As compiled by Rick Kennedy, managing editor
In a special 12-part month-by-month series, SWARK Today presents a review of the top stories and news worthy events in both Hempstead and Nevada counties over the course of the calendar year of 2018. This installment looks at August 2018.
• The waning and sleepy days of late summer have not been either waning nor sleepy on the campus of UA Hope these days as an active construction zone can be observed at the university’s storied Rapert Library complex, right next door to Hempstead Hall. In a statement, UAHT Chancellor Chris Thomason said, “The Rapert Library stands as a reflection of our citizens’ past and present commitment to progress through education right here at home. The library is the cornerstone of the foundation that joins Hempstead County as a valuable member of the University of Arkansas System family.”
• In an hour-long district court hearing Wednesday in the Nevada County Courthouse in the M&M Wrecker and Service lawsuit against the all nine justices of the peace, special Judge Tom Cooper of Ashdown made two rulings, which essentially ended the case, pending a possible appeal.
• In the midst of the upcoming Watermelon Festival, Back to School week, and football season, other important happenings are also occurring in August; one such occasion is the 2018 Family Health Expo, which is currently making preparations for its annual big event at Hempstead Hall on August 25.
• Three 4-H alumna, including a former Miss Southwest District Fair from southwest Arkansas, are crediting their successes in the Miss Arkansas pageant program to life skills learned in the 4-H youth development program. In the region, Miss Southern Arkansas University, Reagan Grubbs of Delight, is also the reigning Miss Southwest District Fair, crowned in Hope last October.
• Back to tee off for another season on the golf course after working hard during several practices sessions has been Prescott golfers turning their focus to represent for year 2018. Last season, PHS golfers made some impressive noise on the golf course.
• Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson spoke with a room-capacity sized crowed at the Nevada County Library last Tuesday as part of his Rural Arkansas tour, and much of his speech as well as engaging the room with questions and answers was about economic development issues.
• Although local and regional weather forecasts have been calling for thunderstorms for this weekend, Beckie Moore, Executive Director of the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce, said the 2018 Hope Watermelon Festival is still good to go with various levels of contingencies planned.
• Umbrellas were the order of the day Thursday as the 42nd annual Hope Watermelon Festival was commencing at Hope’s Fair Park between the rain drops. Still, as in years before, those present were going about the business of transforming the park into a vendor’s mini city complete with just about any type of food to eat. Hope’s Bob Erwin, one of the few vendors Thursday who was not selling food, waxed philosophical saying, “Its rained on us before and we’ve been OK; we will be OK this time.”
• Hope’s own Terri Perkins will have a double-bill as this newest SWAAC exhibit will feature both her art in various media and her storied display of Elvis Presley memorabilia.
• With spots of rain bookending either side of it, the 42st Annual Hope Watermelon Festival ran its successfully ran its course last weekend with bigger crowds, more food, and more activities than ever before in recent memory. Although rains and a short thunderstorm had occurred opening day Thursday, the weather behaved much of Friday and Saturday.
• For the first time in years on a Friday night and back in Legion Field, the Mickey Gilley and Johnny Lee headline concert was a confirmed sellout, and an estimated 2,000 folks in and around the infield enjoyed a nostalgic and brisk two-hours that also included opening act Bobby Jewell and the 2018 Watermelon Idol winner Kendall Laughard of Prescott.
• Christmas proved to come early this year to the folks at Hope in Action, the area’s longtime food bank and homeless shelter operations, as members of Hope’s Lonoke Baptist Church arrived Thursday afternoon for a check presentation. The group’s leader, Norma Henry, presented two checks on Thursday, one for $1,000 to Mae Dulaney of the Hope in Action food bank, and one for $2,000 to Helen Byers, who oversees the Hope in Action homeless shelter down the road.
• As election season heats up, Fourth District U.S. Representative Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, will host “Coffee with your Congressman” event on Monday, August 27 at 4 p.m. at Hempstead Hall on the campus of UA Hope. Westerman held a similar event, also in August, in 2016 at the Hope Chamber of Commerce office.
• Making a impressive statement for their first taste of gridiron action for 2018, the Prescott Curley Wolves showcased dominance on both sides of the ball in a shutout victory against Class 4A Ashdown Panthers in scrimmage game action last Tuesday at Dick Hays Stadium in Ashdown.
• The Prescott Curley Cubs fans packed the stands at Cummins Stadium, Eddie Jackson Field to witness some exciting junior high football action in their Maroon, White game last Thursday. The Maroon team defeated the White team 20-8.
• Following a line of local eateries that have completely remodeled, rebuilt, and reopened over the past couple of years, a most dramatic transformation has been completed at the Hope McDonald’s, where open interiors and spaces are in vogue.
Looking inspired by classic mid-Century styles and architecture, the remodeled interior harkens back to late 1950s or early 60s-era lounges, restaurants, and airport grills complete with a soft background music benefiting of that time period.
• The Hope Coalition, originally established in 2003, is reorganizing and developing action plans on three strategic goals, according to information distributed by the group after its Wednesday meeting at Hempstead Hall earlier this week.
• An estimated crowd of 50 gathered at Hempstead Hall on Monday afternoon to see Fourth District U.S. Representative Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, as he delivered a number of updates and took questions from the crowd. Westerman’s speech mostly concerned the economy, and what he called “employment challenges” that are stalling the potential for further growth in the economy.
• Hundreds flocked Hempstead Hall on Saturday morning for the 2018 Family Health Expo, where a number of exhibits, games, and providers showcased services and healthy living. Among the highlights were the Mega Brain, which was a giant inflatable walk-in replica of a human brain, along with a live ambulance tour, a set of crash test dummies for CPR demonstrations, and plenty of healthy treats and personal health scans.
• A speech by incumbent US Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) in Hope on Monday caught the attention and drew the ire of his Democratic opponent, Hayden Shamel, also from Hot Springs, on Thursday. After she observed Westerman’s comments, Shamel issued a rebuttal statement of her own.
• Ruby Wicker was known and loved by many locals in Nevada County for years as the community columnist who wrote the Caney News for the Nevada County Picayune. Wicker, age 94, passed away Thursday, August 30, 2018 in Baptist Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas.