About this time every year KCBD Channel 11 in Lubbock sponsors an event they call Community Coverage and run away from the offices in Lubbock for a round of road trips to visit five towns in their viewing area as a way of saying thank you for watching. This year it was Muleshoe’s turn again, having been visited the first time in 2006. The news crew and their whole entourage were here on July 23rd for the 6 o’clock and 10 o’clock newscasts live from the Muleshoe Heritage Center.
I asked Benji Snead, news director for the past 17 years, how this road trip concept came about. It all happened, he said, when they lost their main tower antenna to a fire 11 years ago, which caused them to have to broadcast on low power, which didn’t seem like a big deal, until they found out they would have to do that for the next six months and that viewers 20-30 minutes away would not be able to receive programming unless they were on cable. Bill de Tournillon, then general manager, called a meeting to discuss how the station was going to deal with this temporary dilemma. Out of that discussion came the idea of going on the road to assure small town viewers that they were not forgotten and were important to the station. So they tried it and were amazed at the positive reaction the visits received. And as Benji put it, the decision to make it an annual affair was a “no-brainer.” They have done it every year since then.
Small towns are visited on a rotating basis, five a year, always during the last week of July. This year the crew will also be traveling to Abernathy, Denver City, Post, and Levelland, as listed here on Stephanie Thomason’s shirt. She was in charge of the teleprompter and passing out t-shirts as mementoes of the evening.
Kasey Coker, director of Muleshoe Economic Development, Gina Wilkerson, Chamber of Commerce president, and Rosa Davis, Chamber of Commerce board member, were instrumental in coordinating with KCBD for the day to be a success.
The purpose of these visits, of course, is to spotlight the town and its citizens, so after a quick look at a couple of lead news stories about Lubbock, the rest of the news centered on Muleshoe. The six o’clock broadcast included short stories about JK and Margaret Adams, who recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary, a look around some of the buildings in the Muleshoe Heritage Center, and Kenneth Henry at the newly relocated Yellow Jacket Inn. Maureen Hooten, a seventh-generation Muleshoe resident, talked about her family in the early days.
Anderson Brothers Jewelers in Lubbock participate in Community Coverage by giving away a piece of jewelry in each town visited with a treasure hunt involving clues to find the treasure. I missed clues two and three on the KCBD website, and Sharon Burris beat me and others to the certificate for a diamond necklace that was hidden on the section of old railroad tracks behind the Santa Fe Depot in the Heritage Center. Todd Fields and Ann Winegar from Anderson Bros. made the presentation along with Karin and Abner.
Magann and Jack Rennels and son Gilrobert were spotlighted for their continued dedication in covering local news and events on Channel 6 and Gil Lamb Advertising all these years. Pete Christy interviewed Jay Gorman on the boys basketball season last year and his new job as girls basketball coach for this season. And of course, John Robison gave the weather report.
Carpet Tech out of Lubbock brought their tailgating-equipped semi to the party, out of which hot dogs, chips, drinks, and ice cream sandwiches were served, all provided by United, Gandy’s Dairy, and Pepsi. The food was free but donations were accepted for Muleshoe Meals on Wheels.
The crew from United in Muleshoe and from Channel 11 who helped with the food: left to right; Angie Castello, April Castello, Rosa Davis, Nellie Ramirez, Danny Owens, George Guerrero, Kim Owens; back, left to right: Esteban Vidana, Jeff Ocanas.
Between the two broadcasts, many people hung around and visited. Some had brought lawn chairs and chairs had been brought out from the Depot. Ryan Johnson and the Calvary Baptist Church quartet sang, and I think some members of the Muleshoe High School choir came out and sang as well. Texas Tech Athletics Marketing and Promotions gave away a jersey-Luke Leal was the winner- game tickets, prizes from spinning a wheel of fortune, and brought a jump house for the kids to use. Bingo was even played before time to start again with the ten o’clock news.
I visited with Karin about the Janes ranch house, with John about trout fishing in New Mexico, and with Pete about his I Beat Pete challenge that involved a shark and a somewhat faulty shark tank. Abner and I reflected on how long my family had watched Channel 11 news and the fact that the time frame matched his, John, and Karin’s tenure at the station. We decided they all had to retire at the same time or not at all.
At 10 o’clock Karin and Abner discussed the role agriculture plays in Muleshoe, citing the growth of the dairy industry in the area. About 12 dairies have sprung up, housing an estimated 350,000 dairy cows and employing around 35 people per dairy. Mark Morton talked about the economic impact the dairies have had on the community. Muleshoe ISD and the Tolk Station were also mentioned as vital to the economy of the town. Gary Skaggs’ new business, Touched by the Cross, was introduced as one of the new businesses in town. and Laura Anzola presented her friend Maria Ramirez $300 in the Pay It Forward segment.
John Robison and Chris Timms from Ray Lee/John Deere Equipment Company drew the name of Ryan Johnson as the semi-finalist from Muleshoe for the John Deere Gator to be given away Friday after a semi-finalist is chosen from each city. John then went on to give the weather report, even as thunder and lightning appeared to the south of town.
Karin even worked Muleshoe into her Health Wise segment by talking to Dr. Robert Lepard about proper fluoride levels in well water for healthy teeth and recognized Dr. Bruce Purdy in his 30 years here as one of our main doctors and shared an interview with his son Tyson who is now practicing medicine with his dad. As one of Tyson’s former teachers, I had to smile when he mentioned having teachers as patients.
AAnd what would a visit to Muleshoe be without talking about football? So Pete interviewed Coach David Wood for Muleshoe’s Pigskin Preview and talked about the upcoming season as well as taking a nostalgic look at winning the state title in 2008 when his son Wes was the quarterback.
Kids were invited in for the parting shot, thank yous and good-byes were said, and then it was all over. All but the loading up to go home. I asked Josh Young how long it would take them to get everything loaded for the return trip. After all, they had been there all afternoon setting things up, He laughed and said that tonight, being the first night, about 45 minutes, but by Friday they would have it down to 15 minutes. Then he went on to say that it didn’t matter; it was worth it because this is always the best week of the year. Everyone enjoys the break in routine, visiting with people, and getting to know the surrounding towns. And he was not the only Channel 11 person to tell me that, and they did all seem to enjoy the night as much as we did.
So if you missed the festivities this year, wait about six years, and I think our turn will come up again. And next time I am going to find the hidden treasure…