Falls, Kohler in TV spotlight

Popular MPTV show features local places in upcoming episode
by Jeff Pederson of The Review staff

THE CITY OF SHEBOYGAN FALLS and village of Kohler will be featured on an episode of the Milwaukee Public Television and Wisconsin PBS show “Around the Corner with John Mc- Givern” airing Thursday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. The show’s crew visited Sheboygan Falls in late July to shoot the show at 18 area locations. Pictured left to right are crew Justin Migliano (videographer), Gail Grzybowski (audio), John McGivern (host), Lois Maurer (producer) and John Larscheid (videographer). — Submitted photo THE CITY OF SHEBOYGAN FALLS and village of Kohler will be featured on an episode of the Milwaukee Public Television and Wisconsin PBS show “Around the Corner with John Mc- Givern” airing Thursday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. The show’s crew visited Sheboygan Falls in late July to shoot the show at 18 area locations. Pictured left to right are crew Justin Migliano (videographer), Gail Grzybowski (audio), John McGivern (host), Lois Maurer (producer) and John Larscheid (videographer). — Submitted photo The city of Sheboygan Falls and the village of Kohler are set to take on the bright lights of the small screen in a big way, starring as the featured attraction of a soon-to-be broadcast episode of “Around the Corner with John McGivern,” and the excitement is already building.

The popular Milwaukee Public Television and Wisconsin PBS show, hosted by well-known actor, radio personality, comedian and stage performer John McGivern, is now it is third season

Each week the show spotlights communities throughout the state, with a strong focus on how residents live, work and play in each distinctive locale.

“We started the show three years ago with the idea that we wanted it to have a community focus and feature a cross section of people and places that the average viewer might not have known about before,” McGivern said. “It’s really about how everyday people go about living, working and playing in their own community on an everyday basis.

“The show is not scripted at all,” he said. “As the host, I attempt to engage the people we feature the best that I can and ask different questions to get them going. It’s hard to predict what we will get out of people, but that’s what makes the show so much fun. We’ve done 28 episodes so far, and it seems to be gaining momentum as we go.”

McGivern and Show Producer Lois Maurer each admitted they had little knowledge of Sheboygan Falls before venturing to the city in late July to tape the episode.

“My husband’s family is actually from Sheboygan and I’ve been going to visit there for 25 years,” Maurer said. “It is kind of funny because when we got off 43 at the Sheboygan exit, we always went east and never went west.

“My mother talked about going to Sheboygan Falls to shop,” she said. “She would called it ‘The Falls,’ and I always thought it was this sleepy little town with nothing much going on, but I was wrong!”

“I had never been to Sheboygan Falls and didn’t know much about it,” McGivern said. “We featured Sheboygan in season one of the show and at that time thought about doing Kohler in the future.

“When we were planning season three, we revisited the Kohler idea and got to thinking that with Sheboygan Falls right next door, why not include it too,” he said. “We are sure glad that we did. It is a remarkably beautiful community with amazing architecture and historic buildings all over the place. It made for a great 30 minutes of TV.”

McGivern, who created the show with Maurer after the two worked together on the Great Circus Parade and other projects in the Milwaukee area, said he conducted 18 interviews with various community members at selected locations in Sheboygan Falls and Kohler over a four day period from July 29 through Aug. 1.

“We met so many truly kind people and visited a lot of really neat restaurants, stores and manufacturing and retail businesses during our stay,” McGivern said. “We went to the American Club in Kohler and focused on the toilet seat heritage with Bemis and the Kohler Co.

“We went to the Kohler Design Center and met with Dick Bemis, before going to the Bemis Bath Shoppe in Falls, which was really a lot of fun,” he said. “We interviewed the store manager, Lori Zeier, and had such a good time with the cool displays and presentation of the toilet seats and fixtures in the store.”

McGivern said the taping sessions in Sheboygan Falls and Kohler provided plenty of highlights.

“We talked to Tom and Bob Schnettler at Poly Vinyl, Lily Klauber at Catalunya and David and Laura Koebel at Roots Acoustic Music, who each had interesting perspectives and stories to offer about being in business in Sheboygan Falls,” McGivern said. “We also visited Falls Community Church and talked to the pickleball people, which was priceless. We also shot a 30-second spot with Mayor Randy Meyer, which airs at the end of the episode.”

McGivern was also introduced to two of the most beloved people in Sheboygan Falls – Ray and Lynn Schmitt.

“Our visit with Ray and Lynn Schmitt was really something,” They wave to people from their front porch everyday, which at first I thought was a pretty odd thing to do. Once I got to know them a little bit, I started to understand what it was all about.

“We did a waving shift with them and she made us cookies,” he said. “They are truly nice people. You don’t find people quite like them very often.”

McGivern was also impressed with the work done at the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center.

“Before we arrived, Beth Dippel, the research center director, had researched my mother’s family history, tracing all the way back to Ireland,” McGivern said. “I was amazed at what she and her staff were able to find. I couldn’t believe that they had done all of this work to find out about my family heritage.

“The people there are fantastic and the center is a great resource for the community,” he said.

When scouting out locations and people to feature in the show, Maurer says she attempts to focus on the things that are out of the ordinary.

“We do 13 communities each season and my goal as a producer is to not do the same thing over and over again each time,” Maurer said. “If we’ve visited a bakery or coffee shop in a previous location, we try not to do that in the next few episodes. We want to mix it up.

“We don’t do anything involving chain business, because we want the show to be community and grassroots-based,” she said. “For this show, one of the highlights for me was my first trip to Evans. My mother-in-law has been shopping there for years and I had no idea was it was really like. It is a pretty fantastic experience to go through that store.”

A total of 14 people work on the show, including camera operators, editors, audio and production staff and the host.

Once filming is completed at a particular location, Maurer takes 14 tapes consisting of anywhere between 26-40 minutes of footage back to the office for editing,

“We always have a large amount of tape to look through and I have a great production editor that goes through each minute of the footage and pulls out the best footage for a rough cut of the show,” Maurer said. “I then take the rough cut and recut it for the final version of the show.

“There are certainly a lot of decisions to be made, but it always seems to work out well,” she said. “We are usually pretty happy with the final result and based on the feedback we’ve been getting, the viewers like it pretty well too.”

The other 12 communities featured this season include: Hartford, Prairie du Chien, Geneva Lake area, Wausau, La Crosse, Chippewa Falls, West Allis, Cudahy and Oconomowoc, as well as the West Town, Town, Mitchell Street and Washington Heights neighborhoods of Milwaukee.

“People always ask us what we will do when we run out of communities to feature,” Maurer said. “I always say that will never happen. There are hundreds of interesting places in the state.

“We are already planning our fourth season, and the problem for us is picking where to go,” she said. “There are so many possibilities.”

The show airs Thursday nights from 7-7:30 p.m. on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10.1 and all Wisconsin PBS stations.

“We went to 13 locations and we have 14 shows that will air through April,” McGivern said. “The last episode features John Gurda, who will dive deeper into the history of the communities we visited.

“It is the most-watched show on Milwaukee Public Television and the most-popular PBS show in the entire country that airs on Thursday nights,” he said. “We are also now airing on Minnesota PBS and Iowa PBS station, which is really exciting. It is a great opportunity to expose Wisconsin to a new audience and hopefully draw a few out-of-state folks to visit these communities.”

As a Milwaukee native who has traveled the country for various projects in the entertainment industry, McGivern is proud of the state he calls home.

“I went to Los Angeles to start an acting career, and eventually came back in 2001,” McGivern said. “I love it here. I’ve been able to do some TV work with the ‘Daily Dish’ feature that aired for a while on Channel 4 in Milwaukee and have been on the radio at WKLH for 20 years.

“I also do a lot of stage work with one-man shows that focus on growing up in Milwaukee and Wisconsin and some of my life experiences,” he said. “Overall, the ‘Around the Corner’ show has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I really love it.”

McGivern and Maurer will make a special appearance in Sheboygan for an episode premier party at Range Line Inn on Sunday, Jan. 26, from 1-3 p.m.

“We do these community preview parties at each of the locations that we feature,” Maurer said. “It is free and open to the public, so we are hoping to get as many people as we can to attend. We always invite the people that appear on the show, because the show wouldn’t exist without them.

“We will show the episode and do a presentation and questionand answer session,” she said. “It is a great chance for the people in the community to show they are proud of where they live and celebrate it together.”

McGivern was so impressed with Sheboygan Falls that he indicated he wouldn’t mind making a return visit.

“I would definitely go back,” McGivern said. “We ate in a few great restaurants, visited the antique store [Uncle Ira’s] and swung by the soup place [Day Dream Cafe].

“From an outsiders perspective it seems that Sheboygan Falls often plays the role of step sister to Sheboygan and Kohler, but it really stands on its own two feet,” he said. “It is a town that has it all – great restaurants, buildings, shops, scenery and really nice people too.”

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