Local business owner receives prestigious award from Arkansas

BAXTER SPRINGS - What do Ronald Regan, Muhammad Ali, Bob Hope, Maya Angelou, and 'Show Me Birds' resort owner Kim Shira all have in common? They are all distinguished receivers of the Arkansas Traveler award.

The award is an honorary title bestowed on notable individuals who, through their actions, serve as goodwill ambassadors for the State of Arkansas. Shira, a notoriously humble man, received his award and certificate signed by Arkansas Governor William Asa Hutchinson, at a ceremony held last October at the Arkansas State Capitol.

"I was confused at first because I don't live in Arkansas," said Shira. "Then I saw the list of previous winners and really didn't know what to think."

Shira said it was explained to him that an individual doesn't need to live in Arkansas to be nominated for the award, just need to have displayed a great service of hospitality to the people of Arkansas. Arkansans have long prided themselves on their hospitality and their love of the beautiful nature in their state. The 'Arkansas Traveler' certificate is the state's official recognition to out-of-state visitors who have contributed to the progress, enjoyment, or well-being of the State of Arkansas and her people.

The story behind the award is connected to Colonel Sanford C. “Sandy” Faulkner, who was very active in the early days of Arkansas politics. He was also involved in banking and farming during the 19th century. According to the oral history, Faulkner had gotten lost in the Ozarks during one of his many political campaigns. Looking for a place to stay overnight, Faulkner wandered by a small log cabin where he was given lodging and hospitality. Faulkner, who was known for retelling of the event, explained that the settler was at first bad tempered and uncommunicative but became more welcoming when Faulkner proved able to complete playing the tune that the settler had been playing on the fiddle. Generally when Faulkner told the story, only he and the settler participated in the conversation. Faulkner’s story of the "Arkansas Traveler" rapidly became part of the state's folklore, leading to the creation of a famous painting by Edward Payson Washbourne, which depicts the event.

The award was approved in a resolution by the Arkansas Legislature. The award was created in early 1941 with the first certificate granted May 20, 1941, to President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Other notable previous winners include: Muhammad Ali, Billy Graham, Bob Hope, Maya Angelou, Lucie "Ball" Arnaz, Gene Autry, Garth Brooks, Dale Evans, Ronald Regan, Roy Rogers, and many more.

"A 1970 Baxter Springs High School graduate," Shira laughed. "That's all I am. Now to see my name with Ali and Garth Brooks."

Located northwest of Baxter Springs, 'Show Me Birds' has grown to become America's largest pheasant hunting resort, attracting hunters and enthusiasts from all over the globe to Southeast Kansas. More about the resort can be found at http://showmebirds.com