With half of 2017 now over, the Hope Star looks back at some of the top headlines in Hope and Hempstead County from January to June. Whether it was the Quorum Court's decision to purchase the Farmer's Bank Building, the demand for action on crumbling buildings, the placement of the Farmer's Market or the formation of a new business association, the overall arc of the year has been downtown Hope. Among the watch items for the rest of the year: Hope Farmer's Market, economic development, high electric costs, and a football rebound for the 2017 Bobcats.
With half of 2017 now over, the Hope Star looks back at some of the top headlines in Hope and Hempstead County from January to June. Whether it was the Quorum Court's decision to purchase the Farmer's Bank Building, the demand for action on crumbling buildings, the placement of the Farmer's Market or the formation of a new business association, the overall arc of the year has been downtown Hope. Among the watch items for the rest of the year: Hope Farmer’s Market, economic development, high electric costs, and a football rebound for the 2017 Bobcats.
The week of January 4:
• Amid the celebration and hopeful expectations of a new year, new office terms, and new office holders, the Hempstead County Quorum Court started off on the same course of inaction on the Farmer’s Bank Building in a discussion marked by awkward silences and marred by a 5-3 vote that was in favor of purchasing the building, but essentially meant nothing since a super majority is required to authorize spending.
• Steve Montgomery, who has served on the Hope Board of Directors out of Ward 6 since 2007 and is well-known as the owner of several McDonald’s stores in southwestern Arkansas, was officially sworn in as the new Mayor of Hope on Tuesday night.
With him, Don Still of Ward 7 was sworn in as the new Vice Mayor; both were named after a 10- minute executive session, which the board discussed the new city leadership.
• In the realm of an ever complex electric delivery system, the upcoming proposal to sell electric transmission lines, owned by the City of Hope and currently maintained by Hope Water & Light, to GridLiance aims to be a win-win transaction, according to a group of officials involved in the proposal.
• Danny Watson was officially sworn in as District 3 State Representative on Monday, January 9 in Little Rock just prior to the opening of 2017 General Assembly. Watson represents both Hempstead and Nevada counties.
• Snow flurries dusted Hope on Friday afternoon and continued late into the evening.
Hope and Hempstead County were under a winter weather advisory until 6 p.m. Friday afternoon, according to the National Weather Forecast.
The week of January 11:
• Hope Public School is hosting a parent/stake- holder meeting for the "expansion of the school of innovation" at Beryl Henry Elementary School on Thursday at 6 p.m.
• The last topic at the January 3 Hempstead County Quorum Court meeting was a brief statement by County Judge Haskell Morse suggesting the separation of the county tax collectors position from the Sheriff ’s position. "About 52 counties have separated the positions. This will lighten the sheriff 's workload and make the office more efficient," Morse said.
The week of January 18:
• The Southwest Arkansas Arts Council is presenting an "Outsider Art" exhibit by Prescott artist Spot Daniel January 31 through March 2 at the Art Depot.
• Local reporter Rachel Wright has accepted a position to teach abroad in mainland China and will be leaving Hope as well as her duties at the Hope Star at the end of January.
• In the ongoing “Farmers Bank Building” saga engulfing Hempstead County, Justice Lynn Montgomery sees the issue in fairly simple terms. “If you’re shopping for a new car and if you get a good price, you still have to have a plan to pay for it,” he said, “and with this courthouse, I still haven’t seen a plan. I would like to see plans and costs for the Bank building and a new building on the present site,” he said.
• A physical altercation involving several Hope High School students at the school on Tuesday during the noon hour has resulted in four adult students being charged with riot, 3rd degree battery, and disorderly conduct charges, confirmed in a Thursday night press release from the Hope Police Dept.
• One of the City of Hope’s all-time great cheerleaders and respected community leaders is leaving his long time post at the Hope/Hempstead Chamber of Commerce. Mark Keith, the organization’s Executive Director, submitted his resignation to the Board of Directors this past Wednesday, ending 20 years of service to the community in that capacity.
The week of January 25:
• A special meeting of the Hempstead Quorum Court will be held Thursday at 5:30 p.m. dedicated to determining the home of Hempstead County government for the next generation. The subject of purchasing the Farmer’s Bank building in downtown Hope has been the source of public discussion for the past six months, and at its first meeting of 2017, the Quorum Court voted to purchase the courthouse 5-3, but appropriations requires a majority of eight, so the measure failed.
• In the most ambitious offering from the joint UA-Hope Foundation and Hempstead Hall, the 2017 Ark-La-Tex Outdoor Expo seeks to attract outdoor enthusiasts from a three-state area.
• In a two-hour special session that was equal parts maddening, insightful, and littered with tension and awkward silences, the Hempstead Quorum Court finally approved what was called a “non-binding letter of intent,” which authorized County Judge Haskell Morse to continue negotiations with Farmer’s Bank officials towards the possible purchase of the downtown Hope Farmer’s Bank building.
• The Hope Pro Rodeo, part of Bergeron Rodeo Company, is coming to the Hope Fair Grounds Arena on February 3-4 at 7 p.m. each night.
The week of February 1:
• Officials, leaders and teachers around Hope were paid a visit Tuesday from a team of graduate students from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock. The graduate students, who have been working this year at the new Hope Academy for Public Service, are working on a live community/parent/student survey that was unveiled Tuesday.
• Hempstead County Judge Haskell Morse said Thursday that he believes the proposed purchase of the Farmer’s Bank building in downtown Hope can be completed without a tax increase or without bankrupting the county.
• The 2017 Ark-La-Tex Outdoor Expo got off to a roaring start Friday as hundreds flocked to Hempstead Hall, which was turned into a virtual hunting and fishing showroom. If it was hunting, there were bows and arrows galore; if was boats, enough to fill a small harbor, and all sorts of ATVs, fishing rods, and cookout gear.
The week of February 8:
• Whether it was a new idea or an old nagging problem, an overflow and out-the-door crowd jammed Hope City Hall on Tuesday night for the City’s Board of Directors meeting, and they meant business for over 90 minutes — literally. The overall source of the concerns — and the discussions — was the local business climate, specifically as it related to the ailing Hope Chamber of Commerce and the even more ailing downtown dilapidated buildings in Hope. Respected fifty-year businessman Richard
Hogue lead the most contentious issue of the night as he said, “I walked this downtown for six hours. Look around. Buildings are crumbling and falling apart. Something must be done.”
• A combined two-day estimate of over 1,360 people flowed into Hempstead Hall for the initial 2017 Outdoors Expo held over the past weekend, which also included 646 for the Craig Morgan concert.
• While downtown buildings and organizational concepts dominated Tuesday’s meeting of the Hope City Board for over 90 minutes, there were other matters of significance discussed, including rail repairs, truck repairs, a commission appointment and various project updates.
• The fallout from a Tuesday, January 17 incident at Hope High School continued into this week as Hope Public Schools Superintendent Bobby Hart issued a blanket statement on what was expected community-wide, the explosion of several of the high school students. Hart said, “Several Hope High School (HHS) students were recently expelled by the Hope School Board, following a fight in the HHS main office on January 17, 2017. This statement is intended to provide clarity regarding Hope Public Schools’s (HPS) discipline process.”
The week of February 15:
• In a statement Monday, Hempstead Hall Director Dolly Henley confirmed that Country Music and TV Superstar Trace Adkins will be performing in Hope on Saturday, May 6 with starting time set for 7 p.m. The announcement of Adkins literally brings back-to-back County superstars to Hope within eight days. The legendary Ronnie Milsap performs in Hempstead Hall on April 28.
• A recent legal notice appearing the Hope Star raised some local concerns that SWEPCO was increasing production at its Fulton-based Turk Plant, but the notice was apparently misunderstood, according to a SWEPCO spokesperson Tuesday evening.
“SWEPCO is not increasing production at Turk. The plant will continue to operate with a maximum generating capacity of 650 MW,” Brian Bond, Vice President External Affairs, said.
• Sandra Jones and Susan Powers were honored as teachers of the year by the Hope Rotary Club at its annual Education Appreciation Banquet at Hempstead Hall on Thursday night.
• Citizens with servant hearts hope to help soldiers sleep soundly while on deployment. The Senior Adult Ministry at First Baptist organized a pillowcase-sewing project last week. More than 20 volunteers made unique pillowcases for approximately 100 members of the Arkansas National Guard's 39th Infantry Brigade.
The week of February 22:
• After hearing a donation proposal from Dox Building representative Teena Pilkinton Carter, the Hope Board of Directors decided instead to pursue demolition and a lein against the property. Carter, who represented the Betts Estate and JHB, opened Tuesday night’s meeting with a proposal to donate the Dox Building to the city for them to tear down, and then, turning into a park with part of the facade in tact.
• Spanning 50 years, songs like "Mighty Love,” “Then Came You,” and “I’ll Be Around” continue to be loved and enjoyed, which makes original Spinners member Henry Fambrough happy to continue touring and performing. “That’s what we do, and it is a great feeling; it is still fun to go out and sing these songs to the crowds we see today,” Fambrough said in a press call Tuesday afternoon from his home in Michigan.
• A capacity crowd of 100 city officials, employees, and citizens braved the rain to arrive at Hope City Hall on Tuesday afternoon on honor two of its storied public servants. Longtime Hope Mayor Dennis Ramsey and Board member Willie Walker were both toasted by new Mayor Steve Montgomery and many well-wishers at the ceremony prior to Tuesday night’s Hope City Board meeting.
• Still reeling from the November 2016 election, Democrats across the county are looking to reorganize, regroup, and reinvent themselves. In the State of Arkansas, similar efforts are taking shape, including in Hempstead County, where the Hempstead County Democratic Women will have a special session Tuesday to hear Wanda Bynum Ashley, the President of the Arkansas Federation of Democratic Women.
The week of March 1:
• The new Miss Southwest Arkansas is a familiar face to folks here in Hope as hometown girl Suzie Gresham emerged from a field of eight contenders Saturday night at Hope’s Klipsch Auditorium. The victory also gives Gresham a second entry into June’s Miss Arkansas Pageant, where she was a new contestant last year as Miss Ouachita Baptist.
• The community is mourning the loss of a cherished community member, Novalene Hogue May Slatton. Slatton, age 92, passed away, Monday, February 27 after more than 20 years with the Hope Chamber of Commerce as an administrative assistant. She moved to Hope with her parents and siblings in 1940 and was known for her strong work ethic and community involvement.
• Thrilling an estimated crowd of 800 at Hempstead Hall on Saturday night, the Mighty Spinners spun out their greatest hits from the 1970s and 1080s in a fast-paced 90-minute performance. Tenor Ronnie Moss, who joined the Spinners in 2013, hit the high notes, while original Spinners member, Henry Fambrough, age 78, didn’t look a year over 58 as he sang and danced through the group’s greatest hits.
• The parent company of GateHouse Media, which owns the Hope Star and its sister publication, the Nevada County Picayune, is merging with a Japanese-based investment group.
• It didn’t seem to matter that Mardi Gras showed up later this year — at the end of February rather than the beginning — the 59th Annual Spaghetti lunch this past Tuesday had another record turnout and serving in what has evolved into a yearly community wide cooking.
• Relay for Life is preparing for another successful year in Hempstead County, with several opportunities to participate in the fight against cancer in the coming weeks.
• Spring Hill students are saddling up and invite supporters to the 18th annual Future Farmers of America Rodeo. The multi-day event will be held at Hope Fair Park Coliseum Friday, March 10 and Saturday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m.
The week of March 8:
• Questions and citizen concerns were raised at last night's Hope City Board meeting regarding infrastructure and Hope Water & Light as well as the development of downtown. The board discussed how contracting with the Hope Chamber of Commerce might be a benefit to both entities and other organizations in the community.
• The Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act aims to help people between the ages of 16 and 24 years old who are not attending school, who are searching for employment or looking to enhance their future with training.
• In a special session Thursday, the Hope Tourism Commission met and approved a recommendation to the Hope City Board to contract certain city tourism functions to the Hope Chamber of Commerce for a contract fee of approximately $20,000.
• Over 1,000 dishes were served at Unity Baptist Church’s annual open-face taco supper on Friday night. The long running event, now going for 45 years, is the latest successful community offering of food and fun. Long known as a fundraiser for the church’s youth ministry, Vicki Barker, the event’s director for the past 20 years, said the parents prepare the food, but the kids serve the food and work the event.
• A Who’s Who of local economic and political figures showed up for a Friday morning press conference to learn that Hope has received certification for having completed the "PREP" program through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
The week of March 15:
• Tiffany Denise Jetton has been appointed to the advertising sales team at the Hope Star. Jetton is a 1997 graduate of Pleasant Grove in Texarkana, and she also attended Texas A&M-Texarkana. She started her duties in Hope last week. Jetton, age 37, comes to Hope from Muldow, Oklahoma, and she was also raised partly in Hope.
• The Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce will hold its 2017 annual banquet on Monday, April 3 with Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin set as the keynote speaker at Hempstead Hall on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Hope.
• Two major items of public discussion and debate are scheduled on the Hope City Board’s meeting agenda set for next Tuesday, March 21 at Hope City Hall. Steve Saum, the general manager of Hope Water & Light, will deliver an address and make a presentation to the Hope City Board regarding issues that have been mentioned in the local media in recent weeks.
The week of March 22:
• Explanations for electric rates and time tables for city projects were given at the March Hope City Board meeting. After much community-wide discussion of issues concerning Hope Water and Light, Steve Saum, general manager of HWL, presented information to assist in clarifying “issues that have been mentioned in the local media over the last few weeks. It is important to clear up misconceptions and address concerns customers may have,” Saum said. “While we may not have the lowest rates in the state, we don’t have the highest.”
• As representatives of Hope Water & Light were preparing to present to the Hope City Board on Tuesday night, the city-owned utility was also having to issue an immediate “Boil Water Order” for customers located in the Oakhaven area.
• Rick Kennedy, editor of the Hope Star, addressed the City Board in his capacity as a HWL customer, saying “Why can’t we do at Hope Water & Light, what every other business does? Look for efficiencies, look at payrolls, look at expenses? Why do we simply have to raise rates for the past three years?,” he said.
The week of March 29:
• Tackling issues in Hope and creating solution driven action was the focus of city officials and residents during the Hope City Board of Directors annual planning session Tuesday evening. Community members joined the discussion and gave suggestions for the direction they wish the city to take and how it might achieve goals.
• One of the biggest gatherings in over a year attended the Hempstead Democratic Women’s meeting on Tuesday night to hear a top party official tell them to not give up on the party or the political process. Wanda Bynum Ashley, the president of the Arkansas Federation of Democratic Women (AFDW), said “We don’t need to give up. We need to get up, dust ourselves off, and get going again. We need the discontented to get involved again, and we need to share our message of progress and hope.”
• The 2017 season of Downtown Hope Trade Days kicked off over the weekend in downtown Hope with a wide array of vendors assembled. The event, which launched in Sept. 2016 and ran in October and November last year, is set for a 2017 run from March to June, with one happening each month. Event Coordinator Bob Erwin told the Hope Star last year, “Personally, I am all about downtown. I want to revive it, make it neat, alive and vibrant. Anything to regenerate downtown.”
• In the latest edition of “Mystery Science Theater” at the Hempstead County Quorum Court, questions regarding the Hemp- stead County Library eluded answers, as no one on the Quorum Court or the audience could positively identify the library’s status. Justice Cherry Stewart, at one point, a bit flustered as to the lack of explanations, said “This is not called ’The Library Board,’ it is called the ‘Hempstead County Library’ and we (Quorum Court) are representing ‘Hempstead County’”
• Premiering Thursday night, and starting a one-month run on April 4, the Southwest Arkansas Arts Council presents “Works in Wood” at the Arts Station in downtown Hope. Un- like past galleries of paintings or photos, this latest show presents various works of art in wood.
The week of April 5:
• The big news out of the Hope City Board meeting on Tuesday night was an item that didn’t originally appear on its agenda, but appears to be a first step in finally getting the Dox Building in downtown Hope taken down. The Hope City Board approved a $37,500 agreement to engage Texarkana firm, TEC, Inc., to perform the take down of the structure.
• Following up on the highly successful 2016 Chamber banquet, which saw an appearance from Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, this year’s annual Chamber dinner proved to be just as successful as another record crowd jammed Hempstead Hall on Monday night and saw an inspiring speech from Lt. Governor Tim Griffin.
• Unity Baptist Church’s Jay Pollan was named as the Chamber’s 2017 Citizen of the Year. Per tradition, Pollan was introduced and given his award from the 2016 winner Steve Lance.
• Frank Sinatra tribute artist Tom Tiratto said he has been singing the songs of Sinatra since he was eight years old, and he hasn’t stopped since, eventually developing a career over a 50-year span.
• The Hope Payless ShoeSource store, a long- time fixture in the Arkansas Shopping Center at 1301 N Hervey, will close in approximately six weeks and five local employees will lose their jobs. The store is currently open and liquidating its inventory, according to signage on the store front.
• Principals in the latest edition of the annual UAHT Hope Lions Club Community Fish Fry said the event was successful citing both funds raised, turn out and weather.
• The Hope Fire Department responded to a call shortly after 6 p.m. Friday. Responders attempted to keep the fire at Kids ‘r’ Us, 1303 South Hervey Street, contained to one building, which was engulfed in flames and a total loss. At approximately 7 p.m. attempts to suppress the blaze were thwarted when heat caused fire to spread from the first structure’s roof to the adjacent building’s roof, which is also part of the day care center property. At 7:17 p.m., fire fighters were still working to contain the blaze.
The week of April 12:
• The newly formed Hope Downtown Network, as the new association is calling itself, elected its new officers at a special meeting on Tuesday night attended by an overflow crowd of 50 persons, and it also fell into its first controversy over the continued use of the Graves property in downtown Hope.
• The Hempstead Republican Party held its 2017 Lincoln Luncheon on Saturday, April 8 at Hempstead Hall. Over 150 people showed up for the local GOP celebration and heard from several local, regional and state GOP figures and two headline speakers. Nationally acclaimed conservative speaker Iverson Jackson of Little Rock gave a spirited oratory at the luncheon, emphasizing personal freedom and responsibility.
• Multiple big events are all happening the weekend of May 5-6, the Hope Tourism Commission heard at its Thursday meeting as the downtown Train Days and Trade Days, a Trace Adkins concert, Hempstead Relay for Life, and a Cinco De Mayo festival at the Bill Clinton House all occur within the same 48-hour Friday/Saturday period.
• Local Vietnam-era Veteran Jay F. Kopecky testifies at a special VA hearing tour on Wednesday at Hempstead Hall as US Senator John Boozman, a member of the Senate VA Committee, listens. Kopecky was among 16 other local Veterans who were invited to the hearing.
The week of April 19:
• The Hope City Board saw another capacity crowd on Tuesday night, acting easily on two matters, but struggling with two matters related to Hope’s downtown, specifically a proposed $12,000 flower bed and $3,000 towards further development of a controversial Farmer’s Market Pavillon at the Graves property site. Farmer’s Market Manager Jodi Coffee, who is the wife of Ward 5 Board member Trevor Coffee, addressed the Board, and she specifically asked for three items, a Memorandum of Agreement from the City, a groundbreaking ceremony, movement on proposed Architect drawings.
• A longtime, and almost revered, country and pop music legend, Ronnie Milsap, literally sings during a Tuesday media conference call, and says “I’m ready to go. I’m ready to be in Hope, Arkansas, and it’s gonna be an outstanding show because my band is so good. I’ve got the best band with me ever.”
• In a Monday early afternoon press release is- sued almost 24 hours after the event, the Hope Police announced a continuing investigation into a shooting involving two juveniles at the old Western Sizzlin’ building in the early morning hours of Easter Sunday. As of Tuesday night as the Hope Star was preparing for press, there had been no new public statements or arrests on either the Easter gunfire or the stabbing, which apparently resulted in a death, and no new information was disclosed at Tuesday night’s Hope City Board meeting.
• Leadership of the Latino Heritage Museum, Eddie Garcia, secretary, Porfirio Gutierrez, president and Jaun Rivera, treasurer, plan to host a Cinco de Mayo Festival at the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site Saturday, May 6. The group says plans are underway to establish a Latino Heritage Museum in Hope.
• Two key officers of Hempstead County, the County Judge and County Clerk, are all ready in GOP hands; if State Republican Field Director Alex Roundtree has his way, pretty soon more county-level officers will be joining.
• The University of Arkansas-Hope held its 2017 spring piano recital Thursday night, just prior to the headline performance of Concert Pianist Scott Carrell at Hempstead Hall. Ten UAHT and local concur- rent students of Allen Batts gave five-minute solo sets before a gallery of 40 listeners ranging from tradition piano classics like Choplin to contemporary selections like a version of the Cantina Band theme from Star Wars.
• Back in February, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson had signed a Proclamation for “Reentry Awareness Week” for April 24-30; now Reentry Officer Susan Honore of the Arkansas Community Correction (ACC) is seek- ing to make good on the Governor’s words, establishing a first-of-its kind Job Fair for the southwestern Arkansas region.
The week of April 26:
• In one of the less publicized, but significant events of April 18 Hope City Board Meeting, the Directors approved a Memorandum of Agreement with the Hope Evening Lions to take over the old State Police Headquarters building on Hwy. 67 East near Southern Bakery at the request of Richard Wade, who is serving as the group’s president.
• Saturday, May 6 is shaping up to be one of the most active weekends in recent memory as five major local events happen. Train Day, Trade Days, Relay for Life, Cinco de Mayo, and Country Artist Trace Adkins all converge to fill up a 48- hour period from Friday, May 5 into Saturday night.
• Hannah Kincheloe, a student at the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana, has been named a 2017 Coca-Cola New Century Scholar.
• In fairly short order Thursday, the Hempstead County Quorum Court had brief discussions of funds, a Sheriff’s request, and a very brief report on the Farmer’s Bank trans- action before finishing within a half-hour, a stark departure from their more recent meetings, which have run an hour or more.
• Over 250 members of Lions Club International from across Arkansas are in Hope this weekend for the group’s State Convention. Two years in the making, the Hope Lions Club is the hosting organization with Hempstead Hall being the center of activities throughout the weekend. Getting started Friday with committee meetings and Ronnie Milsap’s concert drawing over 1,400 fans, Saturday will include a proclamation, a fish fry, workshops and a Lions formal black tie dinner.
The week of May 3:
• If any one theme emerged at Tuesday night’s two-hour plus Hope City Board meet- ing, it was the unknown. There were perspective unknown land buyers for unknown prices, an unknown 27-minute Executive Session about unknown personnel issues, and what was known, like a drop-off in city sales tax collections so far this year was treated with very little alarm or concern.
• Jodi Coffee, the manager of the Hope Farmer’s Market, returned to address the City Board and request another Memorandum of Agreement on the Graves property as she did the previous month, but this time she, and others in the room, were greeted with news of a “possible interested entity” in purchasing the property, and she was told to wait another 30 days by Mayor Steve Montgomery.
• With state legislators back in Little Rock this week for the called special session, District 3 State Representative Danny Watson, who represents both Nevada and Hempstead counties, said that legislators still had work to do and tough issues to face during a speech at a Hope-based political dinner.
• The Hempstead County Relay for Life’s 2017 campaign is in its stretch run with it annual Survivor’s Banquet tomorrow at Hempstead Hall, followed by the main Relay for Life event itself on Friday night, running from 6 p.m. to 12 midnight.
• The University of Arkansas at Hope held its 2017 year-end luncheon in a joint session with its Board of Visitors meeting before a capacity crowd of 200 at Hempstead Hall on the UA-Hope campus on Friday afternoon.
• A “Fabulous Friday” in Hope featured two distinct, but equally important celebrations. The 20th annual Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society got off to a roaring start early Friday evening as an initial gathering of 200 got the six-hour marathon event rolling. Across town, earlier in the afternoon, the University of Arkansas at Hope also saw 200 folks gather for a joint session of the Board of Visitors and the end of the year Faculty and Staff awards luncheon.
• An estimated 150 persons, including 54 cancer survivors, attended the Relay For Life Survivor Banquet at Hempstead Hall on Thursday night, breaking last year’s then-attendance record of 80, and emphasizing 2017 as a banner year for the event and the community effort.
• Mark Wilcox, an EMS instruc- tor, was named as 2017 UA-Hope Faculty member of the year.
• The 2017 UA Community Spirit Service award was presented to Bernice McDonald, a staff assistant in the Registrar’s office.
The week of May 10:
• From the get-go Saturday, Country music superstar Trace Adkins brought his bigger than life presence to a bigger than life show as he roared out a thunderous version of his hit “Songs About Me” for one of the most exciting and anticipated concerts ever seen in southwest Arkansas.
• Saturday, May 6 in Hope proved to live up the claim of a “red letter day” in the town’s recent history as major events were happening throughout downtown and topped off later in the evening at Hempstead Hall with a record-breaking Trace Adkins concert. Train Day, Trade Days, and Cinco de Mayo were the toast of the day attracting hundreds of persons to downtown Hope, following a successful outing at Relay for Life the night before.
• In a luncheon speech to the Hope Rotary Club on Thursday, State Senator Larry Teague (D- Nashville) said the past legislative session was as challenging and contentious as he has ever seen.
• Hope’s Unity Baptist Church celebrated its AWANA Awards in a two-hour ceremony on Wednesday night. AWANA kids from age groups two-years to 6th graders received various achievement awards and certificates.
• The University of Arkansas at Hope Community College's Class of 2017 received their diplomas before another capacity crowd of 2,000 parents, grandparents, relatives and friends overflowing throughout Hempstead Hall Tuesday night.
The week of May 17:
• In what proved to be somewhat of a preliminary to more possibly consequential meetings happening today, the Hope City Board on Tuesday had its shortest session on record this year, approving a police grant and a city surplus auction before quickly adjourning.
• The past week proved to be graduation week throughout Hempstead County as the area’s two biggest school districts celebrated high school commencement exercises at Hempstead Hall, both occasions packed with parents, relatives, friends and well-wishers. On Friday, May 12, Hope High School held its high school graduation, and on the following week night, Monday, May 15, Spring Hill High School graduated its Senior class.
• On Thursday afternoon, the Hope Tourism Commission approved a $10,000 renewal of its Watermelon Festival concert sponsorship for this year’s act, Country Star Joe Diffie, who is set to perform Saturday, August 12.
• For the first time in school history, Spring Hill's diamond teams of the Bears baseball and Lady Bears softball squads are both in Fayetteville today to compete for Class 2A state championships. The Lady Bears will be making their third consecutive trip back to Bogle Park looking to three-peat in another title defense. For the Bears, it's their first time to make the trip to Fayetteville to play for the state baseball title at Baum Stadium.
The week of May 24:
• It was officially a historic day for all Bears fans in Fayetteville on Saturday May 20 as the Spring Hill Bears baseball team captured their first ever state championship at Baum Stadium. The Bears shut out St. Joseph Bulldogs 5-0 with pure overall play offensively and defensively to secure victory in their first ever state championship game.
• Blevins High School graduated 41 seniors in the Class of 2017 before a crowd of over 1,000 parents, grandparents, relatives and friends jammed into Hempstead Hall Friday night in the last of a string of graduations on the UA Hope cam- pus throughout the month of May.
• Garrett Memorial Christian School graduated 14 seniors, nearly triple the size of 2016’s class, on Sunday afternoon before a standing room crowd of over 400 at the Garrett Memorial Gymnasium.
• In keeping pace with reader and advertiser preferences, the Hope Star is changing again, too, as the Saturday morning edition will start publishing a day earlier, moving to Fridays, effective June 9.
• District 6 Justice Lynn Montgomery will head a special Trash Collection committee of the Hempstead Quorum Court to examine garbage collection options for the county. The committee is charged with looking at new county trash bins for the residents.
• The Fifth Annual ROC Fest was all about kid-friendly fun Friday afternoon in the hours just after the books closed on the 2016-17 school year. Held this year at Hope’s Fair Park, music, games, rides, treats, and good weather provided the perfect way for local school-aged kids start summer. Sponsored by Hope’s Rainbow of Challenges, the carnival also serves as one of ROC’s fundraisers to enhance therapy and programming services for area children and adults with developmental disabilities, according to executive director Scott Jester.
The week of May 31:
• Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson made a midday swing through Hope Tuesday afternoon, both doing some old-fashioned hand-shaking at the Tailgater’s in downtown and speaking at the dedication of the new District Veterans Service office at the Arkansas Workforce Center on Smith Road off Highway 29 North.
• Hempstead County Library Director Courtney McNiel and her party, including her husband Eric, and Brandon and Kacey Barrington, saw Hutchinson up close and personal as he dropped by their table for a chat.
• The Hope Farmer’s Market was back to business after the Memorial Day holiday with nine vendors and Jodi Coffee opening the market on Tuesday morning. Also on hand was Terri James, of the Hempstead County UA Extension Service, who had a special booth, serving up samples of a special Summer Italian Vegetable mix.
• As the Hempstead County Relay for Life, a nationally known fundraising effort for the American Cancer Society, just celebrated its 20th year in Hope, its longtime chair person is reaching out to Prescott and Nevada County with the idea that the 21st anniversary of the event may just be a combined “Mega Relay.”
• A documented purchase of a pickup truck valued at $64,786 by Hempstead County Judge Haskell Morse on April 25 has raised the ire of some citizens, while concerning some members of the Quorum Court about the price and source of payment, which came out of county road funds.
• As a result of a series of meetings held by the Hope Water & Light Commission during May, Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) will apparently become more involved with the city- owned utility in a de- scribed “partnership” to enhance electric service.
• Following a visit by Governor Asa Hutchinson last Tuesday, this Monday another state officer, Treasurer Dennis Milligan, will be in Hope, delivering a speech at a luncheon hosted by the Hope Lions Club.
The week of June 7:
• In an emotional, sometimes testy, meeting given to calls for justice and fairness as well as threats of boycotts and implications of loose ethics, the Hope City Board voted 4-2 to authorize the City Attorney to draw up a standard Memorandum of Agreement between the City of Hope and the Hope Farmer’s Market before another packed house Tuesday.
• A lunch time capacity crowd of 60 jammed into the Amigo Juan banquet room Monday to hear State Treasurer Dennis Milligan discuss state finance, college funding, and his office’s role in state government.
• A burger, known on the menu at Hope’s Tailgater’s Restaurant as the Applewood Bacon Cheeseburger, has won a national acclaim as one of the country’s 50 best, according to one national food website.
• Overshadowed by the Farmer’s Market debate Tuesday was the other big news from that night, when City Manager Catherine Cook announced to the Hope City Board that current Hope Police Chief J.R. Wilson would be elevated as the new Assistant City Manager.
• Hope Public Schools District Accounts Payable Administrator Cecilia Walden re- tires after 37 years on June 30.
The week of June 14:
• Former Miss Hempstead County Micheyla Leigh Nealy could soon be very well-known in television, magazines, or billboards of the future. Nealy is seeking the Miss Arkansas USA title in Fort Smith in October.
• An overflow crowd jammed Hope City Hall on Tuesday night for a public hearing on a proposed Outdoor Recreation grant, and while expressed opinions leaned towards dedicating the grant towards the building of an outdoor Pavillon, those in attendance were also advised that the grant was reimbursable, meaning the City of Hope and citizens are going to have ante up the funds up front.
• The old saying “What’s old is new again” certainly applies to Hope’s two area Miss Arkansas contestants as both Brooke Cornelius and Suzie Gresham enter Little Rock this week as pageant veterans and favorites.
• In a capacity luncheon of 75 persons at the Hope Lions Club on Monday, District 10 State Senator Larry Teague (D-Nashville) touted a possible elimination of the state’s income tax as part of policy speech discussing mostly financial issues. Teague also informally stated his intentions to seek reelection for another term as state senator.
• The Tourism Commission got its first look at a concept sign Thursday afternoon to replace the fondly remembered “Hope: A Slice of the Good Life” one that stood on the side of Lynn Heckman’s Hope Outdoor Power & Equipment building at 217 E 3rd. the past couple of years.
• The gym at Hope’s Unity Baptist Church was been turned into a mega garage sale as its 15 annual Youth Sale fundraiser kicked off earlier today at 7 a.m. Running until 3 p.m. this afternoon and again Saturday from 7 a.m. to 12 noon, the fundraiser’s co- ordinator Doreen Antley said 45 youth and adults put together the event, and typically 500 visitors will show up over the two- day period.
The week of June 21:
• Despite legal concerns expressed by local attorney Blake Montgomery, the Hope City Board unanimously passed a five-year pact with the Hope Farmer’s Market on Tuesday night, which guarantees the participating farmers exclusive use of the Graves property and adjacent parking for two days a week.
• Included in the unanimous vote was Board Director Trevor Coffee; his wife Jodi Coffee is the Farmer’s Market manager, who will sign agreement as a representative of the market, according to the copy of the document obtained by the Hope Star.
• Clovy Keaster was honored as the 2017 Hempstead County Farm Family of the Year on Wednesday, June 14. Keaster owns and operates the Keaster Farms, which occupy 335 acres of land outside of Ozan and specializes in cattle.
• Right on the heels of July 4, another worthy celebration will be happening in Hope as the Henry Yerger High School 17th Reunion runs the rest of week from July 5-8. Yerger reunions, which have traditionally taken place every two years, have attracted hundreds of alumni back into Hope, filling hotel rooms and restaurants.
• The Hempstead County Quorum Court let its displeasure be known Thursday night over the purchase of a County Judge’s truck by Haskell Morse as well as the county’s “Catastrophic Leave” policy, an extra paid employee benefit above and beyond conventional paid vacation and sick days that most private section workers receive.
• In a local case worthy of the classic television show Unsolved Mysteries, the apparent disappearance of then 58-year-old Joseph Christopher Cowart of Hope has his daughter, now living in North Carolina, wondering if he will ever be found or what became of him. Jackie Neumann, now a 38-year old mother and nurse, said she suspects foul play may have occurred.
• Maurice Henry has been named director of transportation and facilities for the Hope Public Schools. Henry has been employed by the district since 1982, and served as custodial services supervisor immediately prior to his appointment to the new position.
The week of June 28:
• George Smith, a former editor of the Hope Star now living in Sutton, has expanded his footprint in the region being named as executive director of the Southwest Arkansas Arts Council.
• The April 25 purchase of a pickup truck valued at $64,786 by Hempstead County Judge Haskell Morse, which was the source of considerable contention at the June 22 Quorum Court meeting, is still the source of discussion throughout the county a week later.
• Estimated crowds of between 200 and 450 attended the initial “Summer in the City” event Saturday afternoon sponsored by the Hope Downtown Network, even as one component of the day’s activities, Trade Days, was cancelled due to concerns about rain.
• Hope Schools Facilities and Transportation Administrative Secretary Gail Grant completed her 37-year tenure with the Hope Public Schools on June 30.
• Steve Bradshaw, Hope Public Schools assistant superintendent for transportation and facilities, retires from the district after 37 years of service in a multiplicity of responsibilities for the HPS.
• Danny Watson says state legislators may see special session sooner than later.