Gold: Arkansas’ Festive Red, White and Blue Celebration

Patriot Games

When the Red, White and Blue Festival launched 12 years ago in Mountain Home, Ark., in the Ozark Mountains, the proprietors of the nearby Carter’s Jewel Chest were excited about the free, family-friendly June event (think kids’ games and fireworks).

So in 2005, when a chance came for the store to serve as a festival sponsor—donating a one-of-a-kind red, white, and blue jewel for the raffle—the ­Carters jumped. “We’ve always wanted to do something involving the entire community,” says co-owner Chris Carter, who runs the 35-year-old store with three other Carters: wife Nicole, mother Beth, and dad T.C.

A custom-made 14k white gold pendant with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and a red spinel cabochon; $7,500 value

This year’s piece, a 14k white gold oval pendant necklace with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and a red spinel cabochon, was valued at $7,500. Every year, the patriotic jewel—previous pieces have included a tennis bracelet and a star-shaped pendant—circulates three weeks prior to the event to 20 local bank branches, where it’s displayed and modeled by employees to goose raffle-ticket sales. (Tickets sell for $1 each, six for $5, or 12 for $10; proceeds help defray costs of the next year’s fest. Carter’s also sells tickets in the store.)

The back of Carter’s custom pendant—made for the 2011 Red, White and Blue Festival—engraved with the date and occasion

All of the Carters do their part for the event: T.C. is on the board, and Beth spends up to three hours daily personally shuttling the jewel from bank to bank. The payoff for all the hard work? Publicity. “Carter’s Jewel Chest” is emblazoned on signs at all bank branches and on a highway sign paid for by the Chamber of Commerce; radio stations and newspapers give gratis ads and editorials to plug the nonprofit festival. A local cable TV station even interviewed Beth. “We get excellent exposure in the community,” says Chris, ­estimating that attendance totaled 20,000 for the 2011 three-day fair. And the jeweler has also seen a bump in his custom business, which currently accounts for just 10 percent of revenue. In fact, Chris estimates he’s acquired roughly 40 custom jobs—including a $10,000 remounted 2.5 ct. princess-cut diamond in platinum with melee—the past six years as a direct result of his involvement with the Red, White and Blue Festival.

This year’s pendant winner was a grandmother from neighboring Flippon, Ark. She’s still on the fence about buying a $600 14k gold wheat chain to coordinate with her new treasure, but word-of-mouth praise for the store won’t cost her a cent.

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