The Hope Watermelon Festival is among a group of finalists for the 2018 Class of the Arkansas State Food Hall of Fame as recognized by the Department of Arkansas Heritage, Hope Chamber Director Beckie Moore announced at Wednesday's Board of Directors meeting.

The Hope Watermelon Festival is among a group of finalists for the 2018 Class of the Arkansas State Food Hall of Fame as recognized by the Department of Arkansas Heritage, Hope Chamber Director Beckie Moore announced at Wednesday’s Board of Directors meeting.
Moore said, “This is very exciting news; it is a great feather in our caps to be included in the Hall of Fame field of finalists. This is great publicity for the Watermelon Festival.”
“We are a finalist in the Food-Themed Event that makes us a contender for the Food Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony for Hall of Fame will take place on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock,” she said.
Moore added that the Hall of Fame reception starts at 5:30 p.m. followed by the induction ceremony at 6:15 p.m. She said that tickets are $20 per person, and they must be reserved no later than February 26.
The Hope Watermelon Festival is a finalist in the Food-Themed Event classification, and other faces formidable finalists in the category including the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival (Bradley County), the International Greek Food Festival (Pulaski County), the Gillett Coon Supper (Arkansas County), and the World Championship Duck Gumbo Cook Off (Arkansas County).
The Department of Arkansas Heritage launched the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame in 2016 to recognize Arkansas’s legendary restaurants, proprietors and food-themed events across the state, according to a statement from Stacy Hurst, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.
Hurst said a total of 450 submissions were received from 40 counties across the state for the 2018 Class of the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame, which is the Hall’s second induction group.
“We’re so pleased to see the public support for this program continue to grow. We look forward to many years of celebrating Arkansas’s unique food traditions,” Hurst said.
The four other categories are Arkansas Food Hall of Fame, Proprietor of the Year, People’s Choice, and Gone But Not Forgotten. Other finalists include:
• Arkansas Food Hall of Fame 2018 finalists are:
Franke’s Cafeteria of Little Rock (Pulaski County), Feltner’s Whatta-Burger of Russellville (Pope County), Doe’s Eat Place of Little Rock (Pulaski County), Kream Kastle of Blytheville (Mississippi County), McClard’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant of Hot Springs (Garland County), Bruno’s Little Italy of Little Rock (Pulaski County), White House Cafe of Camden (Ouachita County), Ed Walker’s Drive-In of Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Neal’s Café of Springdale (Washington County), Dixie Pig of Blytheville (Mississippi County), The Venesian Inn of Tontitown (Washington County) and DeVito’s of Eureka Springs (Carroll County).
• 2018 Proprietor of the Year finalists are:
Mary Beth Ringgold of Little Rock (Pulaski County), Capi Peck of Little Rock (Pulaski County), Scott McGehee of Little Rock (Pulaski County), Matt McClure of Bentonville (Benton County).
• The “Gone But Not Forgotten” finalists include:
Jacques and Suzanne of Little Rock (Pulaski County), Klappenbach Bakery of Fordyce (Dallas County), Coy’s Steak House of Hot Springs (Garland County), and Cotham’s Mercantile in Scott (Pulaski County).
Hurst also said “The People’s Choice Award has been chosen solely based on the number of nominations for a particular restaurant, so there are no finalists and the winner
will be announced at the induction ceremony.”
The 13-member selection committee included Paul S. Austin, Evette Brady, C.C. (Chip) Culpepper, Cindy Grisham, Stacy Hurst, Montine McNulty, Tim Morton, Rex Nelson, Tim Nutt, Kat Robinson, Christina Shutt, and Bennett and Lisa Speer.