By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
An unseasonably warm and humid November evening in Hope saw “Super Thursday” draw traffic across three venues, two in downtown and one at the Fair Park Coliseum, as a Christmas Open House, Holiday Art Bazaar, and the 69th annual Lions Club Auction all commenced here Thursday.
At the downtown Art Depot, the Southwest Arkansas Arkansas Council’s entry on Thursday, the First Annual Holiday Bazaar, got off to a good start and will continue both Friday and Saturday, concurrent with the Lions Auction this year.
Thursday’s Holiday Bazaar opening was a “slam dunk success,” according to George S. Smith, executive director.
Smith said, “We had a steady stream of shoppers from 10 a.m. to past 7 p.m. and our first day sales were outstanding.”
He credited members of the council’s board and volunteers for “making sure everyone felt welcome and provided information on items for sale.”
Smith also praised Tamara Read, gallery chairman, and her committee “for attending to every single detail that created a joyous and rewarding experience for our visitors.”
The Bazaar, featuring more than 20 artisans and collectible dealers, will continue from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Art Station at 200 East Division Street in Hope.
CHAMBER OPEN HOUSE
As early as 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon, a dozen or so shoppers and visitors were already venturing into downtown Hope’s Main Street and two hours later, that number swelled into several dozen as the Chamber’s Christmas Open House event commenced.
No only merchants and restaurants, but there were students from the Hope Academy of Public Service (HAPS) demonstrating Three-D printing by producing Christmas ornaments, riding lawn mowers on display on the city sidewalks, and plenty of moms, daughters and kids having fun.
The 2018 Open House also brought Open Horse Carriage rides on the streets of downtown Hope to the delight of many. Each participating merchant had cookies, drinks, and Christmas season decorations up.
Steven Russell of Inked Threads said, “Of course, I am located downtown; we are doing a Christmas Open House to welcome everyone down here to see the vendors and what we have to offer. We want to promote awareness of all the businesses we have down here.”
Concurrently to events in downtown Hope Thursday night, the 69th Annual Lions Auction kicked off with an estimated crowd of 175 persons in attendance with 102 bidders participating at Hope’s Fair Park Coliseum. On Friday and Saturday nights, crowds upwards of 300 have been commonplace and are expected again this year.
The familiar scene Thursday night featured loud and entertaining auctioneers, hundreds of visible items at the base of the coliseum stage, and the traditional Lions dinner tables, serving fresh food of all types to auction goers.
A live and silent auction goes on through all three nights. The larger items are open for bidding all three nights.
Back away from the main stage, children were busy playing on the Coliseum floor and decorating a giant-sized Christmas tree, while the adults were bidding.
Lion Mark Ross was again active in the proceedings, this year, assisting the auctioneers directly on the floor, and while taking a break, Ross bid on some items himself.
“With everything going on, we still had a good turnout with people participating and bidding,” he said.
The auction has been a long standing tradition for the Hope Lions Club as their largest fundraiser of the year. On Wednesday, as he was sorting out one of the many vacation packages, Ross said items were donated from a wide variety of local vendors as well as vendors and individual contributors from out of town.
He said, “The Hope Lions Club greatly appreciates all the donations from all businesses and donors.”
The traditional Hope Christmas Parade is scheduled for Monday, December 3 starting at 6 p.m. As of Thursday afternoon, Chamber Director Beckie Moore said, “We have the same number of floats we had last year, but some different ones. There is still time to enter by email between now and Saturday.”
Moore said Thursday that she anticipates the Hope High School Marching Band being able to both march and participate in the parade this year. In 2017, a heavy rain hit right at the scheduled start of the parade, and it continued to lightly rain during the motorcade itself.
SWARK Today will present an online live stream presentation of the parade on Monday.
Editor’s Note: Additional photos and video will be added to this report elsewhere on the site.