EDITOR’S NOTE: Stories on Ashland, Kenova and Greenup’s submissions will be featured in an upcoming edition.

Fans of HGTV will instantly recognize Ben and Erin Napier, the hosts of the popular “Hometown” series. The Napiers have become quite well-known for renovating historic homes on their show, but in their new series “Hometown Takeover,” they will be expanding to help renovate an entire town.

HGTV held a contest for hometowns across the country to pitch their town (as long as the population is less than 40,000) for the renovation, which will in turn become part of the six-episode special series slated to air in 2021. The deadline for the pitch was Feb. 7, and several local towns in the tri-state area submitted entries.

The city of Ironton was among those that submitted an entry to HGTV. Mayor Samuel Cramblit said the video highlights what the city has to offer.

“All the credit goes to Brad Bear and his team,” the mayor said of the man behind the camera. “They did a wonderful job, and everyone involved in the project worked very hard.”

Cramblit said he believes that along with the benefits of having HGTV choose Ironton is it will show people from outside the area how great Ironton is, and perhaps attract businesses to come to the city.

Cramblit said the project of putting the video submission together helped to spark excitement.

“There are a lot of people working hard right now to rejuvenate Ironton, and we appreciate their efforts,” Cramblit said. When projects such as this happen, Cramblit said, it generates hope on a local level as well as reawakens the pride of residents for their hometown.

Bear, of Bear Media Services, said he was excited to be part of the project.

“HGTV put out a call for entries,” Bear said. “I didn’t catch it when it initially came out, but I noticed it when it started popping up on people’s Facebook feeds.”

After that, he said people started tagging him in those posts and commenting about how this would be an amazing opportunity for Ironton. Bear agreed that it would, but he discovered the deadline to submit it was barely three weeks away — and one of those weeks he would be out of town on another project.

“I thought, wow, this is a daunting task,” Bear said. “So I called my friend Jeff Ford. He was originally from Ironton as well. Then Sean Daniel and Seth Bear came on board as well and things started to pick up.”

And from that point forward, Bear said, a lot of people in the community jumped in and started doing what could only be described as the hard work of putting the video submission together. The number of people interested in helping didn’t surprise Bear at all, because so many people were already actively trying to rejuvenate their town.    

“We immediately starting planning what we were going to showcase,” Bear said. “I used to produce home improvement television and landscape television for Turner Broadcasting, so I had a good idea what HGTV was looking for. I knew what angles they were looking for, and started from the thought they wanted a downtown area.”

Bear said this knowledge, and the consideration that HGTV was also looking for a city with a population of less than 40,000, meant to him that Ironton would be perfect.

Another factor in Ironton’s favor, Bear believed, was that the show’s producers were looking for a town that was already “helping itself,” so to speak.

“We definitely have that,” Bear said. “Over the past several years there are a lot of people in Ironton who have really taken up that mantle. And now there are a lot of individuals who are feeling empowered to start new things here. New shop owners and shop owners who have been here for a while are both working real hard to make Ironton the town they want to live in.”

Bear was trying to capture the spirit and the underlying commitment to change for the better.

“All of us who have improved our own little piece, that adds up to spread across the town,” he said. “And I believe the change which has happened so quickly in the downtown area is starting to add up; we will get there eventually. And where the show comes in, in my mind, would be if they choose us it will benefit both the Tri-State and Ironton.

“For Ironton, it gives us a really good reason in a really condensed window of time, to finish coming together and push through quickly on projects and make some major headway,” he added. “If any of the towns get chosen, it’s a six-hour commercial in a positive light for our area. And we need that. It’s like the owner (of a local yoga studio) said, ‘There are a lot of positive things here.’ The video shows a lot of those positive things, and shows that although we have had issues we are working toward building more of those positive things. It really is our town. And we want our town to be the best it can possibly be.”

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