It didn’t cost anything for Sebring residents to visit the downtown circle Friday and spend time with some of the city’s most well-known residents, including politicians, business owners and at least one protester.
Others attending the live broadcast of the Fox 13’s live broadcast included Santa Claus, Abraham Lincoln (or a man who’s portrayed him for more than 20 years), an evangelist with a huge cross and a man wearing a shirt, saying “out on bail.”
Overall, the show will help the city of Sebring, Robin Hinote, executive director of the Community Redevelopment Agency.
“It was great exposure for our city and our downtown,” she said.
Lora Todd, owner of Dogtown USA, said people lined up to come into her business before it opened.
Linda Kegley, a local artist who appeared on the show while painting businesses along the circle, said she felt the publicity has helped the city and the downtown area a lot.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “We don’t need to be a secret.”
Fox 13 WATT-TV, broadcasted “Hometown Sebring,” as part of its Good Morning Tampa Bay show from 6 to 10 a.m. on Circle Park.
The segment included live and pre-recorded interviews. Among those who participated were Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton, Sebring Mayor George Hensley and various business owners At one point viewers could see cupcakes from Molly’s Treats and sandwiches from Mae Lee’s International Deli.
Jen Lewis, who carried her eight-week-old baby, Kyleigh, who had a pink flower on her head, said she found the program educational.
“I learned a lot about Sebring I never knew and I’ve lived here my whole life,” she said.
One of the more quickly noticed members of the audience was Chester H. Damron, who bills himself as an Abraham Lincoln impressionist, who has been doing that since 1974. Damron said he has residences in both North Carolina and Sebring and is looking for more opportunities to portray Lincoln. That’s part of the reason why he got up early to be part of the audience.
“Early to bed and early to rise will do you no good if you don’t advertise,” Damron said.
Damon also noted that he’s 6 feet, 4 inches tall just like the former president and that while Lincoln weighed 180, he weighs 190.
“I eat better than he did,” Damron said. “I have Taco Bell.”
Tom Diehl, who arrived at the circle with a large cross, said God has called up on him to have a street ministry where he gives people the opportunity to come and pray with him. He said he does it at street locations in Sebring and Avon Park.
While many of the attendees carried signs that included messages indicating they love downtown Sebring, Gingerlee Mitchelllindo, whose retaining wall was tore down by the city after a court ruling, had a different message.
“Welcome to Sebring, where it’s corrupt government takes your land and property without just compensation,” the sign said.
Sebring officials have disputed that they violated her rights.
She said the she arrived before 5 a.m.