I’m proud of my buddy because subsequently he qualified for Boston and also ran the NY and Marine Marathons.  I must add, I am proud of myself as well for completing this challenging marathon.

The two pictures above show JC and me almost at the top of Pikes Peak where we would turn around and start the quadricep pounding downhill for the next 13 miles.  This is clearly one of the most personally satisfying and memorable achievements of my life.

So, what do my other buddies do when I return to Little Rock?  They were ready!

Yes … they were ready.  Unknown to me, DKR, one of the guys in our group that takes a trip together each year, reached out to Patti, got my Marathon shirt, had copies made and surprised me one evening,  We were all getting ready to go to dinner.  I went to change clothes and when entered the room, eight smiling guys were sitting there proudly wearing their own Pikes Peak Marathon T Shirt.  We were an impressive bunch at dinner that night.  Nothing like having good friends that can keep you humble. Thank  you guys for another special memory.  


You know, I have a pretty cool job as Tourism Director for the state of Arkansas.  Today was a perfect example  …  I went to Garvan Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas with two of our state photographers.  I thought I should get my photos out first before the real professional ones hit the social media.  Several of our amazing tourism staff came along to serve as models and enjoy the beauty of this 220 acre botanical park.  Enjoy!DSC01077 - Version 2






And … you won’t want to miss the TREE HOUSE







While I’m at it, I have another suggestion … find our all you want about other treasures and attractions in the Natural State at … Arkansas.com


One of the last times I watched a lunar eclipse I was camping with my buddy, JC.  We found a deep dark sky location in the Hurricane Creek Wilderness area on the Ozark Highlands Trail.  It was a cold clear night and a perfect place from which to watch this spectacular natural event.  Sorry folks … I have no pictures.

Last night I watched the eclipse from the back yard of my home.  This time I did take a few photos.  I think they turned out pretty good … not because of my talent but more because of my Sony 7R lll and a SonyFE 100-400 G lens. Even more amazing … these were hand held shots.


I love this stuff … and in 2017 Patti and I went over close to Nashville to photograph the Solar Eclipse.  This time I was using my Canon 6D with a Canon 70-200 L lens. I especially like the total eclipse shot but am equally amazed with the ability to see sun spots in the top left photo.  Click on any of these to enlarge.


The wonders of our world continue fascinate, expand imaginations and hopefully make us realize how small we humans are in this great universe.

FYI …  you might consider a trip to Arkansas in April, 2024  … Little Rock will be directly in the path of the  next major North American Solar Eclipse.  Besides that, there are  plenty of other reasons to come and enjoy …

” Arkansas … The Natural State “


To celebrate Forty years of friendship, we gathered with our wives at the home of SST founder, Loyd and his wife Kaye.  And then dinner at Cheers Restaurant.  

Here is the note I sent to my ski buddies after the 2012 SST ski trip. We had been going on a trip each year for over 30 years. Stanley is the last name of the original founding father of SST … Stanley Ski Team!

Once again, it was a special treat to be with the best friends in the world. In a very small way, I miss skiing with the group but in a very big way I enjoy our time together and will do all I can to attend for as long as the Good Lord allows. I certainly don’t wish to be maudlin, but John made a prophetic and profound statement when he said “we will probably not be doing this ten years from now”.

The evening discussions, especially the evening discussing family histories was a highlight for me … as different as we may be, there is a common thread we all share. We are family oriented, we obviously value true friendships, for the most part we are fairly conservative (a couple maybe more than “fairly conservative”), we are self starting, entrepreneurial guys … in most cases from self starting entrepreneurial roots, we are fundamentally Christian, God fearing men with strong work ethics and, by golly, strong play ethics… I repeat, Strong Play Ethics!!! Who would ever have thought for 31 or 32 or 33 years, a group like ours would click, stay together, take a trip each year together, schedule lunch every Friday together and for all these years keep this exercise right at the top of our priority lists. Who would have thought? Who would have thought a Dermatologist, Ad guy, a coffin salesman, a funeral director, an asbestos tester, an architect, a refrigeration/electric supplier, a jeweler and a politician could find enough in common to embark on this adventure, and even more significant, to continue it for so many years. Ours truly is a unique story..a meaningful, enriching celebration of friendship. I thank each of you.

Now more pictures of our 40th Celebration evening …



As one can see (above) we have moved from Skiing to golf, to hiking and to “Apre Whatever” around the pool in Scottsdale.  

Below a couple of shots from the beginning days of SST.   Keystone Mountain and Blue Spruce Restaurant in Frisco, Co.  Circa.  1980


The Group much younger


Above photo was 2018 in Arizona.

ski couples dinner 019

ski couples dinner 021

The two pictures above are of the same group dinner with our Wives … circa. 2014


Yesterday I stopped by the Arkansas State Fair… first to thank Harrison Welcome Center manager, Leesha Miller and her husband for working the Arkansas Parks and Tourism booth in the Hall of Industry and second to stroll down memory lane along the Midway.


Leesha is one of 14 managers of Welcome Centers along the borders of our state.  These centers greet thousands of visitors to Arkansas each day providing information, printed materials and directions to all the wonders of our Natural State.  Leesha is particularly excited because her beautiful new Harrison Welcome Center will have an official grand opening November 2, 2018 … just a couple of weeks away.  My personal thanks to all of the staff at Arkansas Welcome Centers.  You make us proud!


Okay … back to the Midway … so many memories.

When I was a child, my parents always took us to the State Fair. We rode the rides, tried our skills at the ring toss and enjoyed greasy burgers and sticky taffy.  We usually went to the rodeo but always walked through the animal barns …  I fondly remember this even more than the rides because this is where my dad taught me the importance of farming, agriculture and Animal Husbandry.

Sure, it’s fun to play on the Midway … however, to walk the cattle and pig barns,  is to better understand the fundamentals of our Arkansas history and economy.

After all, Agriculture is our Number one industry.

But don’t forget … Tourism is #2 at over $7 Billion.

And,  at the Arkansas State Fair there is a blending of both.



With this full rainbow sighting, we knew we had hit the motherlode.

And, sure enough, we had … hitting the Rockies when the Aspen color was at it’s peak.  Just like rich veins of gold and copper, the iridescent brilliance laced itself through the forest beckoning us to explore every trail, road and vista.  Had we been panning for gold, we could not have been more richly rewarded.



Daughter, Donna and Son in Law, John


Patti and Jim





In some areas, many of the trees were beginning to lose their leaves.  Even at that, there is something really beautiful about the huge clusters of white bark trees … especially if the colors subtly appear as though an artist has dabbed his brush randomly onto the tree tops.




To make things even more comfortable and relaxing, each day after mining for gold and retail treasures, we returned to this modest (give me a break) home located between Breckenridge and Frisco, Co.   As John would say ” this is Patti and Donna’s idea of roughing it“.



For many years we ventured to Colorado for family snow skiing.  Now we go to enjoy cooler, drier weather in the Summer and Fall.  This time we truly did hit the jackpot with the most beautiful Fall Colors we have ever experienced.

September is not a bad time to tour the Rockies!


For years Patti and I have intended to visit the Little Portion Hermitage near Berryville. Well yesterday we did just that … and what a special treat it was. This Catholic Community of Brothers and Sisters of Charity live a monastic life of prayer, service to the poor and the neighboring communities.

In my role as Arkansas Tourism Director, I was the keynote speaker at the Berryville Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet.  Following the dinner, a spirited … and I do mean spirited … woman named Viola, cornered Patti asking “where is that tourism guy?” From the moment I met her she was a bundle of energy backed up with a bundle of printed cards and information on the Hermitage and it’s 40th anniversary celebration happening over the next few days.

Below are a few pictures from our visit. The first picture includes monastic community founders, Viola and John Michael Talbot. Viola has an idea for Tourism. She suggested a Road Trip Trail including the Little Portion Hermitage, Saint Elizabeth Bell Tower entry Church in Eureka Springs and the Passion Play. I think this is worthy of discussion.




This past weekend was a wonderful example of an Arkansas Discovery Road Trip.  You will hear lots more about road trips on our web site:  Arkansas.com

Randy and Gayla Wolfinbarger, owners of the Inn of the Ozarks,  made the weekend even more special. Breakfast at the Inn was great.

Finally, I must mention that we stopped to check out our new Arkansas Welcome Center in Harrison, Arkansas.  This building is beautiful, functional and loaded with friendly staff and info …  all there to make your Arkansas experience the best possible.

For further info regarding the Hermitage … services, bakery, tours, etc. go to littleportion.org


2018 Gridiron production a phenomenal success.

Last night with our friends Nancy and Steve, Patti and I attended the 2018 Gridiron performance at the beautiful Arkansas Repertory Theatre in downtown Little Rock.  The performance was awesome … what with humorous and pointed political musical scripts and a cast of characters representing familiar State, National and International leaders, an hour and a half literally flew by.  Circuit Judge Mary McGowan was the producer … well done Judge.  Craig Wilson was an amazing President Trump, Janis Kovalscik had the audience cheering with her representation  of Sarah Huckabee Sanders singing “Stand by this man” and our neighbor Judy Trice singing “I’m Still Here” hit a home run portraying Nancy Pelosi.

Yes … a great night in a packed house!  Now, the reality check … the Rep announced earlier this year that the theatre is closing due to financial struggles.  Last night was a reminder of how good it has been and how blessed we are to have the Repertory Theatre all these years. 

It’s not too late to SAVE THE REP … BUT IT WILL TAKE ALL OF US.

Founding Director, Cliff Baker reminded us last night that many have stepped up to contribute and great progress is being made toward  reopening and financial stability. There are some major donors but the long term success depends on the broader community support … a few dollars donated now and then the purchase of season tickets once reopened.  This certainly has gotten my attention … Patti and I commit to do our part.  I encourage each of you to do the same.  Thank you and Long Live the Rep!


In the photo above, one can see world leaders and Presidential Press Secretary singing “Stand by this Man”.  My thanks to all of the 75 performers and volunteers.

I have visited Batesville several times in the past two months … once for a speaking event, once for a Regional meeting and last week for a Parks and Tourism Commission meeting.  This energetic city of just over 10,000 is a real winner.  With a strong economy, an excellent educational system, an active downtown with great restaurants, an amazingly restored Melba Theater and maybe the finest community aquatics center in any Arkansas city … Batesville has got it going on. Mayor Rick Elumbaugh  has led the charge with vision and city resources but he is quick to remind us that this positive momentum would not be happening without motivated citizens.


Interior of the Melba Theater in downtown Batesville.  This was a community effort with volunteers reupholstering the 400 seats … lots of “hands on”.

Following the Commission meeting we went for lunch at Natalie’s.  Wow! some of the best home made sandwiches, salads and personal service. Top left picture in the group above.  


Above and below are pictures of the awesome Jacksonport State Park Visitor Center.  From the outside, the contemporary glass and steel structure represents a riverboat from the past.  Inside is the historic museum and 360 degree views of the river and natural surroundings.  Personally, I think this will be one of the signature State Park Visitor Centers in the state.



While I am wrapping up, I would be remiss if I did not remind you that Arkansas has 52 state parks.  If you are up for a rewarding road exercise … that’s just one state park a week to see all of them in a single year.  Happy Trails!

For more information, go to:  Arkansas.com