Forget the Beaches, downtown Jacksonville or historic St. Augustine — Middleburg is the place to be in Northeast Florida this weekend.
The spotlight of Hollywood has come to the small Clay County town, thanks to the arrival of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
The show has come to the area to build a new home for Middleburg High School volleyball coach Carrie Prewitt and Ashley, Taylor and Gina Brewer. Prewitt became the sisters’ legal guardian after their parents died.
As Prewitt’s new home grows, so does the excitement around it. Spectators are being shuttled in from South Middleburg Baptist Church to witness the build. Across the street from Prewitt’s home site on North Chicory Avenue, balloons are flying outside of a VIP tent that has a DJ spinning country and oldies tunes and workers at a T-shirt tent are selling “Extreme Makeover” shirts.
James Brown, an ABC network merchandiser, said about 1,200 to 1,500 people per day come to watch the builds.
“When we go into a community, we’re welcomed with open arms,” Brown said.
Middleburg resident Shirley Forman-Turner is excited the show is here because she watches it on TV. She wanted to see the build with her own eyes to make sure this was really happening in her town.
“Now I know it’s not make-believe,” Forman-Turner said, looking at the new home, which had a foundation and was framed by about 5 p.m. Friday.
That is pretty amazing, considering the old home still stood in the same spot about noon on Thursday.
Chris Morrissey, director of First Coast Volleyball Association, said the show will benefit more people than the family.
“It’s very uniting for the community,” Morrissey said. “These days, you don’t know who your neighbor is. It makes a tight-knit group.”
And that community, including Forman-Turner, couldn’t be happier that Prewitt was chosen to receive a new home.
“I think it’s such a nice gesture, a nice thing to do,” she said of the show choosing Prewitt’s family.
Helping families like the family is the reward that Brown and the show’s crew get from traveling from town to town with the show, living out of a suitcase and spending time away from their own families.
“If it was anything else, I wouldn’t do it,” he said. “You get to see a family’s life change before your eyes. There’s nothing like it.”
On Wednesday, after that famous “move that bus” line, the house will be revealed, the crew will leave town and the hoopla will die down. But that’s not important, Forman-Turner said.
“That’s a minor thing compared to giving someone a home for life,” she said.