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Residents of Bunkie gathered at the Train Depot last week to produce a segment of the town’s two-minute video application to be one of six small towns in the nation to receive a makeover on HGTV’s “Home Town Takeover” series. The six-part special series will focus on the renovation and remodeling of buildings and sites in the selected communities. The series will air in 2021. {Photo courtesy of Kellie Peyton}

Bunkie group puts town’s best foot forward

Seeks to win HGTV’s ‘whole-town makeover’

It’s not winning that matters, it’s knowing you did your best in the competition.

Nobody really believes that. Everybody wants to win.

However, if Bunkie isn’t picked for one of six nationwide “whole-town makeovers” it certainly won’t be due to a lack of effort and commitment on the town supporters’ part.

Right now, Bunkie -- and its sister city Marksville on the other side of the parish -- have as good a chance as any other U.S. municipality with less than 40,000 population to be selected for HGTV’s “Home Town Takeover.”

Deadline to enter was this past Tuesday (Feb. 4).

The six-part special event, will air in 2021

“It was an amazing experience, seeing our community come together to participate in a great opportunity,” LeLe Soileau said.

Soileau was one of at least 45 individuals who worked to develop and produce the application video.

“It was a great day,” she continued. “Everyone had a wonderful time.”

Margie Melancon, another leader in the effort, also said it was “great seeing the Bunkie community come together to promote our great town.”

She said those participating in the application project were young and old from throughout the town. The one thing they all had in common was that they “wanted to do something to make Bunkie a better place.”

The idea for making a bid for the TV series came from Ginger Hines Long, who shared a Facebook post about “Home Town” looking for towns to renovate.

“I was surprised that so many people were interested in helping with this project and commented on the post,” Long said.

A meeting was held of interested parties and the idea for the video application was born.

TWO-MINUTE VIDEO

Kellie Peyton said the two-minute video tells the story of Bunkie and is not just a series of interviews.

“There are 35 different scenes,” she said. “We want people who watch to have a connection to the town.”

The video includes a large group gathered at the Bunkie Depot proclaiming “There’s no place like Bunkie.”

The Bunkie Magnet Beta Club participated in the video, which had a Wizard of Oz theme -- hence the paraphrase of the famous phrase that sent Dorothy back to Kansas -- “There’s no place like home.”

Instead of “Dorothy” carrying her dog Toto, she carried a toy monkey -- paying homage to the legend behind the town’s name.

In 1882, the Texas & Pacific Railway gave Capt. Samuel Haas “naming rights” to the train station in exchange for approval to run the train through Haas’ land.

Haas named the station after his daughter, Maccie, who was nicknamed “Bunkie” after her father gave her a toy monkey and she called it a “bunkie.”

The video also includes scenes on Main Street, Lexington Avenue, Haas Auditorium and City Hall.

Long said the video will “also be used to help future companies see what a wonderful little town we have and consider us as a place to bring their business.”

Bunkie Mayor Bruce Coulon said he is grateful for those who undertook the effort to make the video to submit to HGTV.

“This would be primarily to beautify Main Street,” Coulon said, noting that is a major goal of his administration.

“The fact is that if you do not ask, you will not receive,” Coulon continued. “We will be going after every grant and every other funding available to improve this community.”

He said the “Home Town Takeover” makeover is “a great opportunity to revitalize the City of Bunkie and get people to learn more about the historical parts of the city.”

ABOUT THE SERIES

HGTV’s Ben and Erin Napier, stars of the network’s “Home Town” series, came up with this spinoff series idea to help revitalize selected communities and breathe “new life into an entire town that’s struggling and in need of some TLC (tender, loving care),” HGTV said in its announcement seeking applications for the whole-town makeovers.

The Napiers have experience in such extensive projects. They have worked to rescue and enhance dozens of home in their own home town of Laurel, Miss. They also played a pivotal role in revitalizing Laurel’s downtown by celebrating its architectural treasures, endemic charm and historic features.

“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,” Ben Napier said.

Applicants were encouraged to highlight aspects of their town that make it special, fascinating, historic or unique — including distinctive features like vintage period architecture, special destinations or a classic main street.

Citizens of a selected town can expect to witness the rehabilitation of multiple individual family homes and the revitalization of public spaces such as parks, local diners/restaurants and outdoor recreation areas, an HGTV spokesperson said.

“This is a big one,” Erin Napier said. “HGTV has never, ever taken on a whole-town renovation and restoration project, and we’re so proud and excited to be leading the team that will get it done.”

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