Oprah, lakefront attracted show

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By Rhonda E. Sobecki

“Good Morning America” producers found Michigan City’s lakefront perfect for filming after being coaxed by talk-show host Oprah Winfrey to check out Indiana for a segment of its broadcast today called “Getaway Friday.”

Michigan City Mayor Sheila Brillson said Thursday when producers decided to film in Chicago, Winfrey, who owns a country estate on County Road 600N in rural LaPorte County, told them Indiana was worth a visit.

The “Good Morning America” crew left Washington Park early Thursday evening to fly to Chicago, where it will film today with clips of Winfrey and Sawyer at an exercise class and the hosts at Buckingham Fountain.

Brillson said producers, in an effort to find the right site, began at the Illinois-Indiana state line and moved east two weeks ago. Starting at East Chicago and Hammond, the crew looked at and nixed a number of communities, including Chesterton, Valparaiso and Portage.

“They were at the lake before they came to my office,” Brillson said. “After they saw our lakefront, they weren’t looking any further. Then they asked ‘What else do you have?’.”

Brillson said the entire “Good Morning America” visit was pulled together in one week.

And the day “went off without a hitch,” she noted.

And the many police officers who worked security and provided traffic control for the GMA crew did not report one problem, according to Michigan City Police Department Public Information Officer Mark Harris.


On April 28, 2000 Good Morning America Comes to LaPorte County!

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Good Morning, Michigan City

Good Morning America host Diane Sawyer stepped out of the sleek black Lear jet at Michigan City Municipal Airport Thursday morning, spread her arms and said with a smile, This is beautiful!

Sawyer, co-host Charlie Gibson and weatherman Tony Perkins were in Michigan City Thursday to film a segment of today’s program called Getaway Friday.

Soon, they embarked on an 18.5-mile bike tour across northern LaPorte County, stopping at the Mrozinski farm on County Road 150E, the Hesston Steam Museum on County Road 1000N, Long Beach Community Center and Washington Park at Michigan City’s lakefront, where the day of filming concluded with a beach party.

The scenes will be shown on Good Morning America from 7 to 9 a.m. today on all ABC affiliate television stations, including Channel 7 in Chicago.

Earlier in the week, weather forecasts called for rain, but Thursday’s skies were clear, a bright sun warmed the air and the temperature hovered near 70 degrees the entire afternoon.

The morning-show hosts were greeted at the airport at 11:30 a.m., half an hour ahead of schedule. A select few invited to the airport got an opportunity to see Sawyer and Gibson up close. They patiently posed for photos with spectators and signed autographs on pieces of cardboard and paper, all the while talking graciously with star-struck spectators.

Gibson had a sense of humor and kept the small crowd laughing until the time he left.

Michigan City firefighter Jeff Peckat said to Gibson, I watch you every morning.

Gibson responded, I keep an eye on you, too.

Another spectator asked Gibson if he was prepared to ride the entire bike tour.

I think it’s wussy if you only ride the 18, he replied. You have to ride at least 20.

Pointing to this reporter, Gibson added, Besides, I don’t want her to have to write we only rode 18.

Another spectator commented on the shiny aircraft parked nearby. Without hesitation, Gibson said, Diane rented it for the
day. I can’t afford it.

Gibson vowed to the crowd that if he couldn’t make the entire bike tour, he was going to borrow Michigan City police Cpl. Al
Green’s motorcycle.

I’m going to be on a Harley, Gibson promised.

The GMA crew was whisked off to the Mrozinski farm in rented cars, where they named a 2-week-old Belgian draft colt.

After considering more formal names such as King Charles, Prince Charles and Sir Charles, Gibson and Sawyer settled simply on Charlie.

Mrozinski said when the family was contacted about Good Morning America filming at the family farm, he thought someone was playing a joke.

Is somebody pulling my leg or what? Mrozinski said of his first reaction when told ABC wanted to film the farm. The Mrozinskis were found through the LaPorte County Extension Office, which provided producers with several farm options, Mrozinski said.

As the Good Morning America entourage neared the Hesston Steam Museum sometime around 2 p.m., a steam-train engineer gave two loud blasts of a smoke stack while another welcomed the crew and 300 bicyclists with a higher pitched toot of his train horn.

After spending about an hour at the steam museum, the group prepared to ride nonstop to the Long Beach Community Center, about 13 miles away one rider less.

Five-year-old Jeremy Fralich of Beachwalk in Michigan City wiped out and suffered a minor knee scrape shortly after leaving the Mrozinski farm. The boy was forced to rack his bike on a trailer being pulled by the Michigan City Parks and Recreation Department.

Jeremy entered the ride with his mom and dad, Kathy and Brad Fralich, his sister, Alyssa Fralich, 10, and brothers Brandon Fralich, 14, and Darren Fralich, 11.

Dad Brad said he had a backup plan before the family ever hopped on a bike. Lifting his shirt to reveal a cellular telephone hooked to
his waistband, the elder Fralich said, Cell phone. Grandma and Grandpa. They’re on their way.

Only a few others dropped out of the tour, according to Michigan City Mayor Sheila Brillson, who finished the tour without a problem, although she admitted that those last few hills were a killer.

Meanwhile, all along County Road 1000N, people stood or sat, waiting to get a glimpse of Sawyer and Gibson. They posted signs on fences, wrote messages in chalk on the road and adorned baby strollers with poster board greetings, and people gathered in small
groups at crossroads or in their front yards.

The Kaegebein family at 4997W County Road 1000N set up their lawn chairs early and waited. They waited so long that 16-month-old Amanda Kaegebein gave up after playing outside for the better part of the afternoon and fell asleep in her great aunt Mary Ann Setnicky’s lap.

A large crowd gathered at the Long Beach Community Center and Gibson and Sawyer were immediately encircled by spectators upon their arrival.

They signed autographs, posed for pictures and talked with spectators. When the entourage arrived at Washington Park about 5:30 p.m., an estimated hour behind schedule, there was even a larger crowd waiting, with The Rock Doctors providing live entertainment for the group.

The green-blue water of Lake Michigan provided a perfect backdrop for the morning-show hosts, including GMA weatherman Tony Perkins, who joined the band to belt out Roy Orbisons Pretty Woman.

This is to Diane, Perkins yelled at the song’s conclusion.

Shortly thereafter, two shiny black Lincoln Town Cars arrived. While Perkins and Gibson departed together in the back seat of one, Sawyer was whisked away alone in the other.


George W. Bush Visits Northern Indiana October 27, 2000

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Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush came to South Bend on Friday with a message aimed at helping himself in Michigan and helping GOP congressional candidate Chris Chocola in Indiana.

In a 13-minute airport speech, Bush sounded his campaign theme that he “trusts the people, not the federal government” on issues from Social Security investment to determining how much of the surplus should go for a tax cut.

“We can do better in America than what we’ve got in Washington, D.C.,” Bush said, drawing applause from the 1,500 supporters at a late afternoon airport rally.

Representatives from LaPorte County included Michigan Township Trustee Mary L. Lombard, Chief Deputy Bart Lombard, Ron Lombard, and Tony Comegys. Mark Schoonaert from Naturally Wood Furniture donated the use of his digital camera, see the photos and video below.

Bush came in a bus caravan, winding up a day of campaign stops in Michigan, a battleground state in his race with Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore. After the rally, he boarded a plane in South Bend for a flight to Detroit for another Michigan event Friday night.

Chocola, beaming, was in the spotlight, introducing the presidential nominee and then standing beside Bush during the speech, the only other person at the microphone.