Zip on down to Hope Fair Park and take a zip line ride; chomp down on a slice of cold Hope watermelon; spit a seed; and kick back with a country legend this weekend.
Zip on down to Hope Fair Park and take a zip line ride; chomp down on a slice of cold Hope watermelon; spit a seed; and kick back with a country legend this weekend. The 37th annual Hope Watermelon Festival opened at noon today at Hope Fair Park with the promise of something for everyone that has traditionally drawn folks from around the world to Hope. “I have a guy from Hot Springs who has a zip line. No longer will you have to go all the way to Okolona and pay $29.95 to have a rowdy adventure,” Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mark Keith said. “You can pay a little bit less and go 200 hundred feet on ours.” For those whose taste runs to the slightly less rowdy, there is a Harley-Davidson carriage available. “These folks actually have a horse-drawn carriage that has been converted to be pulled by a motorcycle,” Keith said. After a year of adult supremacy, the youngsters came roaring back to win the watermelon eating and seed spitting championships at the 36th Hope Watermelon Festival in 2012. Grant Greathouse, 7, of Little Rock, won the overall competition last year, with second place going to Abby Roberts, 16, of Bentonville, and third place went to Kenneth Jordan, of Hope, the 18-over competitor. Preliminaries in the watermelon eating championships begin at noon Saturday on the BancorpSouth Stage. Watermelon seed spitting honors were also captured by the youngsters last year. Carson Rowe, of Hope, winner in the 7-under category took first place in a spit-off, after lofting his original spit to 14 feet, 9 inches. Second place went to DeVonte Emory, age 7-15 winner, with adult competitor, Zach Chapel, of Chicago, Ill., in third place. Seed spitting championships get under way Saturday at 1 p.m. on the 1st Bank Stage. Thursday Events Thursday include the Hope Kiwanis Club chicken dinner at the Fair Park Community Center, the dog show on the BancorpSouth Stage at 7:30 p. m. and the preliminaries of the Watermelon Idol Talent Contest at 6 p. m. on the McDonald's Stage inside the coliseum. For more information on the Idol contest, visit uacch.edu. Music will begin at 7 p. m. with Rudy Preston and Friends. Preston and his friends Carl Jackson and Bill White, who is the nephew of the late Jim Reeves, will perform. Ace Cannon and his 'tuff sax' will be featured in a free concert and street dance at 8 p. m. in front of the coliseum that evening as well. Friday On Friday, the festival opens at 9 a. m. and highlights of the day include the Lions Fish Fry from 4:30-7 p. m. The fish fry will be held at the Community Center in Hope Fair Park. Charlee and Bailey May will perform in the coliseum on the McDonald's Stage at 1 p. m. The Kosmic Girls and Koltrane will perform on the McDonald's Stage at 2 p. m. and 3:30 p. m. The Rev. Wallace Ingram makes his festival debut at 6 p. m. on the BancorpSouth Stage, followed by Bill White at 7 p. m. and country music at 8:15 p. m. from the Night Hawk Band. Saturday On Saturday, events will feature the 5K race and 'Melon Mile' for kids, an antique car show, a kid's fishing derby on Lake Huckabee from 9 a. m.-11 a. m. , the Politically Correct Watermelon Eating Contest at 11:30 a. m. on the BancorpSouth Stage, the World Championship Watermelon Eating Contest at noon and the World Championship Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest at 1 p. m. on the First Bank Stage. The Hope Big Melon Auction will take place at 10 a. m. under the Super 1 tent. Other activities include the Yerger Museum Bingo, the “money in the haystack,” and the arm wrestling contest. Entertainment will include Hope High School Jazz Cats, the “Brazzel Gospel Hour,” featuring the Garrett Memorial Quartet, and the Watermelon Idol finals. The final activity at the festival is the Watermelon Festival Headliner Concert with country music legend Tracy Lawrence, opening with the Jason Helms Band. The Watermelon Idol winner will also open for Lawrence. Advance adult tickets are $12 and $6 for children from four to 10 years of age. Adult tickets are $20 on the day of the show. These are general admission tickets and those buying tickets need to bring a lawn chair. No pets will be allowed on Legion Field or around the CMC Steel Products stage during the concert. Advance reserve seats are available at uacch.edu. Advance ticket locations can be seen at hopemelonfest.com