Culture

The Southern Tourism War of 2013: Enterprise, AL vs. Covington, GA

Covington, GA

I’ve written briefly before about how my hometown of Covington, GA has played host to Hollywood productions for nearly six decades. Currently, The Vampire Diaries films here, and the show has brought with it a unique brand of tourism. A local couple takes Vampire Diaries fans on tours, and fans camp out to watch hours upon hours of filming around town. The cult nature of the show lends a kitschy vibe to the cottage industry it has produced in Covington.

Our local Chamber of Commerce recently debuted an ad spoofing the vampire culture in Covington at a baseball tournament that took place here in town. The ad features a vampire who takes a mother and daughter on a tour of Covington. More importantly, it features many of our town’s beautiful sites. It’s clever, funny, and well made (other than the vampire’s ridiculous accent) – no sane person would take it for anything other than a spoof.

And then there’s Kyle Mooty, editor of the Enterprise Ledger in Enterprise, AL. Mooty got his  undies in a bunch over the ad, and he expresses his ridiculous indignation in an editorial with the sensational (and stupid) headline, Covington, Ga., Where Killing is Promoted. Mr. No-Humor Mooty writes:

Not that Covington’s Chamber of Commerce was planning on rolling out the red carpet for me anytime soon anyway, but the video has scared me away from that town forever. No, the lame-acting vampire who stalks a mother and daughter and eventually consumes (we are led to believe) the mother, hardly scared me, it was the fact that some higher-ups in the town actually approved the video to be used as a promotional tool for the town. Who wants to be in a town with leadership that careless?

[…]

It would be akin to Brentwood, Calif., showing the chase of O.J. Simpson in his buddy’s Bronco as a promotional tool for that Los Angeles suburb.

Let’s go ahead and have Cincinnati promote the fact that Charles Manson was born there, Chicago promote that O’Hare is considered the most dangerous airport in the U.S., or Pinos Altos, N.M., promote the fact that one of its residents was killed by a mountain lion in 2008. Oh boy, Mom, let’s go hiking in Pinos Altos.  While we’re at it, let’s see a commercial for the Big Apple telling us to visit New York City, the best possible place in the U.S. to catch the flu. Or St. Louis, which can say it’s only a short drive across the Mississippi River Bridge away from East St. Louis, Ill., considered by many as the worst town in America.

News flash, Kyle: Vampires don’t exist! All the other examples you mentioned are terrible events that took place in the real world, but a television series about vampires doesn’t quite touch them.

Let me tell you a little about Enterprise, AL. This town’s claim to fame is a monument to the boll weevil, a predatory insect that nearly destroyed the town’s crops at the turn of the 20th century.

Property was threatened in 1915 as the Mexican boll Weevil found its way into Alabama from Texas and wreaked havoc on the cotton crop. In Coffee County, almost 60 percent of the cotton production was destroyed. Farmers faced bankruptcy and the area economy was at stake. Farmers turned to peanuts and other crops to overcome the damage brought by the boll weevil.

[…]

In gratitude for the lessons taught, residents erected the world’s only monument to an agricultural pest, the boll Weevil Monument. The monument, dedicated on December 11, 1919, stands in the center of the downtown district at the intersection of Main Street and College Street. The Boll Weevil Monument is a symbol of man’s willingness and ability to adjust to adversity. Citizens continue to remind visitors and newcomers to the city the lesson of the boll weevil.

The base of the monument is inscribed: “in profound appreciation of the boll weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity this monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama.”

The statue’s intent is to honor the town’s farmers for their ingenuity, but rather than commemorating the brave men and women of Enterprise, the statue memorializes the bug! (I can’t help but think that if Enterprise were worth bragging about, the producers of the film Sweet Home Alabama would have filmed there rather than in – you guessed it – Covington.)

Hunter Hall, president of the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce, weighed in:

“Mr. Mooty’s comparisons, although I understand the point he is trying to make, are a bit of a reach. Everyone knows that vampires do not exist. They are not real. They are folklore and imagination. O.J. Simpson, Charles Manson and the Pinos Alto mountain lion are real tragic situations,” Hall said in an email Tuesday.

[…]

Hall said feedback for the video has been great and said the video has been promoted by Mystic Falls Tours, the local tour company owned by Jessica Lowery, to its 10,815 Facebook followers and 15,101 Twitter followers, and actor Ian Somerhald’s [sic] 4.04 million Twitter followers.

“Mystic Falls Tours have increased 10 percent since the spot went viral. Jessica told me this afternoon that, ironically, a lot of people from Alabama have been on the tour (possibly a byproduct to the advertising we did at the Dixie (Junior) Boys World Series).

“On the Chamber’s YouTube page, the video has been viewed by 28,885 people, with 182 thumbs ups and 3 thumbs down,” Hall said.

Mr. Mooty, go ahead and make fun of our tourism efforts. We’ll just sit back, enjoy our sense of humor, and watch the tourism dollars roll in.