Zach Knapp, a Vale Middle School teacher and president of the Vale Community Coalition, worked with a local group to put together a submission for HGTV's upcoming series, "Home Town Takeover." (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)
VALE – Imagine this: the old Drexel Hotel restored to its former glory, perhaps with a steakhouse on the ground floor.
Imagine a spa with soaking baths heated by the local hot springs and the Rex Theater up and running again.
A group in Vale is doing more than just imagining. They’re trying to get the attention of HGTV to make Vale the star of the network’s upcoming series, “Home Town Takeover.”
In January, HGTV launched a nationwide call to find towns that could use a facelift.
The Vale Community Coalition and other local stakeholders answered that call with a video submission to entice the network.
“This video ended up being a bit of a celebration of our history, and a telling tribute to the spark that still remains to this day,” said Zach Knapp, a Vale Middle School teacher and president of the Vale Community Coalition, a nonprofit group that wants to see the city thrive.
The upcoming series, set to premiere in 2021, expands on the popular show “Home Town” which follows married couple Ben and Erin Napier as they restore historic homes in the small town of Laurel, Mississippi.
The new show will descend on the selected town to revamp homes, parks, restaurants and other recreation areas.
The group believes there’s no better place for the project than Vale.
Adam and Jennifer Tolman as seen in a screenshot of the video submission on YouTube.
“We have a lot of buildings with great history that could use some sprucing up and I think that doing that could lead to the viability and sustainability of our community,” said Jennifer Tolman, secretary of the coalition.
Tolman joined other locals in the submitted video to talk about the significance of Vale as a historic site on the Oregon Trail.
“Back in the 50s we were a thing to behold,” said Gary McClellan of the Malheur Country Historical Society. “Our businesses were great. We were doing fantastic.”
Consumers could find everything they were looking for right in Vale, said Adam Tolman, owner of Malheur Drug.
“We never left town. We didn’t need to leave town,” he reminisced on camera.
Now, vacant lots squat on either side of the main road and businesses that were once mainstays are long gone.
Work on the submission began in late January when a group of about 14 Vale residents first heard of the pitch. They hashed out a plan and raced to meet the Feb. 7 deadline.
The Malheur Country Historical Society was heavily involved, providing old photos of Vale. It was no easy feat to compile the footage, Knapp said.
Submitting it was even more nerve wracking. The contest was so popular that the website crashed as Knapp and Tolman attempted to submit the video.
He said they lost sleep, worried all of the group’s hard work wouldn’t make it in time for consideration. But they made it.
Knapp, who edited and helped to shoot the submission, said his favorite part of the process was interviewing locals.
“I had over an hour of video to review and pick apart, but when they started talking about this town, and its history you could just feel the love they have for this place and how proud they are to be from Vale,” Knapp said.
He hopes others will use the project as a springboard to dream of what Vale could be.
HGTV is currently reviewing the thousands of submissions. Knapp said it’s like the lottery.
“You can't win if you don't buy a ticket,” he said. “This submission is our ticket.”
Have a news tip? Reporter Yadira Lopez: [email protected] or 541-473-3377
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