Hempstead Hall hosted another capacity crowd on Monday night the Hope Chamber of Commerce banquet, which saw plenty of familiar faces, both speaking and receiving the community's biggest awards.

Hempstead Hall hosted another capacity crowd on Monday night the Hope Chamber of Commerce banquet, which saw plenty of familiar faces, both speaking and receiving the community’s biggest awards.
For 2018 Educator of the Year, UAHT Chancellor Chris Thomson was named, while in a first-time occurrence, “Citizens of the Year” Jerry and Twyla Pruden were recognized, and in a revival of the “Business of the Year,” another set of familiar faces, Wendel and Kay McCorkle, along with their daughter Bitsy Carter, of Hope Floral, got the 2018 award.  Carter also did double-duty as a piano player during Arnetta Bradford’s rendition of “Find Us Faithful.”
Of course, the event also marked a homecoming for the night’s keynote speaker, Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty, III, who was introduced by former Hope Mayor and former Hope High classmate Dennis Ramsey.
McLarty’s speech was themed about “remembering Hope’s past,” “embracing the present,’ and “imagining and claiming the future.”
McLarty noted that recent times have not always been easy, saying “There is a feeling that Hope plateaued in 2008, and then the Great Recession hit, but today, there is a modest breeze our backs.  There is investment in downtown. There has been the investment by SWEPCO, New Millennium, and others, too many to mention.”
Chamber Director Beckie Moore said, “The theme of the evening was ‘Imagine, 80 years of service,” and from the opening ceremony to the closing song, the theme resonated throughout.”
“What a joy it was to hear from Mack McLarty. His speech was on point. He allowed us to ‘remember when’ and then encouraged us to move forward,” she said.
In his acceptance speech, Thomason credited his team at the university, saying “This wasn’t just one person. I have a great team behind me, and together, we’ve been able to lift the mission of the university in serving our students.”
Jerry and Twyla Pruden took the stage together, and in brief comments, Jerry Pruden credited his wife, Twyla, and said they were honored by the award.
More familiar faces as well as new ones abounded.  Former Congressman and Governor’s candidate Mike Ross, formerly of Prescott, was in attendance as was current Democratic Governor’s candidate Jerad Henderson.
Also honored during the three-hour ceremony was retiring United Way director Paula Pack as well as the top business contributors to the Hempstead United Way.
2017 Chamber President Mitch Bobo was also recognized as were outgoing and current members of the Hope/Hempstead Chamber of Commerce Board.
2018 Chamber President Rodney Orr presided over the annual banquet and meeting with Moore. Bradford also performed a closing solo, “Go Light Your World.”
Moore said, “The chamber appreciates the 500-plus community-minded individuals who came together in a place called Hope.”