Tunkhannock becomes a TV star
BY MICHAEL J. RUDOLF
Wyoming County Press Examiner
The people of Tunkhannock became television personalities on Monday night with the broadcast of the documentary “Our Town: Tunkhannock” on WVIA-TV.
Actually, the star of the broadcast was Tunkhannock itself. The program showcased local history, businesses, culture, attractions, events and more, as told by those who live there.
For the past two months, residents have taken video cameras in hand, shooting scenes of their community and interviewing each other. Augmented with footage shot by WVIA personnel, the story was weaved together.
Some Tunkhannock residents who saw the documentary were impressed by the production.
“I thought it was interesting. It was really different. The people in our area really pulled together,” said Carol Rice.
“It covered everything about the background of the town,” noted Kay Dymond.
“It was fantastic. I didn’t realize there was that much in this area. It was very informative,” added Diane Kenia.
The program featured interviews with local residents who spoke about different aspects of the community, as a montage of scenes rolled past.
For example, Native American historian Ray Liebolt told about Tunkhannock’s earliest days, while 101-year-old Dorothy Colbenson described the town’s growth over the past century.
Others talked on their areas of expertise. Bob Lizza of Lizza Studios and Alex Fried of Procter & Gamble described the business community, while Hildy Morgan of the Dietrich Theater pointed out Tunkhannock’s cultural attractions.
For its initial broadcast, the hour-long program was stretched to two hours, with a few interruptions for the public television station to conduct its pledge drive.
A number of Tunkhannock residents, including many involved in the production of the show, were at the WVIA studios to answer phones. Hosts Lisa Mazzarella, George Thomas and Doug Cook also interviewed some of them about their hometown and their experience of making the documentary.
Even though she had been involved in the production from the beginning, Mazzarella said she was thrilled by the final product. She credited the Tunkhannock residents who actually did the shooting and interviews, and at one point praised them all.
“You are awesome, every single one of you,” she told those at the phone banks.
During its fundraisers, WVIA staff often read the names of some of those calling in with pledges. For this broadcast, Cook handed over stacks of pledge sheets to Ron Whipple and Bob Barkley, sitting at the front row of phones. The two turned into a comedy duo as they read the donors’ names, many of whom were from Wyoming County.
Tunkhannock Borough Mayor Norm Ball, who was interviewed for the show, also answered phones. He noted that while many of the calls were from local people, he was impressed that there were people watching from all over Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Both the documentary and the live segments in between featured local entertainment as well.
During one of the intermissions, a group from the Wyoming County Chorale performed a selection.
And the documentary was underscored by original music written by local musicians Chris Maruzelli and Mike Antosh.
Maruzelli and Antosh also performed an original song, ‘When the Sun Goes Down on T-Town,’ which they wrote especially for the documentary, live in the studio.
The volunteers were also treated to a special cake made by Remington’s Restaurant and decorated with the program’s logo. Ball sliced the cake and passed the pieces out to those in the studio.
At the start of the broadcast, Thomas set a goal of 100 members for the evening, a figure he said was based on the number of people living in Tunkhannock.
By the midpoint of the show, the number was already at 85. That prompted Patrick Robinson, one of those answering phones, to comment, “We’re going to break 200.”
On hearing that, Mazzarella, referring to a scene earlier in the documentary of skydivers at Skyhaven Airport, responded that if that happened, she would jump out of an airplane.
When the evening wrapped up, the tally was at 213 members. Mazzarella did not mention her earlier comment.
Contributors to the fundraiser were offered a DVD copy of the documentary for a $50 pledge, or two copies for an $80 pledge.
“Our Town: Tunkhannock” is scheduled to be rebroadcast (without interruption) on Sunday, Oct. 10, at 2 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 16, at 9 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 17, at 9 a.m.
The documentary is the second of a series WVIA is doing on communities in its coverage area. The first was shot in Danville in the spring. Production on the next, in Berwick, begins next week and will be aired in December, Cook said.