Constantine residents lobby for spot on upcoming HGTV show
Published Feb. 4, 2020
CONSTANTINE — Residents of Constantine are hoping to lobby a popular cable television network to help revitalize their town, and an event at the Harvey House Restaurant Saturday helped kick-start that effort.
Constantine residents came out in droves to submit applications for Constantine to be featured on the upcoming HGTV series, “Home Town Takeover.” The show, which is scheduled to premiere in 2021, is billed as a six-part spinoff event of the show “Home Town,” hosted by husband and wife renovation duo Ben and Erin Napier. According to HGTV, the show would focus on the “rehab of multiple individual family homes as well as the revitalization of public spaces — parks, local diners or restaurants and outdoor recreation areas.”
The efforts for Constantine to be featured have been led by local residents Devon Harper, Jodi Juday and Wendy Rodewald, as well as Constantine Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Diana Lammott. Juday said she first heard about the show through a post she found and shared on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and the post gained traction from there among not just the three ladies, but the entire community.
“I saw it and shared it, but then my aunt—who lives in Middlebury, but she was born and raised here—was like, 'You have to do that. That town needs that, they need you guys to do this,'” Juday said. “So, it takes one person to ignite a fire to get everyone else's fires lit.”
“I got excited about it after seeing Jodi and Wendy's posts about it,” Harper said. “We are a deserving community, we have a lot of community events, and we're focused on youth and sports. However, our downtown does need some TLC, so we're hoping to make it happen.”
The three found the shared post from Juday and met up for coffee on Jan. 24. There, they talked about how they were going to rally the community behind the effort. While going through the process of researching the history of the area, the three learned a lot about the role Constantine, one of the 16 oldest towns in the state of Michigan, played in the formation of the state, and in the present day, the entire country.
“We're one of the 16 oldest towns in the state, and we were a hub of activity even back when,” Harper said. “We had a carriage company, a couple casket companies, a mill, a general store, so people came to Constantine to get their supplies. There are pictures of the town just packed with horses and carriages. We supply the country with 5 billion pounds of milk a year. We supply Abbott in Sturgis with the milk to produce their baby formula. The seed corn, just from little old Constantine, we supply 10 percent of the country with seed corn.
“We are serving the country, and we just need HGTV to complete us.”
The applications can be found at https://hgtvhometowntakeover.com/, with submissions closing on Friday, Feb. 7, according to the page. To submit an application, Rodewald said, people need to submit five photos, a video, and a short description of why Constantine should be selected.
Many historical photos of the town were spread out between a few of the tables for residents to use with their submissions, while other people elected to have their pictures taken at the nearby downtown buildings to show off the area. Some people who took pictures outside were accompanied with a giant photo frame prop with the slogan #CompleteUs, which the ladies came up with for the effort.
“We have a [Downtown Development Authority] that started some projects, and they've been renovating a lot of our businesses, but resources are starting to run out,” Rodewald said. “So, we really need somebody who could complete us, who can help us finish this task.”
Harper said the community involvement for the event Saturday has “sparked something” in the Constantine community.
“I have seen a lot of excitement today. People are even now talking of getting more involved in the community from this, because of the excitement that's been built around it,” Harper said. “When you organize something like this and people respond to it and then they actually show up, they feel a part of it, and that's what we want. Whether you've lived here 50 years or five, this town is your town, and we want you to have a sense for that and have a passion for that, and naturally, people will commit to more things.”
Lammott said she first heard about the effort when some residents sent it to her email, and she said she loved seeing the community come out to support the process.
“It's wonderful to see the community working together, so there's an excitement in the air,” Lammott said. “I think, even if we don't get on the show, this is something the community needs. They need to come together, they need to talk, they need to laugh, and they need to look at their history.”
Some of the local residents at the event said they are excited for the potential opportunity to receive a hometown makeover.
“It’d be nice to see the downtown get a facelift, and maybe regain a little bit of that historical charm,” Jeanne Weaver said. “This would be so neat; I’d love to see that happen here. I think it would give the whole town and the townspeople a big boost if we come up with something that’d bring people back into town.”
“It’d be a miracle for this town if it happens,” Harvey House Owner Denny Phillips, who opened the restaurant Saturday specifically for the event, said. “The town used to be a booming town, and it’s falling apart slowly. It’d be something to help the community out 100 percent, and the community could use it.”
Rodewald said many other Michigan communities are vying for the spot as well, including Bath, Charlotte and Grand Ledge, and said HGTV told her over 1,600 communities have done submissions. Rodewald said getting on the show would bring pride back into the community.
“We have a lot of pride here, but I feel like in the last couple years, it's kind of changed, especially with the bypass coming through,” Rodewald said. “We want to open the door for people to come back in.”
Harper agreed, saying the exposure could help boost the local economy.
“We want to help boost the economy. We do have things going on here, but I don't think a lot of people know about us, and maybe have forgotten about us,” Harper said.
Even if they don’t get the spot, Juday said seeing everyone make an effort to get Constantine on the show was a positive thing to see.
“I feel even if we don't make it on there, just looking at the outpouring and love that everybody has brought here today, it’s awesome,” Juday said.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or firstname.lastname@example.org.