Viroqua took center stage on the Temple Theatre’s big screen Jan. 31 when the episode of “Around the Corner with John McGivern” featuring the city was screened at a preview party.
The Milwaukee PBS television show aired the episode for the first time on the local PBS station Feb. 8.
Viroqua Chamber Main Street hosted the preview party, with refreshments served at Encore next door to the theater.
“This turnout is phenomenal,” Nora Roughen-Schmidt, executive director of Viroqua Chamber Main Street, said from the stage before the episode was screened.
Roughen-Schmidt said the episode “is so special because it highlights wide aspects in the community.”
Mayor Larry Fanta also shared a few words prior to the preview.
“It was truly a pleasure to be a part of this; it’s special,” Fanta said. “John was wonderful.”
Eric Greiling, Director of Development Executive Director, Friends of Wisconsin Public Television, thanked the audience for having “such a fantastic hometown.”
Greiling showed a brief preview of “Wisconsin Water from the Air,” which will premiere on WPT in December. In addition, he showed a segment from a November episode of “Wisconsin Life” that features Viroqua couple Jim Theler and Suzanne Harris who restored their Driftless Area land back to its original prairie habitat by using a technique called a controlled burn.
“I think you know how lucky you are to be living in the Driftless region,” Greiling said.
The audience cheered and applauded as people and places that are in the “Around the Corner” episode appeared on the screen. The episode includes B&E’s Tree Farm, bourbon barrel maple syrup; Jessica Hooper and Randy Skinner, The Bon Ton Millinery Apartments; Ewetopia Sheep Farm’s dye mill; Jeffrey Lawrence, MD, orthopedic surgeon; Sleepy Hollow Auto, poker with Spanky Felton; resident Angie Cina and her round barn; Driftless Books and Music; Second Cloud on the Left organic farm; Kickapoo Valley Ranch Guest Cabins; Driftless Café; Jaali’s Dollies; trout fishing with Driftless Angler, Geri Wagner; and Fanta closing the show. The episode also has “stand-ups,” where the film crew went throughout town to catch a few places that are mentioned in the episode, such as Bluedog Cycles and the Historic Temple Theatre. The Viroqua American Legion baseball team, the 138ers, are also part of the episode.
Following the screening, Lois Maurer, producer/director of the program, and McGivern answered questions and shared stories.
McGivern said the crew shoots five days in the featured community and spends two hours with each person. Filming for the Viroqua episode took place between July 10 and 14.
“People see themselves for a minute-and-a-half, and say, ‘What the hell?’” McGivern said with a laugh.
Maurer said 13 Wisconsin communities are featured each season, and described what goes into producing each episode. She said 12 people work on the show, with filming taking place May through September, and screenings being held in each community.
McGivern said they had to do three takes of Mayor Fanta telling viewers in 30 seconds why Viroqua “is the best place in the world to live, work and play”; during the first take there was a car crash. “I said, ‘That’s a first’.”
McGivern told the audience he had been wanting to feature Viroqua and the Kickapoo Valley area for six years and had been friends with Joe Rogan-Nordstrom of Kickapoo Valley Ranch for 29 years.
McGivern said he was “so pleased with what the community offered. We thought we could all live here.”
An audience member asked McGivern if he had a favorite aspect of Viroqua.
“One of my favorites was Eddie (Nix) and the bookstore,” he said. “I could spend all day there. I was blown away.”