Hope-Hempstead Chamber Banquet gets motivation from David Bazzel, presents awards, announces Melon Fest concert performer

Morning Mayhem host and Razorback legend David Bazzel gives a motivational speech at the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce Banquet Monday night.

The Hope-Hempstead Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet took place Monday night in Hempstead Hall. The program itself started at 6 p.m. and included a recognition of chamber leadership, volunteers and sponsors. The keynote speech was by Arkansas broadcaster David Bazzel. Then awards were given for distinguished citizens, businesses and a nonprofit.

Near the end of the program, the headliner for the Hope Watermelon Festival Saturday night Concert was announced.

The opening ceremony began promptly at 6 p.m. with Scouts Troop 5 presenting the colors for a pledge of allegiance said by hundreds of attendees standing next to their assigned tables. Following this, Arnetta Bradford, owner of HeBrews 11:1, along with Bitsy Carter, owner of Hope Floral sang the National Anthem. Then a prayer was said by Maurice Henry, Chamber Board Vice President.

After a welcome from Chamber Executive Director Christy Burns and Chamber Board President Charlotte Bradley, the several sponsors were thanked in their respective categories. Lance and Associates Real Estate was the Presenting Sponsor. Twenty-five sponsors in all were named. Sheba’s Restaurant was thanked for catering the event.

Among the elected officials recognized and applauded for attending were State Senators Steve Crowell and Jimmy Hickey (of Texarkana) and State Representative Danny Watson.

The 2023 Board of Directors of the Chamber stood for recognition by Bradley. Next came the recognition of the 2023 Chamber Ambassadors by Trevor Moses, Chamber Ambassador Coordinator.

Then Steve Lance of Lance and Associates introduced the keynote speaker David Bazzel, current host of Morning Mayhem on 103.7 The Buzz, a radio station in Little Rock. A Razorback linebacker from 1981-85, perhaps his most memorable performance came against Bo Jackson’s Auburn team in the 1984 Liberty Bowl when Bazzel notched 15 tackles and won the broadcasting crew’s MVP.  

Since then he has built a broadcasting and spokesperson career that has made him a household word.  Lance said, “What I can tell you is that he's real, what you see is what you get. He's the real deal. He's always smiling. He's positive, He's enthusiastic. He's got great attitude. And that's contagious. You're going to love him tonight.” Right before Bazzel took the podium, Lance led the room in a Hog call.

Bazzel said he recorded the hog call on his phone to send University of Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek to show that in Hope, “you are living right.”  Bazzel spoke on the need to have pride in one’s community, naming the several ways Hope has contributed to state government, manufacturing and, in the case of Pafford, emergency services now in five states.

He invoked the name of John S. Gibson, the founder of the Hope Watermelon Festival, who began holding weigh-in contests in 1926. “If only they could have seen what that would become,” Bazzel said.

Bazzel told the story of his being recruited to Arkansas by Lou Holtz from Panama City, Florida in 1981. At the time Bazzel says he prayed to be recruited by a school located in a place where he could be active in the community after his playing career finished.  He told about an especially savored win against Texas when the Longhorns were number one and Arkansas was number 18.

Bazzel also told of his life after football, his difficulty accepting hearing someone say they were bored, the virtue of asking questions, the lesson imparted by Michael Jordan’s foray into minor league baseball and his meeting an Veterans Administration volunteer holding a potted plant late at night in an elevator. Bazzel closed by observing that when you give with no expectation of anything it returned, “it’s very very powerful.”

After Bazzel’s speech, the applause was long. The next several minutes were devoted to the giving out of awards, with last year’s winners introducing this year’s, with the exception of the first award announced, which is not given every year. 

Chamber board president Bradley awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award to the late Roy Turner, principal at Beryl Henry, much of whose family was present and invited to the front of the room. Hope Bobcats coach Phil Turner, a cousin of Roy’s, accepted the award, saying Roy had been the pillar of the Turner family. Hope Superintendent Jonathan Crossley announced Roy would be inducted into the Hope School District’s Educators’ Hall of Fame this fall.

The Citizen of the Year for 2022, Jesse Henry awarded the 2023 Award to Sharon Caldwell, owner of Tailgaters Burger Company. Henry praised Caldwell as embodying servant leadership, making herself available in multiple ways to help her community and mentoring her younger employees.

Educator of the Year for 2023 was awarded to Karen Townsend, who has served as teacher for 32 years. Currently, she is a Special Education teacher at Yerger Middle School and serves on multiple committees to make sure the school provides the best education possible.  Last year’s award winner, Jackie Phillips Brady, presented the award.

Lance & Associates Real Estate was named 2023 Business of the Year. Bren Yocom, General Manager of SWARK.Today, last year’s winner, called Lance & Associates Real Estate matchmakers in that they match the perfect home to prospective buyers.

The Junior Auxiliary of Hope, winner of the 2022 Nonprofit of the Year awarded this year’s award to Hope ConneXion, described as a “volunteer-led organization that provides a hand-up and not a hand-out.” Among its functions is a facility for the homeless open 24 hours a day, a safe-space for teens, help for ex-inmates and those struggling with addictions.

The Young Leadership Award for 2023 went to Hope High School senior and UAHT student Anthony Hall, who was cited by Mikki Curtis on behalf of Huck Plyler (Huck was unable to attend last night but chose his Mikki Curtis to present this year’s award) as “a leader among his peers in every capacity.” Baseball, football, tennis, quiz bowl, Upward Bound, the National Honor Society and Phi Beta Kappa are among his extracurricular activities.  He works at Pafford Medical services, too.  “He will graduate with not only a high school diploma, but also a certificate of proficiency and coding from here at UAHT and an associate of arts degree,” Curtis said.

With the awards given, there was but two tasks left, to reveal the logo and tagline for the next Watermelon Festival and reveal the headliner for Hope Watermelon Festival’s August 12 concert. On the three video screens in the banquet room a video was shown revealing the new logo with tagline "A Seed-spittin' good time." Then the video announced the entertainment would be none other than Southern rock pioneers, the Marshall Tucker Band, a multi-platinum album selling outfit originating in Spartanburg, South Carolina and putting out hits like “Can’t You See,” “Fire on the Mountain,” “Ramblin’,” and “Heard It in a Love Song.”

The banquet closed with a second performance by Arnetta Bradford and Bitsy Carter, of time of “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” made famous by Hillsong United.

Dr. Roy Turner, the late Principal of Beryl Henry Elementary, won a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. His cousin and Hope Bobcats football coach Phil Turner speaks in acceptance of the award.

  • Sharon Caldwell is 2023's Citizen of the Year, standing next to presenter Jesse Henry, 2022's Citizen of the Year.

  • Bren Yocom, center, representing 2022 Business of the Year SWARK.Today, presents the 2023 Business of the Year Award to Lance & Associates.

  • Karen Townshend, at right, is 2023 Educator of the Year. The award was presented by 2022's Educator of the Year, Jackie Phillips Brady.

  • Nonprofit of the Year is Hope Connexion, presented by members of the 2022 Nonprofit of the Year Hope Junior Auxiliary.

  • Anthony Hall, at right, winner of 2023's Young Leadership Award, stands next to Mikki Curtis, representing 2022's winner Huck Plyler.