Fans gather downtown for Season 3 finale, prep for 4

Judi Holifield has joined the crowd she works for.

And a crowd of 1,500 gathered in downtown on Monday night to watch the Laurel Main Street executive director and her son Allen find their dream home in the historic district in the Season 3 finale of “Home Town.” The show was shown on a big screen outside of the Laurel Mercantile, with Ben and Erin Napier, Mayor Johnny Magee and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann in attendance.

“I love Laurel, and though I never intended to go on ‘Home Town,’ sometimes the planets align and it’s necessary to sacrifice yourself for the good of the cause,” Holifield said with a laugh. “I’m a very private person who does not enjoy being the center of attention, but I knew I would be helping the community and Laurel Main Street by participating, and I’m happy that I did.”

Fans traveled from all over the country to watch the finale. In the hours leading up to the show, there was an art walk, live music and food trucks along the brick-paved streets of downtown.

“Home Town has become one of our family’s favorite TV shows, and having the opportunity to visit Laurel and see Ben and Erin and the downtown community was a dream,” said Laura Davis.

Davis and her husband Mark traveled from Pensacola, Fla., to watch the finale and take part in all the activities happening downtown on Monday evening.

“I cannot express enough just how welcoming the people of Laurel are,” Davis said. “We are already planning another trip for the end of the summer and hope to bring our kids this next time around.”

That’s something that Holifield has heard repeated hundreds of time since Home Town started airing on HGTV. But she had been a resident of the Myrick area for the 10 years she’s worked with Laurel Main Street, overseeing planning and event coordination to raise money to improve and promote downtown Laurel and working to recruit businesses, support merchants and boost tourism. 

She was working with a budget of $125,000 and chose what had been known as the Overstreet House on 7th Street. The cost of the house was $45,000 and renovations were $86,000, so the total cost was a little over budget at $131,000 — a rarity for the Napiers. 

That’s because there were some major changes for the “Home Town” team, including closing off a hall, creating a master bath and reworking the attic entrance. They also took out a wall between the living room and dining area, built a new kitchen and added a mudroom. 

“Fitting the half-bath and laundry in the footprint was the toughest part of renovations for me,” Holifield said, “but in the end, the beautiful kitchen, lovely bathroom and the fact that the wood flooring was all intact was the best outcome I could have hoped for.”

One highlight was a piece of furniture Ben Napier made from wood that was salvaged from the bleachers of the gym at Northeast Jones. He and buddies Josh Nowell and Jim Rasberry took apart the bleachers, along with Erin’s brother Clark Rasberry, who made his first appearance on the show. Holifield’s first job was at NEJ and her son graduated from there, so that made the piece special to them. 

Location was the deciding factor in Holifield’s choice for her new home, which she moved in to in December. There was a separate apartment, too, which was a deciding factor for her college student son.

“The small yard, adequate space and apartment out back, which has now been torn down and a new guest house is under construction, was very appealing to me,” she said. “And the best part is the walking ability of being downtown as well as more social interactions with friends and neighbors.”

During the staging process, Holifield ended up keeping everything, other than the couch and a couple of rugs. And at the end of her episode, she was presented with a key to the City of Laurel by Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee and a large group of well-wishers. 

“It was such an unexpected moment, and I can’t explain how humbled I felt and will continue to feel,” Holifield said. “Laurel is a special place, and that’s an understatement.

“If you have the opportunity and means to be on ‘Home Town,’ do it. It’s a great process if you have a little vision and actually know what you want,” Holifield said, adding, “and Ben and Erin are wonderful.”

On March 13, “Home Town” was renewed for a fourth season that will air in 2020. The new season will consist of 16 episodes, which is more than any of the previous seasons.

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