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Behind Honey Boo Boo: Show puts McIntyre, Ga. in big spotlight

8:59 AM, Nov 26, 2013   |    comments
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McINTYRE, Ga. -- It's a television show people either love or hate.

"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" stars what many people call a very loud-mouthed and misbehaved little girl.

Her name is Alana Thompson, and she belongs to a family that is not ashamed to call themselves "rednecks."

"Honey Boo Boo" is Thompson's nickname, by the way.

America first met Thompson last year on "Toddlers and Tiaras," a reality show on TLC.

The 8-year-old from McIntyre, Georgia became such a standout, the network gave her and her family a spin-off.

"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" debuted on TLC two seasons ago, and continues to draw mixed reviews.

Some people call the family's rambunctious way-of-life repulsive, even horrifying.

Other viewers can't stop watching and praise Thompson for her outward support of her gay uncle.

In one popular episode, Thompson claimed, "Ain't nothing wrong with being a little gay. Everybody's a little gay."

But what the reality show does not often emphasize is where the family lives and who lives there with them.

First Coast News reporter Jacob Long and photographer Jimmy Marlow spent three days in McIntyre this summer.

Actually, they stayed in Milledgeville, which is close by because McIntyre does not have any hotels.

Its city hall workers said the tiny mining community has a population of around 600 people.

Rusted wagon wheels and abandoned buildings add charm to the town, and no one seems to care if the weeds get too high.

McIntyre is so small, in fact, its largest intersection has no stop lights; just two stop signs.

And, if you spin around in that very location, you will see just about everything you need in McIntyre: a gas station, the post office, city hall, a pool hall and fresh seafood.

"I mean, I love it. I love it. I love to be out the limelight," Katrina Ford said.

Ford has called McIntyre home for her entire life, 32 years.

She told First Coast News she loves not having to worry about traffic or having to wait in line at the Main Street Market.

But, Ford refused to give "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" more than a passing glance.

"It makes everybody look here like we're just intellectually challenged," Ford said.

She thinks Thompson's family is exaggerating who they really are and worries what the rest of the country will think about McIntyre.

She said, "That's not the way that everyone here is. Disgusting like that, nope. Everyone is not like that."

Some loyal customers at the Chalk Miner's Diner outside McIntyre also do not like the show.

However, they also do not like the idea of talking about it on camera.

After all, the town is a place where pretty much everyone knows the Thompson clan.

"It's pretty real. I mean, that's kind of how they are," said family friend Kevin Jacobs.

Jacobs told First Coast News he has known the Thompson family for years and defends their show's portrayal of McIntyre.

Jacobs said, "They cook 'coon, and dove and duck, you know, they cook all different kinds of animals. I mean, I love it."

He said the shenanigans you see on the reality show are about as real as it gets for the tiny town.

"It's pretty real. I mean, that's kind of how they are. We proud to be rednecks," Jacobs said.

Perhaps one of the most redneck moments on the show recently was the camouflage dress Thompson's mom wore to her wedding.

GG Formals in nearby Dublin, Georgia is where the family was fitted for the big day. The shop was even on the show.

"I tried to compose myself and act like I'm all calm and cool. And I get off the phone, and I'm like 'we're going to be on national television. And I'm crying!'" said co-owner Suzanne Lake.

Lake said redneck or not, she and her mother, Bo Preston, connect with Thompson and her family.

"The thing I think a lot of people don't know about them is they do a lot of charity work. And I mean charity work locally and on the national level," said Preston.

Not to mention, the show has led to national and international exposure for the area.

Lake said, "Like our Facebook, we've got hit up from people in Dublin, Ireland and other European countries."

And that seems to be the case in McIntyre itself, too.

From the inflatable swimming pool in her front yard, Sharon Brown said she is seeing more tourists come through than ever before.

"Driving around, stopping asking for directions, where do they live? Like it's so complicated. There's like two streets here," Brown joked.

She grew up in McIntyre and lives just a few houses down from Thompson.

Brown thinks the show is what it is.

She said you don't have to watch it, but that it's hard to ignore how it's put a never-before-heard-of town on the map finally.

"Who heard of it before then?" she said.

First Coast News reached out to Honey Boo Boo's family, but their publicist in New York declined an interview request.

Rumor has it, though, the family remains grounded in McIntyre, but their house is now roped off to keep spectators away.

If you want to get in on the Honey Boo Boo action, here are list of fun interactive activities:

Honey Boo Boo name generator

Honey Boo Boo ringtones

Which Boo Boo family member are you?

And don't forget to check out Jacob and Jimmy's photo gallery from their trip!

First Coast News

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