Local non-profit HOPE Landing is planning to mark the holiday season with a pair of upcoming events including Christmas on the Ranch and a special Christmas performance.
HOPE Landing is an organization that provides services, including medical therapies, to families with children born with developmental disabilities.
The first event is Christmas on the Ranch, an event centered on a Steak Cookoff Association-sanctioned competition on the grounds of the HOPE Landing ranch, set for Saturday. Competitors from around the country flock to the ranch for the competition to vie for points before the world championship set for March in Ft. Worth, Tex.
The event, this year in its sixth annual iteration, doubles as a fundraiser, according to HOPE Landing president and CEO Kristi Lowery.
"It's one of our largest fundraisers each year, it's the second largest we have. We sell steak plates and raise money, and all the steak plates are cooked by World Champion steak cookers," Lowery explained.
Three competitions will take place on Saturday, with an A and B steak cook-off as well as a dessert cook-off. Lowery said that anyone who wishes to compete in the dessert competition can still participate if they sign up before the 9:30 a.m. cook's meeting on Saturday. The winners of the A and B steak cook-offs will automatically be given "golden tickets," earning a trip to the Steak Cookoff Association World Championship.
The deadline to purchase a steak plate was December 1; however, Lowery said, the organization ordered a few extra and anyone looking to still grab a plate can call (870) 862-0500 to reserve one. Plates are $25 and pick-up will be from 5 to 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 9 at HOPE Landing.
For more information or to register for the dessert competition, visit steakcookoffs.com.
The kids of HOPE Landing are getting involved in the preparation for Christmas on the Ranch.
"The kids have decorated the barns and the barn stalls... and have made first through tenth place trophies for each competition and Best Overall trophies. They've learned staining, woodburning and branding to make those trophies," Lowery said.
Several of the organization's kids will also be on hand help out with the award presentation on Saturday and made hand-written thank-you cards for competitors and plaques for the SCA judges.
Another upcoming HOPE Landing event is a performance called "The Nativity:A Lamb's Special Story," with HOPE Landing kids as performers. The performance will be held at the South Arkansas Arts Center and is adapted from "The Crippled Lamb" by Max Lucado.
"The children will portray the story of Christ's birth. It really gets you into the Christmas spirit and reminds you of the real reason for the season. We have 33 of our kids performing - it's going to be wonderful," Lowery said.
Preparation for the performance takes "weeks if not months" as the performers learn "to be able to tolerate the lights, the echo of microphone, the headdresses of the shepherds and other costumes, the different sounds."
"We have a little boy who has been working on using a walker and will be using it on stage. Our Joseph is in a wheelchair; we have just been working with them therapeutically in order to put it on," Lowery said.
HOPE Landing partnered with SAAC and use their space while producing and performing the play themselves.
"The Nativity:A Lamb's Special Story" is set for Tuesday, December 12, 2023 at 7 p.m. and is free to the public with donations "gladly accepted."
Following the production, there will be refreshments available in the Merkle Gallery and a visit from Santa and his elves.
For more information about HOPE Landing, visit hopelanding.com