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Jonesboro men don dresses for charity

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Several notable men of Jonesboro, including two members of the Jonesboro City Council, showed city residents that it takes a strong man to dress like a woman.

The Firehouse Museum and Community Center, located at 103 West Mill Street in Jonesboro, hosted its first-ever Firehouse Queen Pageant Thursday night. More than 100 people came to see Jonesboro councilmen Bobby Wiggins and Rick Yonce, and city residents Johnny Little, Don Williams, Ronnie Hill, Ed Wise, and Wayne Fielder, put on dresses and participate in the pageant in order to raise money for the community center.

Katherine Smith, director of the Firehouse Museum and Community Center, said the event was the center's first fundraiser. She said the event was a throwback 50 years to the city's centennial celebration, when local members of the Jaycees and volunteer firefighters played a softball game dressed as women.

"We were just sitting around one day and thinking of how we could raise money," Smith said. "During the centennial, the men dressed like women and they had a great time."

For a $5 admission fee, locals were treated to a hot-dog, chips, chicken wings, and a drink, as well as to the unique fashions, talents, and expository speaking of the seven male contestants. The talent portion of the contest included baton twirling, poetry, banjo playing, and a karaoke version of a ballad by British rock musician Sting.

Wiggins said the event was a good way to bring the people of Jonesboro together, and generate more awareness of the Firehouse Museum and Community Center.

"It went better than I thought it would," Wiggins said. "I hope it will bring the community together. That's what this community center was built for. [The city] has been divided for a long time. I hope we will come together and do things like this more often."

After careful scrutiny by a panel of judges, Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox crowned Wise as the new Firehouse Queen. He described the seven contestants as "brave men" raising money for a worthy cause.

"We have people here tonight who probably haven't seen each other in years," Maddox said. "It's a fun event to bring people together." He said that any money raised during the pageant amounts to "that much more" that doesn't have to be spent out of the city's budget.

Wise, the pageant winner and the "woman" of the hour, was once a firefighter in the city's now-defunct volunteer fire department. He said he believes the event will go a long way toward community-building.

"Anything that brings people together like this is a good thing," Wise said. "It's fun when you can come out and get to know your neighbors. I hope it draws more attention to [the center]."