The plan for the camera was conceived when Hardy Mayor Nina Thornton visited the KAIT-8 studios to film some video spots about Reject the Recession. She said she was so interested in the camera and its capabilities that she then presented the idea to the A&P, and eventually invited representatives with the television station to come to an A&P meeting to present the prices and advantages to the group. In September 2009, following negotiations with the station, the A&P voted to install the camera in Hardy. After the KAIT-8 news team surveyed the area for the best location, the camera was ordered and the process of installation and working out any potential problems began.
The A&P is the first organization to sponsor a SkyCAM and are very proud of their new camera; it joins Arkansas Methodist Center in Paragould and ASU's stadium cam. The camera provides weather information such as temperature, wind speed and direction, rain totals and visual feedback. The camera also has the capability to view and zoom into live views of the Spring River and downtown Hardy, something Vaughn jokingly said he looked forward to utilizing to monitor his wife's spending when she visits the shops in the city. Undoubtedly, he will be the man with the zoom control at his fingertips during her shopping weekends in Hardy.
Present for the ribbon cutting were Hardy Mayor Nina Thornton, Sunni Cooper and Sherri Groves, both members of the A & P, Alderman Margaret Harness and Hardy business owner Marc Herring as well as the entire storm team arriving in their every popular Storm Tracker. Chief Meteorologist Ryan Vaughn, Meteorologists Justin Logan and Sarah Tipton along with KAIT's Vice President and General Manager Tim Ingram and Account Executive Howell Westbrook helped answer questions and visited with the small crowd at the ceremony, including several youngsters wanting to meet the storm team.
Ingram said, "I couldn't be more excited about the addition of a SkyCAM in downtown Hardy. The SkyCAM is in conjunction with a Discover Hardy advertising campaign and will provide positive coverage and drive regional interest in seeing the wonderful tourism opportunities we have available right here in Region 8. I have a special place in my heart for the Hardy area and I look forward to promoting the wonderful attributes of the area on all our platforms."
The camera was installed in the parking lot of the Good Old Days Vintage Motorcar Museum on Main Street in Hardy. Mayor Nina Thornton said, "They are going to see this and want to be here." This is the first camera in the Ozark foothills and Vaughn said, "Typically, the weather conditions in the foothills of the Ozarks are different from other areas in Region 8. It is going to be exciting to have up-to-the-second weather conditions and video for all our viewers from the Hardy area. Also included in the contract with KAIT, the A&P received 15 second commercials as well as several other opportunities to promote the Hardy area. The package also provides a Web site to the A&P that will have the camera's live feeds and current conditions being displayed. The discoverhardy.com Web site will be active soon and will also contain still shots, news and events.
"It has so many great benefits for the community," Thornton said. Although the first thought was to promote tourism in the city, she said it can also help with crime in the city with the camera's 360 degree angle change capabilities. She said if there is an accident or a crime, it will be on the camera. Thornton also added the weather camera will benefit those who may have homes in Hardy in the event of flooding. The camera is monitored from the television station and can be turned and zoomed to any area surrounding the city. The SkyCAM will also be available 24/7 on the KAIT Web site.
KAIT is owned by Raycom Media and is one of the nation's largest broadcasters and the employee owned company operates 47 television stations in 36 markets in 18 states and employees nearly 3,500.