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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A rural Kentucky town is capitalizing on its homegrown reality star.
Ernie Brown Jr., also known as Turtle Man, has turned Lebanon, Ky., into a must-stop destination for devoted fans. Even before he landed his own show, he had the whole town talking about his unique animal catching talent.
WDRB first caught up with Brown long before his reality TV contract. Despite international fame, Brown still lives in Lebanon, as does most of his family.
"They used to call me Mrs. Brown but now they just call me Turtle Mom," said his mother Lola Brown.
We caught up with Brown and his mother at the Marion County Historical Society, where an exhibit celebrates Turtle Man.
"I've been having this dream since I was a kid at 5 years old I told my grandma, grandpa, I was going to get on the cover of the Rolling Stone," said Brown. "Because I found a magazine book and they said if you find a talent and get the people to love it they'll back you up and they'll love you."
"I never thought he would be on TV but he always said he would make it big someday," said his mother.
"It's been a gold mine for us. We've gotten people from all over the world from Australia, from England, from California, from Texas, from Massachusetts," said Mike Cecil, director of the Marion County Historical Society.
Lebanon is taking advantage of its moment in the spotlight. The museum now gets its share of international visitors and has its own Turtle Man gift shop. It's also the location where Brown keeps an office for his bags and bags of fan mail.
Lebanon has also started a self-guided tour called the Turtle Man Trek. It showcases locations in town featured on the show like the WhiteMoon Winery.
"I had a critter in my winery they were eating all my fruit it was something I just discovered and it was something I needed to take care of immediately," said winery owner Alex Ackermann.
The owner has seen a boost in business since appearing on the show.
I'm very proud of what he brings to Marion County he brings a little bit of flavor and shares a little bit of our culture outside of the community," said Ackermann.
As for Brown, he's hoping to ride the reality wave for as long as he can but for just a moment we got him to come out of his shell.
Brown wiped away tears when describing what it means to him to have the admiration of young fans.
"I do shows for them and I got little kids out here dressing up like Turtle Man and that's what it's all about I'm doing it for Jesus and all that stuff. It's a little emotional," he said.
A true entertainer at heart, with a shtick all his own, Ernie Brown dances to the beat of his own drummer. And that's just how he likes it.