Erin and Ben Napier have become known to their millions of fans for showing that small town living doesn't have to mean shuttered businesses on Main Street and blocks and blocks of broken down houses. The couple has been renovating homes in their small town of Laurel, Mississippi on their HGTV series, Home Town, for five seasons, and now the couple has branched out to help the residents of a different small town on their new show, Home Town Takeover. And, we know what the good people at HGTV were looking for when deciding where the Napiers would work next.
HGTV announced that Erin and Ben Napier would be taking their focus of revitalizing small towns on the road back in January 2020, and opened the idea up to the whole country, so that towns all over the nation could submit entries in the hope of having the duo and their crew visit. After a months-long search, the winner of the competition was Wetumpka, Alabama, a community with only 8,278 residents. So, just what criteria did HGTV use to make their choice for the six-episode Home Town Takeover event series? Here's what Ben Napier told Alabama Newscenter about what made Wetumpka stand out:
Honestly, HGTV chose the town, but we know factors like being bypassed by the interstate, loss of young people to bigger cities and struggling to revitalize after natural disaster made it the right choice for the kind of small-town revitalization we are familiar with.
While the small community of Wetumpka, Alabama has a lot of natural beauty which has led to it being used as the filming location for several major productions, including the Tim Burton movie Big Fish, Ben Napier is correct about the area also facing several challenges recently. There have been many business closures, which have led to lower job prospects for residents and many younger people leaving for larger cities, as well as natural disasters which have impacted the town. The community was in the process of beginning revitalization efforts when a tornado hit, destroying many homes, acres of land, a historic church and the police station.
The story of what Wetumpka has been through isn't totally unique, but the entries about the town, and the spirit and commitment of the people who live there, truly helped to impress. For Home Town Takeover, HGTV fielded entries from a whopping 500,000 video submissions which represented 2,600 towns of fewer than 40,000 residents. The winning town then enjoyed renovation efforts from Erin and Ben Napier which focused on 12 properties, including historic homes, restaurants, public spaces, retail stores, a new farmers’ market, and even one entire downtown street in Wetumpka.
As for what the Napiers hope viewers will be able to take away from the new series, and what they thought of the town, Erin Napier said:
Viewers should get a sense of hope from the show. We want them to see that they, too, can make a difference in their small corner of the world. Wetumpka was an incredible town, and the people were so gracious to our circus of outsiders. There wasn’t much time for us to explore the town or area. We can’t wait to visit when we aren’t working!
You can see how all of the renovation efforts turned out when Home Town Takeover premieres on HGTV, Sunday, May 2, at 8 p.m. EST. The new series will also be available to stream on Discovery+ the same day.