Photography by: Belyn Richardson
Set along the banks of the Coosa River with its rumbling white waters (likely caused by Alabama’s greatest natural disaster 85 million years ago), Wetumpka has long been a destination among whitewater enthusiasts and outdoorsy types. Its location on the Coosa serves as host of the annual Coosa Whitewater Festival, Coosa River Challenge, and even Santa skiing into the much-loved Christmas on the Coosa each year. The confluence of the Tallapoosa and Coosa are also found at nearby Fort Toulouse/Jackson.
But nothing could prepare Wetumpka for a recent announcement that is destined to forever make a mark in its history books. After a months-long nationwide search, Wetumpka was chosen as the location for HGTV’s new series Home Town Takeover, hosted by network favorites Erin and Ben Napier of Laurel, Mississippi. No less than half a million submissions representing nearly 2,600 towns across the U.S. vied to be chosen.
The new series will be a six-part docuseries set to premiere in 2021 and is perhaps HGTV’s single biggest renovation undertaking ever, potentially transforming residential, business and public spaces for the community.
Because although the town’s efforts to revitalize its historic business district have achieved a degree of success, many setbacks have impeded its progress, most notably an EF-2 tornado that directly struck its downtown in 2019. The devastation included decimating the police station, a historic church, a number of homes and hundreds of acres of land. But the town was not dismayed and work continued. And even though some storefronts remain boarded up for decades, a recent partial streetscape helped to give validation to its efforts.
However, a little love goes a long way, and when Home Town’s Erin and Ben surprised some of the townspeople on camera to announce the selection, an entirely new hope took shape.
Ben Napier lamented, “Renovating one house at a time is an awesome experience. But the chance to support an entire town, where we help bring a community back to life — that’s something we’ve always wanted to try.”
The same sentiments are echoed on HGTV’s website, “…Home Town Takeover is shaping up to be an epic adventure with real connections to real people, community and history — and generous helpings of small-town love and feel-good energy.”
While everyone involved remains tight-lipped to help make the most exciting reveal possible, sightings of Erin and Ben (and their signature vintage blue Chevy truck) have been posted on social media by enthusiastic followers of the show and town residents alike. Whether you see it or not, the “lights camera, action” energy is already in the air, and the story is just beginning!
Jenny Stubbs, Executive Director, Main Street Wetumpka
Long-time photojournalist and local Main Street Wetumpka executive director Jenny Stubbs recently published My Wetumpka: A Picture Book Love Story, a 100-page, 10×10 book pairing the town’s remarkable history with its picturesque imagery. The book is endorsed by revitalization enthusiasts and HGTV “Home Town” stars Erin and Ben Napier. Jenny presents an intimate perspective, allowing the reader to delve into the town’s remarkable history while also protecting the iconic and historic imagery of the centuries-old community. The book is available online at mywetumpka.com, as well as at Frios Gourmet Popsicles in downtown Wetumpka, located at 100 Company Street. My Wetumpka: A Picture Book Love Story is published by Yellow House Publishing, LLC.