Like any memorable undertaking, the Fred Leonard State Farm Hometown Showdown continues to get better and better.

The popular tailgating and fundraising event held almost annually since 2018 was held prior to Marion's 20-14 victory over West Memphis on Friday, October 13, and the event wrapped officially for the year on Friday morning, when Leonard gave the Marion School District a check for more than $10,000 for participating in the event.

“Once again, our community came together and created something special,” said Fred Leonard State Farm Hometown Showdown board member Grandon Gray. “It was a good football game, and that helps, but our main goal every year we do this is to build community and show our young people that if you keep your nose clean, do what you need to do in the classroom, that anything you do in the world of sports just adds to that experience.”

The Hometown Showdown raised more than $50,000 this fall in sponsorships, tailgating areas, and other community events.

After paying for expenses on behalf of the organizers, the host school gets a 50 percent share of the money, while the visiting school gets 30 percent. The remaining 20 percent went to Arkansas State University Mid-South.

“We had more sponsors this year than we've ever had,” said Gray. “That's fun because it shows that people are excited about what we're doing, and it adds to the community excitement.”

Organizing the Hometown Showdown is basically a year-round event.

“Not long after the current year's event, we get together and we talk about what went well, and what maybe didn't go so well,” said Gray. “From there, we sit down with the administration of where the event will be the next year and figure out logistics and what we can do. The logistics at West Memphis are different than they are at Marion, so we have to figure out what's possible and what's not.”

One of the key events attached to the Fred Leonard State Farm Hometown Showdown is media day, which features the head football coach from each team, and select seniors, who field questions from media personnel at ASU Mid-South.

To prepare for the question portion, student-athletes receive media training from Dr. Twanna Smith, such as how to address questions in a thoughtful way.

"We want to make sure kids have the right information on how to get to college, how to get your financial aid,” said Gray. “If we aren't meeting the needs of our students, then that's taking away the main focus of the mission.”

The Fred Leonard State Farm Hometown Showdown began in earnest prior to the 2018 Marion-West Memphis game in Marion, but the event took off in 2019.

Following a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event returned in a big way in 2022 back at Marion. The 2023 Hometown Showdown “was the biggest one yet,” said Gray. “We want to make it bigger and better than even for 2024, too."


Fred Leonard (standing, at center) presented the Marion School District Foundation with a check of more than $10,000 Friday morning. Leonard's contribution was part of the school's participation in the Fred Leonard State Farm Hometown Showdown in October. Marion superintendent, Dr. Glen Fenter (From left), Marion High School principal James Scott, Marion head football coach Lance Clark, HTSD board members Grandon Gray, Leonard, and Mike Chesney, Marion deputy superintendent Hugh Inman, and Marion athletic director Derek Harrell attended the event to accept the funds. (Photo by Chuck Livingston)