Local legends, “South Down Main,” will headline a virtual concert experience in the first-ever (and hopefully only) “NOT The-Watermelon-Festival-Concert” Concert on Saturday, August 15, 2020 live from Hempstead Hall’s theater.

The popular singing competition, “Watermelon Idol,” will also be live-streamed prior to the concert from the Hempstead Hall Amphitheater.

Due to precautions and restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce made the tough decision to cancel the 44th Annual Hope Watermelon Festival and the concert that goes along with it. “The Watermelon Festival Concert is an event we look forward to all year,” said Beckie Moore, Executive Director of the Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce. “Cancelling the entire festival, while necessary for public health and safety, is still disappointing.”

The staff at Hempstead Hall on the University of Arkansas Hope campus have been working to bring virtual options for education and entertainment to the Southwest Arkansas community in the last several months. “Hempstead Hall is meant to be a place to bring the community together and since we cannot physically be together right now, we’re looking for new ways to stay connected,” said Amanda Lance, Director of Hempstead Hall & Workforce Development for UAHT. “Like many people these days, I’ve been staying in touch with my favorite bands by watching their at-home shows and concerts played to empty rooms, and thought that was something we could provide locally.”

South Down Main, a southern rock band made up of Daulton Brewer, Orin Hampton, Dennis Hovarter, Dustin Johnson, and Jeff Smith, was the obvious and perfect fit for such a virtual concert. “We’re ready to be back playing for crowds,” said band member Daulton Brewer. “We were excited when Hempstead Hall decided to put this project together.”

Without the in-person Concert, Moore knew she would need to be creative to bring in supporting revenue for the Chamber. “Doing a virtual concert lets our local businesses and industries who would have sponsored the Watermelon Festival Concert have a chance to continue that support for the Chamber and be recognized in a pretty cool and modern way,” Moore said.

“There are a lot of talented people working at Hempstead Hall, and in our community, who are currently stymied creatively because of the pandemic,” said Lance. “This concert is letting us all stretch our legs with our current skills and learn some new techniques about the ever-changing tech landscape to bring a more complete cultural experience to our area. Above all, we’re just happy to be useful right now!”

New this year is the Watermelon Masked Singer: a local spin on the hit TV show where a local celebrity will perform several songs virtually dressed in the Wally the Watermelon costume. New songs will be released in the days leading up to the concert with hints about who is wearing Wally.

On Saturday, August 15, the festivities will kick off with the “Watermelon Idol” competition hosted by Jennifer Wright Cunningham at 4PM. The winner will immediately perform their act before a brief intermission. South Down Main will kick off their high-energy jam session at 7PM during the “NOT The-Watermelon-Festival-Concert” CONCERT, the Watermelon Masked Singer will be “unmasked.” All performances will be live-streamed on HempsteadHall.com.

“In light of everything that’s going on, even though we can’t all be together in the same place and have a watermelon party like we usually do, we can still come together over our TV and computer screens to jam together,” said Brewer.” We really are honored to have been asked to this. It truly means the world to us to do this for the community.”

“The ‘NOT The-Watermelon-Festival-Concert CONCERT’ is just one example of how our community comes together to support one another,” said Moore.

For information on becoming a sponsor of the 2020 “once-in-a-melon-years” concert, contact Beckie Moore at the Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce at 870-777-3640.

More information about the concert and schedule of events can be found at hempsteadhall.com.