Watermelons love hot weather; people, not so much, but provisions are in place to keep Hope Watermelon Festival crowds secure from the heat and unforeseen incidents.
As July meandered through unusually cool weather toward the opening of the watermelon festival on Thursday, August temperatures began to climb in Southwest Arkansas toward more traditional summertime highs. The National Weather Service in Shreveport, La., predicts daytime highs through the conclusion of the festival on Saturday to remain in the mid-to-upper 90s, with some prospects for overcast skies and a mere 20 percent chance of rain.
The NWS had issued a heat advisory for the Hope area through Thursday evening, when heat index readings reached 105 degrees.
“The combination of heat and high humidity will result in an elevated risk for heat related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke,” the NWS advisory stated.
Coming off a month that averaged daytime highs in the mid-80s, Hope Police Department Assistant Chief Kim Tomlin reminded festival participants to keep cool.
“We encourage people to stay cool and hydrated,” Tomlin said. “We will have officers around at different spots throughout the park.”
Festival-goers are advised to wear cool, light clothing, and to take frequent hydration refreshment breaks during festival activities, she said.
“We want everybody to have a good time,” Tomlin said. “But, we also want them to remain safe.”
She said HPD officers are prepared to assist Pafford Emergency Medical Services EMTs at the park.
“If you have an emergency, the quickest way to get help is still to dial 911, and tell them where in the park you are located,” Tomlin said.
She said festival-goers without access to a cell phone can report any problems to the HPD command center at the park entrance off Park Street, or to the festival office inside the Hope Fair Park Coliseum.
“We have had our command center at the Park Street entrance for the last couple of years; but, for the most part, our offices will be moving around the park,” Tomlin said.
She said the Hempstead County Sheriff's Department will also have deputies patrolling through the park.
“They generally stay around the concert venue and the parking lot, but the University of Arkansas Community College officers will also be there to help,” Tomlin said.
Officers will also assist during the Watermelon 5K run and Melon Mile run.
“We will have some bicycle patrols to assist with the 5K and a couple of ATVs loaned to us from the local dealers to get to the outer areas,” Tomlin said.