LaGrange gains national attention with sign at College Gameday

Published 8:49 pm Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Any locals watching ESPN’s College Gameday probably did a double take during a portion of the show Saturday when a sign promoting LaGrange was prominently displayed in the background.  

During a part of the broadcast Saturday, a sign that said “Visit LaGrange, Georgia” was clearly visible. The sign was on white poster board and written in big, black letters and was clearly legible on national television, giving LaGrange some national attention.

The people responsible for the sign were Bobby Carmichael and his two sons Rob and McCall, who attended Saturday night’s Auburn-Oregon game in Arlington, Texas, which is where Gameday was being filmed. 

He said he saw Gameday host Rece Davis at a restaurant Friday night, and realized Gameday was filming in Texas Saturday morning. Carmichael, who was just appointed as the chair of the newly formed Visit LaGrange tourism board, decided to create the sign and hoped to get it on television. 

On Saturday morning, Rob worked his way through a large crowd of people to be near the stage. 

“We went down there thinking we might could get some exposure for that sign,” Bobby Carmichael said. “We got there about half an hour into the show, so we were a little late getting there. It was packed. Anyway, so we had the sign, and I gave it to one of my sons and told him to work his way down there. He was pretty persistent.”

Eventually, the sign was shown in the background as Maria Taylor and David Pollack talked on one of the side stages for Gameday. The show is known for its comical signs, which often get as much attention as Lee Corso’s famous mascot headgear selection that ends each show.

Carmichael saw it as an opportunity to get people thinking about LaGrange, with hopes that a few people watching might Google the city. 

“It didn’t take long until someone put two and two together. They knew I was going to the game, and they texted me and said ‘Are you at Gameday in Fort Worth?’” Bobby said. “I had a couple of people reach out to me. My kids are on Facebook, and they saw [the paper’s post], and it picked up from there. It really made it fun because we were just together, and we were able to communicate with people back home.”

The new tourism board meets every Tuesday morning, and he said one of the board members brought it up during the meeting, not knowing Carmichael was the one responsible.

“Advertising LaGrange can be fun because we have a good product, and we enjoy doing it,” Bobby said. “We have the tourism conference coming up next week at Great Wolf, so the timing is good. It wasn’t pre-meditated to do all that when we went out there. It just sort of happened.”

The Carmichaels also made sure to put the word LaGrange on the sign, realizing there is a LaGrange, Texas, as well as various other cities by the same name.

The picture of the sign quickly made its way around social media through the paper’s Facebook page and posts by Mayor Jim Thornton and others.

“We had a good time, and hopefully it creates some enthusiasm for the tourism efforts,” Bobby said. “There are a lot of ways everybody can help by just being positive and thinking about promoting LaGrange whenever they go anywhere.”

Carmichael said the newly formed Visit LaGrange tourism board is off to a good start, with plans to post a job description for a president and CEO in the coming days. 

“We wanted to get the job description out because next week is the tourism conference, and there will likely be someone at that conference who might have an interest,” Bobby said.