Alton in running for CMT reality show

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Staff Writer

ALTON -- The Oregon County city of Alton is one of five communities in the United States in the running for a fall reality show on the Country Music Television (CMT) network.

Oregon County Economic Developer Edd Hatten had the responsibility of showing CMT Traveling Field Producer Travis Draft from Venice Beach, Calif., around Alton Sept. 21 and 22.

Hatten said Alton came into the running for the show through Missouri Film Commission Director Jerry Jones. Hatten said last fall Jones was in the county and was so impressed with the natural beauty of the area that he promised Hatten that if any kind of a film opportunity came up he would mention Alton.

Jones held true to his promise. As a matter of fact, Alton was the only town in Missouri to make it to the final five. Other states where communities of around 600 or fewer that are being considered for the show are Kansas, Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Draft spent two busy days interviewing and visiting work places and residents of Alton. He started with breakfast at Grandma's Kitchen Sept. 21. Then he met with state rep. Mike Dethrow and Presiding Commissioner Leo Warren at the courthouse.

Dethrow said he has lived in the Alton area for 52 years. He told the producer, "This is a great place to live. It is a town built on a foundation of faith, community and service."

Warren was also born and reared in Oregon County. "A typical day in Alton starts with people getting up and going to work. Some people in our area work two jobs. We are kind of a poor community and they have to work two jobs to make ends meet," he said

Draft asked what it was like growing up in the Alton area. "We worked. We usually came to town once a week. The sale was on Tuesday. We sold hogs and some cattle. One of the things that is unique about Oregon County is we have more forest service land than any other county in the state. People here watch and listen to CMT. We like living right and going to church," the commissioner said.

Draft also interviewed local historian Carl Burkhead and Alton residents Randall Combs, Bill Young and Ron Campbell. The film producer had lunch at the Alton Senior Citizen Center. From there he visited Young's Feed Store, Simpson's Hardware and Brad's Barber Shop.

Wednesday started early with breakfast at Grandma's Kitchen. The group hauled hay at a local farm that morning and visited Mills Feed, Wiggs Auto, Sweatheart Bakery and the Flower Merchant. Lunch was shared with Alton Mayor Richard Haigwood and the Alton City Council.

The afternoon was full with visits to Wallace and Owens and Stubblefield John Deere. Time was made to watch the Alton Comet cross county race with Koshkonong, and the day ended with services at Macedonia Baptist Church. Draft said he was preparing a biographical package that he will take back to CMT. "The CMT show will be called Popularity Contest. Ten city people will come to the town chosen to live and work. Once a month the town people will have a town meeting and every month one of the city people will be voted off the show. The last remaining city person will be the winner of an undisclosed amount of money.

"Where I come from, close to Los Angeles, you have to watch your back. Seems like here, people watch your back. Everyone here is really nice and I think it would be a great place to shoot the show," Draft said. The decision regarding where the show will take place will be made in approximately two weeks. Filming will be Oct. 28 through Nov. 25.

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