"In the Heat of the Night" has managed to keep its popular following two decades after its last episodes were filmed, and Covington officials are hoping to turn that popularity into more tourists.
Nicknamed ReHeat 2014, the first tour is set for May 18 and will be co-led by Maureen Dowdell —– who played Bubba’s girlfriend Tracey Boggs — and Jessica Lowery, owner of Mystic Falls Tours, who’s made a full-time career out of her popular tours of "The Vampire Diaries" TV show.
Tourism Director Jenny McDonald said the plan is to do one guided tour a month, and to increase the number of tours as interest grows. The tour will start at the Newton County Visitor’s Bureau, 2101 Clark St. SW, Covington, just as "The Vampire Diaries" tours do.
The price points and exact details of the tours are still being developed, McDonald said, but officials got some help identifying sites from Grady Spradley, who was the double for actor Carroll O’Conner and also provided lots of memorabilia from the show, and Ray Witt, who used to bring buses of tourists from South Carolina to travel around Georgia to see film location highlights. Spradley provided some of the behind-the-scenes details and memories that make an in-person, guided tour unique.
McDonald is also working to develop a "Heat" walking tour, and she’s identified 37 locations in Newton County where the show was filmed. The goal of tourism is always overnight stays, as those result in hotel stays that bring in revenue. And hotel/motel tax revenues are used by the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce to fund tourism and the Main Street Covington program.
Lowery has already started carrying some "Heat" merchandise in her storefront on the square, and t-shirts and hats are expected to be coming in the future. She also may begin carrying some "The Dukes of Hazzard" merchandise as well, completing the trifecta of Newton County’s most popular television shows.