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 September 2018.
• As local pageant season is underway, the annual Miss Hempstead County pageant commences on Saturday, Sept. 8 starting at 5 p.m. at Hope’s Fair Park Coliseum with 22 total contestants vying for nine different crowns. For the top crown, Miss Hempstead County, two contestants will be going head-to-head with Sarah Smith and Bailey Yocom facing each other.
• While the opening of Hope High School’s 2018 football season saw a 63-6 loss to Nashville, there was no shortage of fans, state media, pregame excitement, and ceremony to kick off the new campaign last Friday. A near capacity crowd welcomed new Bobcat Head Coach and 1997 HHS alumnus, Phillip Turner, and his 2018 Hope Bobcats at Hammons Stadium as the highlight of other pregame activities, which included an induction ceremony for the Hope Educator’s Hall of Fame, the annual Kiwanis Pancake Dinner, and a related induction reception Friday afternoon offsite at Hempstead Hall.
• On September 5, Gatehouse Media announced the closure of both the Hope Star and Nevada County Picayune newspapers. The Nevada County Picayune’s final published edition was Wednesday, Sept. 12, and the Hope Star’s final published edition was Friday, Sept. 14. The six full-time local Star and Picayune employees based at the Hope Star’s offices at 522 W. 3rd Street in Hope were laid off.
• Known to be the second longest continuous business in Hempstead County, the Hope Star ended its publication run after 145 years after various ownerships, locations and incarnations as an afternoon daily, and since 2016, a twice-weekly newspaper. Established in 1878, the weekly Nevada County Picayune was based in downtown Prescott at Elm and 2nd Street for years. After a March 2015 fire occurred in Prescott, the Picayune’s operations and staff were consolidated into Hope Star’s office at 522 W. 3rd Street in Hope.
• Themed as “Wild in the Barn” this year, the 2018 Nevada County Fair is ready for its two-week run, starting with the entry of select items and ending Sunday, Sept. 16 with final pickup and cleanup.
• Before an estimated crowd near 400 at Hope’s Fair Park Coliseum, the 2018 Miss Hempstead County Pageant saw Bailey Yocom overcome a slight case of tonsillitis in the days prior to pageant to join the storied and long list of Spring Hill girls to win the coveted crown on Saturday night.
• Hope downtown restaurant Tailgaters continues to add to its local lore of burger awards. After receiving national acclaim last year as a “Best Bacon Burger” from Delish.com, USA Today teaming up with TripAdvisor named the top-rated burger restaurants in every state, and Tailgaters won the award for Arkansas for 2018.
• Chronicling the travels of local businessman Daulton Brewer to Romania, the Calvary Baptist Church presented a special presentation on Sunday, Sept. 16 that highlighted Brewer’s “Hope for Soles” ministry.
• The University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana welcomed the largest group of students since the founding of the institution to the Hope and Texarkana campuses. An increase of 1.76 percent in headcount enrollment over last year brought a total of 1,563 students to UAHT. This year’s increase in enrollment set the record for the highest enrollment in the 53-year history of the college.
• The closure of 2018 Nevada County Fair week saw a pair of redemption stories emerge at the festive and crowded Miss Nevada County Pageant in Prescott on Saturday night before an estimated crowd of 120 at the Potlatch Building at the Fairgrounds. Two popular Prescott runner-ups from the 2017 pageant, Jamia Smith and Heavenly Zachary, took care of business in 2018, both looking seasoned, poised and confident in their respective competitions, captured the top two Miss Nevada crowns.
• After a 10-minute executive session Sept. 18, the Hope City Board of Directors rather quickly and quietly approved another contract renewal for City Manager Catherine Cook by a vote of 5-to-1 with Mark Ross being the lone dissenting vote as he was a year go. The 2018 version of the vote apparently ensures job security for Cook until the year 2020. As in previous years, there was no public explanation of benchmarks or justification for contract extension announced by Mayor Steve Montgomery or any other board member.
• Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Henderson brought his insurgent campaign to Hope, and stopped along the way at downtown Hope’s Tailgater’s restaurant, speaking with late lunchtime diners about the race. Henderson spent a good deal of time touting, “As governor, I want the best teachers for every child, make it easier to start a small business and improve rural health care,” as he made his way from table to table making his case against incumbent GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson.
• All the pageantry and fun of fall fair season continues in a big way with the 74th Annual Southwest Arkansas District Fair on tap, starting Tuesday, Sept. 25 and running thru Saturday, Sept. 29 at Fair Park in Hope. The annual official parade will kickoff the activities in downtown Hope starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Per tradition, the Southwest District Fair showcases exhibits, livestock and attractions from a 15-county area, that stretches from Saline County to Miller County, and of course, includes both Hempstead and Nevada counties.
• Following a long line of Gospel and Christian acts in Hope in recent years like Kingdom Heirs, Triumphant, the McKameys, Booth Brothers, Greater Vision, and Legacy Five, the storied Blackwood Quartet arrives at Hempstead Hall on Saturday, Sept. 22 to bring their message as part of a tour swing through Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana.
• Harkening back to a simpler and long ago time, the Leatherwoods delivered nostalgia on all fronts with their old-fashioned acoustical sounds in Hope’s Hempstead Hall on Sunday afternoon. Whether playing old standards like “Coming Around the Mountain” or the Gospel classic, “Amazing Grace,” the Bluegrass supergroup from Mountain View performed only with classic acoustical instruments.
• A pair of national outlets recently named a local restaurant as the state’s best as USA Today teaming up with TripAdvisor recognized the top-rated burger restaurants in all 50 states, and Tailgaters won the 2018 award in Arkansas. Sharon Caldwell, co-owner and principal operator of Tailgaters, said she learned of the USA Today/TripAdivisor honors when she received an unexpected phone call from northwestern Arkansas.
• The largest James Hayes art glass work ever created now suspends from the rotunda of Hempstead Hall on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Hope. “Visions of Harmony, Colors of Hope,” as it has been titled, is a custom-made 714-piece colorful art glass chandelier created by James Hayes.
• Jordan Jones, of Pike County emerged as the new Miss Southwest District Fair Queen, after sweeping nearly every category, and leaving little doubt that she would succeed outgoing Reagan Grubbs. In the Junior Miss competition, Victoria Franklin of Nevada County won over the largest contingent ever seen in the division, besting 12 others. in the Little Miss competition, Nevada County’s Blakely Herring and Kambree Haarmeyer of Sevier County were named co-winners.
• The Hope Public Schools Board adopted a 2018-2019 budget that is more fiscally conservative than usual Tuesday night in special session.
Hope Superintendent Bobby Hart presented the board with the $18.9 million fiscal plan which is some $600,000 above last year, but Hart explained that it is designed to rein-in some costs while benefitting from some savings changes.
• In a mostly quiet affair, the most vocal person at Thursday night’s Hempstead County Quorum Court meeting was a member of the audience, Sylvia Brown, who had more to say about the condition of county roads than the entire gallery of Justices. Brown presented documentation, including photos which she identified as County Road 21, County Road 2, and West Avenue B, which she said was a public safety hazard.
• There was definitely a Happy Homecoming in the air at Hope High School on Friday night as the Bobcats held on to defeat Hot Springs 26-20 to claim their first regular season victory in the past three years.
As compiled by Rick Kennedy, managing editor