Saturday, October 07, 2006

Move that bus!

When you watch Christine Koepke and her four children see their new home in Dundee for the first time on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" next month, it's going to be much different than what onlookers experienced.

There were thousands who filled the small community to see the family's reaction and chant "move that bus." I talked with a few. People camped overnight, including students from Winnebago Lutheran Academy where two of the Koepke children go to school. Some napped while they waited for the reveal. Other area residents I spoke with, including several women from Fond du Lac, had gotten there about 5 a.m. The reveal wouldn't be until just before 3 p.m. as we found out the hard way.

Being in the area designated for the press was interesting. It was a mix of reporters from radio, television and various print media. One young woman asked me if she could get into the area, which was closer than her vantage point. I told her it was for the media. She wondered if she snuck in if she would be able to get away with it. I answered security was pretty tight. Later I spotted her filling out a media credential form. She had written down she was representing the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She should have put down a smaller newspaper, they asked to see a business card that she couldn't produce.

Most people were patient and there to express their support for the Koepkes. A few were obnoxious like one drunk on a rooftop that was yelling something unintelligible that only he apparently understood. Two men in the press corp started their own chant just for him, "roll off the roof, roll off the roof." Fortunately he didn't, but did quiet down after that.

There was a lot of waiting. Occasionally one of the show's stars would go by on a gator and toss bags of potato chips or beef sticks. A few women were heart broken when I told them that as I was coming in Michael Moloney (pictured) handed out a few roses to some women in the crowd.

There was also plenty of practice. They'd roll the empty limousine by and one of the directors on a bullhorn would tell the gathering to cheer. Don't look at the camera, "eyes on the limo." They'd also run the show's bus up and down in front of the home and the crowd knew enough to chant "move that bus." That happened about 4 or 5 times. Stars of the show would be spotted and that would send up another roar.

I was not only there to get a story, but call in reports. That didn't happen. Apparently there's a dead spot in the area for cell service and only a few providers could cut through it. There was plenty of time to talk with people about why they were there and how long they'd been waiting. No one wanted to miss anything and left emotionally and likely physically exhausted. Myself I found out I could overcome physical inconveniences (standing for hours, the need for a restroom break) for a story.

Finally the Koepkes arrived. What you could see was an intense emotional reaction. The house represented Matt Koepke's dream for them. Unfortunately he died of cancer. No doubt it will be tough for them too when the episode airs on Sunday, November 19th..about 2 months after Matt's death from cancer.

Now that I've seen how they put together the key element of the show I want to see it too. To be honest when the limo with the Koepkes rolled up some thought it was another test run. There was no appearance by Brett Favre, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw or Kenny Chesney. What you did see was thousands of area residents who volunteered their time, services and cared enough to make Matt Koepke's dream come true. That my friends is the reality in this episode of the ABC-TV reality show!