Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun
Monday, Oct. 5, 2009 | 1:50 a.m.
For 35 years, Karen Leslie Carmichael danced and performed acrobatics up and down the Strip and all over the world.
She opened for Broadway queen Debbie Reynolds and European royalty including Princess Grace of Monaco. She and her partner even scored a perfect four stars on "Star Search."
Then about five years ago, Carmichael retired and turned her artistic energy into another creative outlet — designing jewelry that could grace the necks and wrists of Hollywood stars.
What started as a hobby looks more promising for the Summerlin resident after her jewelry designs earned the Best in Show award Saturday at the 47th annual Art in the Park in Boulder City.
The two-day show drew an estimated 50,000 people, nearly 300 artists and raised money for the Boulder City Hospital, said Craig Bailey, the hospital’s chief operating officer. The total amount raised won’t be known until the costs are deducted, he said.
The show’s top award honored Carmichael's entire display but she said she believes it was her prized necklace, the Tahitian Queen, that won over the judges.
Inspired by the colors of the South Pacific, the blue-green and purple beaded necklace was a finalist in the 2009 Bead Dreams International Jewelry Design Competition. Carmichael said she’s working with a friend who designs dresses in hopes of enticing a Hollywood starlet to don an ensemble featuring the neckwear on the red carpet someday.
For now, she’s thrilled her designs are appreciated by the public and her peers who judged the competition.
"As a professional performer, I always aspired to excellence so it’s important my jewelry be quality," she said. "I feel like the award has reinforced that."
The art festival gave other budding artists a chance to display their talents among hundreds of seasoned veterans.
Sara Rodgers, a Seattle native, won a prize in the Traditional Crafts category in her first-ever art show.
The former aerospace engineer for Boeing shuttled the scientific half of her mind to indulge in the artistic by creating hand-drawn greeting cards and postcards.
Rodgers, a pilot and avid skydiver, said she draws down-to-earth natural scenes and objects starting with just a squiggly line.
"Based off that line, I’d just keep drawing, keep seeing something new that I’d never seen before," she said.
Her mother, Kathy, writes the text and prints the cards while her sister, Emalee, runs the business they call Lines.
The ladies said they received positive comments from festival-goers and the recognition from the judges encouraged Sara that her second career is blasting off.
"I thought I was in trouble when they came by," she said with a laugh. "It makes me feel it could be more."
Not all artists were professionals, however.
The Nevada Parks and Recreation Society collected dozens of handmade greeting cards that will be shipped to military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan who participate in the Any Soldier Program.
The holiday-themed cards, mostly drawn by children, are not distributed to a specific soldier but are appreciated by the recipients who enjoy the link to home, said Bobbie Ann Howell, of the society’s Arts and Culture Committee.
"Someone has taken the time to sit down, write a real note and show that they’re still thinking of them," she said.
High winds Sunday might have turned away visitors and did force some vendors to pack up early, Bailey said, but Saturday was beautiful and busy.
The festival is free, so an accurate head count is difficult, organizers said. Bailey said the food vendors are a reliable barometer, and they left happy.
"We’re very pleased with (Saturday) and with how things are going," he said. "This is a community event that brings lots of people here and helps the economy and helps people feel invested in their community."