Hope Tourism Commission approves budget for Solar Express
The Hope Advertising and Tourist Promotion Commission met for their September meeting last night and furthered plans for the solar eclipse event in 2024 called Solar Express. 

Parks Superintendent/Commission Secretary Summer Powell said that after she and City Manager J.R. Wilson had explored the options, they concluded that having the main event at the airport, similar to Sparks Fly in July, was the best route to take. She also said that to promote tourism for the area, they would make this a three-day event with shopping and concerts taking place in other areas of town on the Saturday and Sunday leading up to the eclipse. 

During a discussion regarding anticipated attendance for this event, member and Hope Mayor Don Still said that at an Arkansas Municipal League meeting, mayors from other towns residing in previous eclipse paths shared with him the large numbers of tourists who attend eclipse events. Member Charlton Luker said the motels already have 50 percent booking for this April event. 

Powell said she had begun pricing items like port-a-potties, inflatables, and paper glasses, and she asked the commission what kind of budget they had in mind for this event. After a brief discussion, the commission approved a budget of $15,000 with the option to adjust later if needed.   

Ashley Moore, from the CJRW advertising agency based in Little Rock, presented for the commission’s consideration an advertisement package that would showcase Hope’s tourism spots in both print and digital mediums like the Arkansas Adventure Guide, the Arkansas Travel Guide, the Arkansas.com website, and more. Commission Chair Sharon Caldwell introduced Moore and said the commission has worked with CJRW for the last few years. Moore displayed for commission members examples of how CJRW has previously promoted Hope’s assets and local destinations. She said part of the funding for this package is paid for by Arkansas Great Southwest so the total cost for the commission would be $12,107.50. Commission members voted on and approved to continue a contract with CJRW. 

In other business, Powell updated the commission on those businesses with unpaid A&P taxes and the start of the revised penalty procedure. She said packets of information with the ordinance and an explanation of the procedure were sent to every business, and those who were behind on payment of their taxes got a personal call from Powell. Still and fellow member Trevor Coffee both asked about the next steps for those businesses who are months behind. Wilson said now that the procedure is in place, all seven of the business who are 60 days or more behind will get the certified letters explaining their penalties, due dates for payment, and intent of the commission to take the next step of permit revocation should the businesses not pay the back A&P taxes. 

Before the close of the meeting, Still asked fellow commission members to consider possibilities for placing a sign in the public parking lot across from Atwoods and behind the Klipsch museum. He said many people still are unaware that the lot is public access. Coffee asked fellow members to consider ways to address parking near the soccer and ball fields now that all the other upgrades like lighting have been completed, and Powell reported registration has almost doubled this year for leagues. Fellow commission members expressed agreement that both of these issues should be addressed in the near future.