Tate Stevens watched from a short distance away as a crew from D.E.M. Enterprise in Wichita, Kan. finished painting his name on a Belton water tower just as the sun was setting on the evening of March 31.
The newly-decorated water tower is located just south of the Highway 58 interchange, on the west side of Interstate 49.
The 38-year-old Belton native and former street crew worker stood just a few hundred feet from the water tower surrounded by his wife, Ashlie, his children, and a handful of close friends, just as the final touches of the words, “Home of Tate Stevens: Live the Dream!” was nearing completion Easter Sunday.
Tater, a nickname given to him by friends and fans alike, was honored with the tribute after winning the second season of Fox’s The X Factor in late December by the city of Belton -- his former employer, and paid for through donations from private individuals.
Afterward, Stevens, who goes by Stephen Eatinger off of the stage, took several moments to thank the crew for their work, sign autographs and take photos with their cell phones.
The painting was an idea spurred by the former mayor of Belton and “Tate Nation,” Jim Odom, who revealed an artist’s rendering of the design on national television during an X Factor watch party the night before Stevens won the reality TV show, just days before Christmas.
Odom opened a bank account at Bank of Belton, which was dubbed the “Paint the Water Tower Fund.” Odom drew private donations from individuals, and helped organized several fundraisers.
After reaching their $8,000 goal to cover the painting costs, Hamza Smajlovic and his company, D.E.M. Enterprise, arrived to the job site March 28.
After three days of prep work, the crews decided to paint for 12 hours on Sunday after losing a day of productivity on Saturday due to rain. Crews finished just before 7 p.m., as the sun began to set.
“I think it looks very professional and I’m very pleased with it,” Odom said. “I think it is a good thing for Tate Stevens and letting people know that the city cared enough to do it.”
Odom said a public ribbon cutting ceremony is in the process of being scheduled to take place in late April.
When he was a young boy, Stevens’ moved with his family from Texas to Belton, graduating from Belton High School in 1994. After high school, he began touring as the lead singer for the Dixie Cadillacs, who released a self-titled album in 1996. Eventually he put his music dreams on hold and returned to Belton to raise his family, working in construction, and then in the city's water and road repair departments.
He returned to singing in 2005, joining the Outlaw Junkies. He left the group in 2008 to form the Tate Stevens Band and released an independent album that same year.
He auditioned for the second season of The X Factor, passed, and was the eventual winner of the competition under the mentor-ship of Epic Records' L.A. Reid, which led to a recording contract and a $5 million prize.
Stevens began working on a self-titled album in Nashville early in 2013, and it is due out Tuesday, April 23.
The album will feature Stevens’ singles “Power of a Love Song” and “Holler If You're With Me.”
Stevens is also set to give two concerts during the weekend prior to the release of the album in Kansas City, his first performances in the area since auditioning last summer.
The Midland sold out of tickets for Stevens’ first concert scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday, April 21 in just 30 minutes last month. The venue was able to book a second concert for the following day, Monday, April 22.
“We’re going to go as far as Tate goes,” Odom added. “As long as he becomes popular and starts selling records and albums, I think it’s going to be big for our city.”