One year ago, five major local events had converged on the first weekend in May; in 2018, the now-6th annual Train Day in downtown Hope headlines the weekend, Saturday, May 5, mostly on its own, but will also bring many new elements — street vendors, a “Country Rock” concert, a petting zoo and 500 free hot dogs — to more than carry the day.

One year ago, five major local events had converged on the first weekend in May; in 2018, the now-6th annual Train Day in downtown Hope headlines the weekend, Saturday, May 5, mostly on its own, but will also bring many new elements — street vendors, a “Country Rock” concert, a petting zoo and 500 free hot dogs — to more than carry the day.
Sharon Caldwell, founder of Train Day and owner of downtown Hope’s Tailgater’s Restaurant, said “We are excited to make it to a 6th year, and we are excited to keep everything free for the kids and the families to enjoy the event.”
For example, Caldwell said the new “Petting Zoo,” coming in from Pine Bluff will be available to kids “absolutely free of charge” as will other attractions in the “Kid’s Corner” as she calls it, like the annual Bouncy House and Slide, Graffiti Train, Bubble College, bike rides, face painting, art projects, and downtown kids train rides.
Also new for 2018 will be a Dunking Tank, featuring members of the area’s Semi-Pro football team, the Silverbacks, going in the tank.    
Caldwell also said, “Of course, none of this happens without the support of our community, generous sponsors, and many, many volunteers. I am very thankful for all of the support. We couldn’t do this without them.”
The original Train Day was celebrated six years ago in honor of the national train system, AMTRAK, coming to Hope, and for Caldwell, whose Tailgater’s Restaurant is located right across the street, she saw an opportunity to continue the tradition.
“We wanted to continue the tradition, and we saw its potential as an annual festival to bring people into downtown,” she said.
Now, six years later, Train Day arrives again, and Caldwell said, “We are thankful and blessed, and we hope to evolve one day into two-day weekend festival. We are not there yet, but I think we can be there.”
While new attractions have been added, much of the core events of the past couple of years remain the same.  The schedule of activities include:
5K RUN/KIDS RUN
Downtown Hope starting at 7 a.m.
OPENING CEREMONY
A prayer led by Pastor Daniel Bramlett of Hope First Baptist at Division and Main Streets at 9 a.m.
DANCING
The Dancetastics dance studio will present a dance show featuring dancers of all ages, starting at 10 a.m.
BBQ   
A BBQ cook-off with over $2,500 in prizes will take place all day with the competitors selling rib plates for $8, which includes 3 ribs and a side of baked beans.  Rib cook-off winners will be announced at 5 p.m.
BAGGO TOURNAMENT
Baggo Tournament will begin on Main Street with winners being awarded cash prizes, starting at 3 p.m.
CONCERT
The Charlie Farley Band, also featuring Spring Hill’s Jason Helms, will perform in concert, beginning at 6:00 pm.
ALL DAY
Throughout the day, visitors may enjoy shopping in downtown Hope with a variety of outside vendors and live entertainment.
ELSEWHERE
Although not related to Train Day in downtown Hope, in nearby Blevins, the 32nd Annual Blevins Community Area-Wide Benefit Barbecue for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital is also scheduled for Saturday, May 5, 2018, at the Blevins High School Cafeteria. This year’s benefit will consist of Barbecue Beef, Pork, Chicken, Cole Slaw, Baked Beans, Potato Salad, Roll, Dessert and Drink.  The cost will be $5.00 for Adults and $2.50 for Children 12 and under. Serving time will start at 4:00 p.m. with carry-outs available.
And, nationally, Saturday, May 5, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated throughout the country; there was no word on any local or regional Cinco de Mayo events happening as Friday’s edition of the Hope Star was preparing for press.