Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce President Meredith Caddell splashes blue and gold spirit downtown on the windows of what will be the new Chamber office later this year. Caddell and others are urging local merchants to show their Wildcat spirit by decorating their business windows and storefronts in advance of the ESPN crew arriving next week to cover the Wildcat football game against Wichita Falls Rider Raiders.
Staff Photo By Jessica Worth

Prime Time Spirit

Chamber president and others urging business owners to paint the town blue and gold in advance of ESPN's arrival Sept. 11

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

Sept. 4, 2008 - Sulphur Springs is ready for prime time, and local businesses are being urged to get in costume for a possible appearance on the small screen.

ESPN, the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports," will be rolling into town next week to film the showdown between the Sulphur Springs Wildcats and Wichita Falls-Rider Raiders on Thursday, Sept. 11. The game will air live at 8 p.m. that night on ESPN2.

And Meredith Caddell, president of the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce and the community's unofficial head cheerleader, isn't going to let the opportunity to promote Sulphur Springs slip away.

Caddell and others have been busy urging local business owners to decorate their storefronts in a show of Wildcat spirit in advance of the ESPN crew's arrival.

"We want to see who can show the most Wildcat spirit," said Caddell. "I am so excited about this."

Caddell will lead a team of judges next Wednesday on a tour to select the business or organization with the best display. The Chamber will recognize the winner with a "Wildcats Primetime MVB" (Most Valuable Business) award that will be announced during the game, along with a prize.

There's no guarantee that video of any local businesses will be aired during the broadcast. But an advance crew is expected to be in town Monday or Tuesday, possibly to shoot background and "bumper" footage -- those images that flash on the screen as the broadcast comes in and out of commercials.

And it's also believed that ESPN chose to televise the game from Sulphur Springs in part because the network was looking for a spirited small-town atmosphere.

"We've got that in droves here," Caddell said.

Caddell has not been alone in trying to get others to show their Wildcat pride in the coming week. She said City Manager Marc Maxwell is receptive to the idea of also decorating city property, while Rita Edwards, president of the Sulphur Springs Downtown Business Alliance, has also contacted merchants in the city to spur them to action.

Edwards is expecting a spirited response, too.

"I e-mailed everyone about ESPN, and I know most everyone will get involved," Edwards wrote in an e-mail to the News-Telegram today. "This will be great for downtown, so we really need downtown decorated to the nine's so we can get as much coverage as possible."

Caddell has gone so far as to contact local businesses like Fieldhouse Sports and The Paper Factory to give them a heads-up that a few more orders for Wildcat-related gear and blue and gold items might be coming in this weekend.

In fact, she is one of the first to get in on the act, heading downtown this morning to decorate the Chamber's future home downtown in Wildcat colors and paw prints.

"I can't wait to go and get the paint," she said.

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