By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
The highly anticipated return of the 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton to Hope as the keynote speaker at the 2019 Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting and banquet is now just hours away.
Despite inclement weather today, an estimated crowd of 1,200 of both Chamber members and spectators from throughout Hempstead County and Arkansas is expected to see Clinton later today.
With Clinton on stage will be will be two other familiar and prominent faces, Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty, III and Joseph H. “Joe” Purvis, both close Clinton friends, who were in Hope during Hempstead County’s Bicentennial Celebration in December.
On Friday afternoon, Hempstead Hall was abuzz in preparation and walk-throughs for today’s festivities.
Up on the main theater stage, there was former Hope Mayor Dennis Ramsey and UAHT Chancellor Chris Thomason playing the roles of McLarty and Clinton as stage lighting and seating arrangements were being made by Sandy Bradley, a field coordinator for the McLarty team.
Elsewhere in Hempstead Hall, tables were set up for the sold-out banquet dinner, including in the buildings rotunda.
There was a full walkthrough of tonight’s program, including the presenting of the colors, a vocal rehearsal of the national anthem, and a stage rehearsal for tonight’s presentations of Citizen of the Year, Educator of the Year, and Business of the Year, all of the Chamber’s top awards.
Two video presentations were also given test runs. Tonight’s festivities will also include the annual United Way of Hempstead County awards.