It’s been a few weeks since Farmville played host to the Vice Presidential Debate at Longwood University. The security fence has been taken down, the Secret Service is gone and the thousands of media and law enforcement personnel that flocked to our town have slipped away. As things return to their normal pace, the afterglow of a successful event is still burning bright in our hearts. Here are four reasons that we think the town of Farmville stole the show during this iconic time in our nation’s history.
1. Hometown Hospitality
With a small army of public safety and law enforcement personnel in town for the debate, the town stepped up to provide meals and lodging for these key players. The Fireman’s Sports Arena served as a food command center, with everyone lending a hand, including town manager Gerry Spates and wife Linda who helped serve lunch on the day of the debate. With members of the Secret Service, FBI and state, town and local law enforcement all working overtime to ensure the safety of visitors and residents, the town made sure these men and women were fed, rested and ready to do their jobs.
2. Farmville Fan Club
The reviews are in and as far as the the town is concerned — it’s overwhelmingly favorable. The debate gave Farmville a chance to receive national and even international attention at an unprecedented level. With mentions by hundreds of media outlets, folks were impressed with the town’s charm and appeal.
Voice of America, an online news hub with an audience of over 187 million noted that “Farmville’s Main Street — and there is really only one main street in the tiny town — runs past the classic tiny diner, the barber shop, a string of antique stores, and a courthouse that belongs in a Norman Rockwell painting.” (http://www.voanews.com/a/key-town-in-civil-rights-movement-hosts-vp-debate/3534393.html)
And former Virginia governor and vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine said, “It is a beautiful town. The main street is beautiful, it’s got a lot of really powerful history.” (http://www.daikhlo.com/watch/yt_4bHSF54lmIs)
Among other notable mentions the town received was a USA Today article entitled “Farmville vs Las Vegas: Which is 2016’s Best Debate Town?” Shared over 200 thousand times—and despite the fact that the overall win was given to Vegas—the article highlighted the local culture, charm and uniqueness of our community. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2016/10/03/farmville-vs-las-vegas-best-debate-town/91484264/)
3. Online and On Point
While the streets bustled with traffic, the town’s websites buzzed as well. A brand new tourism campaign, focused around the Visitfarmville.com website, had an impressive reach of over 138,000 on social media.
The town’s Facebook page, another facet of its digital face, also experienced an increase in reach during the month of September and early October, with an estimated total reach of over 94,000 people. Engagement with the page increased by a whopping 437% during the same time period, demonstrating the increasingly crucial role of social media in modern life.
4. A Journey of Historic Proportions
As the place where the Civil War ended and the modern Civil Rights in Education Movement was born, Farmville has been a pivotal, and at times polarizing, backdrop for some of our darkest and deepest struggles as a nation. But from those struggles, the town, and most importantly its people, have emerged stronger and wiser. Reconciliation, like democracy, is always a work in progress. We were proud to share our story with the rest of the nation. Even as we continue to work on that path, the debate marked a milestone moment not only in our history as a community, but also in our history as a nation and a people.
Explore the Debate Festivities Photo Gallery!