Reality television star Rupert, known for his appearance on "Survivor," will be in attendance at this year's Heritage Days kicking off at 5 p.m. Friday on the Hope Town Square in downtown Hope, Ind. Photo credit: Submitted.
Reality television star Rupert, known for his appearance on "Survivor," will be in attendance at this year's Heritage Days kicking off at 5 p.m. Friday on the Hope Town Square in downtown Hope, Ind. Photo credit: Submitted.

Hope’s 54th Annual Hope Heritage Days kicks off Friday evening and organizers say this year’s entertainment and activity schedule proves the festival's theme, “Recharging Hope,” is an apt one for many reasons. 

“We decided to go with that theme because of the new EV charging station on the Square,” says Jessica Brown, treasurer for Heritage of Hope, “Kind of a way to celebrate that and Hope getting with the future and moving forward a bit.”

And, this year, it isn't just the EVs that are getting electrified. The charge of excitement in the air leading up to this weekend's much-anticipated event is nearly just as palpable, organizers say. 

Chad Miller, president of the Hope Heritage Days festival and bandstand, will spend the weekend “putting out fires and hoping all runs smooth” as he gets a chance to watch a little bit of every performance, he says.

Miller says Matt Lee, executive director of Main Street of Hope, has done an outstanding job planning and booking this year’s entertainment.

“In the past, we always tried to have some good headliners, as well as faces people recognize,” he says. “We try to have some attractions that bring people just for them and that helps bring more to the festival, which helps the community groups and schools with their sales. [For instance] we have Rupert, from "The Amazing Race" and "Survivor," coming this year. So having big name headliners just benefits everybody.”

The weekend’s festivities kickoff at 5 p.m. Friday when vendor booths open on the inside of the Town Square. As in years’ past, the WYGS Gospel Sing at the Hauser High School Gym will feature Kingsman and Gold City beginning at 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, downtown, the Keith Swinney Band will take the bandstand stage from 6 to 7:30 p.m. followed by the return of Scott Haggard, son of the late Merle Haggard, who will perform from 8:30 to 10 p.m.

In a recent phone conversation, Haggard said he is excited to return to Hope and see everyone. Fans can count on hearing a range of Haggard hits, including performances of some of his late father’s songs, as well as original and new material.

But, for Haggard, this appearance isn’t just about the music. It is the people who make it all possible – and that is the most enjoyable part, he says.

“I get a chance to intermingle with the people, shake their hands and tell them I appreciate them coming,” he says. “They could have gone anywhere else, but they came to see me and that means a lot to me.”

Many Heritage Days favorites are set to return when the festival opens at 8 a.m. Saturday. From the Heritage Classic Cross-Country Meet at 9 a.m. to the Yellow Trail Pioneer Village and the return of HHD's annual baking contest, car show, and Dr. Hope Medicine Show, there’s something for all on the Square.

Hope Town Manager Jason Eckart says visitors can find him helping out with the car show from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. In addition to hoping for beautiful weather, Eckart says he is considering getting a little competitive by participating in the horseshoe tournament set to take place behind the Town Hall.

Following a day of festivities and activities for visitors of all ages, the bandstand will host Hope’s own Caddo Parish – winning band of Hope’s first-ever Battle of the Bands in July – at 5 p.m. and the Night Owl Country Band at 6 p.m. on the main stage of Jackson Street, as well as an appearance by solo artist Breanna Faith at 7 p.m. on the bandstand.

And as the sun sets it’ll be time to get groovy.

Brown is containing her excitement about the prospect of meeting Barry Williams, who most people remember from his role as oldest son Greg Brady in the television sitcom “The Brady Bunch,” which aired from September 1969 to March 1974, when he makes his Hope debut Saturday.

“I am kind of excited that he is going to be here,” she says. “It is kind of a big deal that Greg Brady will be in Hope. I totally grew up watching the Brady Bunch, so Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. you will get a chance to meet him before he goes onstage at 8 p.m.”

Since his Brady days, 67-year-old Williams has since ventured into several entertainment forays over the years, including television and film appearances, and has enjoyed a successful music career with his band, Barry Williams and the Traveliers – who will be performing this weekend on the main stage.

In a recent phone interview, Williams said he is looking forward to visiting Hope and that the Barry Williams part of the weekend's festivities will be twofold.

“One is I have a meet and greet scheduled, and it will be a chance to come ask questions and there will be merchandise there, including photos, CDs and fun stuff for sale,” he says. “And then we go on at 8 p.m.”

Williams says he and the Traveliers will also share the stage with Hope favorite Night Owl Country Band and perform a number of classic 70s songs with some originals and covers with a country feel.

The iconic star says, musically speaking, performing is energy.

“It is shared energy with your people, with the people who are there,” he says. “It is a wonderful mix.”

Playing events like Heritage Days offers unique opportunities for storytelling and a lot of intimacy, he adds.

“I think, with my audiences, they know me from the show for so many years, kind of in a multigenerational way," Williams says. "So, I try to hit on a lot of those touchstones and make it feel living room-like, which is where people are used to seeing me.”

Those who attend Williams' performance Saturday can expect an interactive experience, he says.

“There’ll be a lot of sing-along songs you are familiar with, including covers and some original material,” he says. “There is a chance to not only learn the lyrics to ‘Sunshine Day,’ but the choreography as well.”

Following Williams’ performance, fireworks will light up the sky over Hope as festivities end for the day.

As the last day of the festival opens at 9 a.m. Sunday with a worship service on the bandstand, visitors can look forward to performances by Three Beards Strumming and the Lindsey Land Band. Festivities begin to wind down with a fly over performed by the Hooligans Flight Team followed by the Hope Heritage Days Annual Parade at 2:30 p.m. featuring grand marshals Randy and Teresa Gearhart.

Miller says his favorite part of Heritage Days has always been the parade.

“With the parade, you get to see all the school groups and a lot of local people all in one spot,” he says. “It has always been a highlight.”

Brown says visitors can likely find her either hanging out at the museum, visiting the pioneer village or perusing the delicious food vendors for tasty treats.

“There is just so much good food, and you know you’re helping out a local nonprofit when you choose to dine with people on the Square,” she says. “It’s just a really awesome event. Come on out, eat some food, do a little shopping and support the town of Hope.”

** For more Hope Heritage Days info and schedule of events, visit hopeheritagedays.org.