Block party: Denver morning show wakes up at Evergreen Lake

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By Stephen Knapp

On May 22, local early-risers who tuned in to Fox 31’s popular morning show, “Good Day Colorado,” may have thought themselves still abed and dreaming. There on their screens, sandwiched between the usual campaign, crime and commerce reports, paraded a succession of their very own friends and neighbors, live and lively, against the familiar backdrop of Evergreen Lake.

Truth is, it was a dream of sorts, a rare opportunity for Evergreen to toot its own horn for a statewide audience.

About 6:30, the camera zeroed in on five cyclists from Team Evergreen. Jason Bertolacci, Bob Campbell, Tom Carby, Fritz Kerr and Chris Porter sat astride their bikes on the dew-kissed lawn in front of the Lake House. Behind them, dark pines on the hillside contrasted sharply with the bright new grass painted across Evergreen Golf Course. For those who missed the broadcast, Evergreen looks magnificent on TV.

After grilling the men about Team Evergreen and giving them a chance to plug the gut-busting Triple Bypass bicycle race, Fox fitness guru Joana Canals suddenly went into gushy transports over Campbell’s remarkably well-developed thigh muscles.

“She was very envious,” Campbell said later, with an almost credible air of modesty.

It has long been KDVR’s practice to highlight the unique and entertaining aspects of a different Colorado community each Thursday morning in an easy-going, four-hour breakfast party dubbed “Fox on Your Block.” In recent months, the show has featured pleasant, albeit comparatively unremarkable, hamlets such as Englewood, Greeley and Stapleton. Last week, they finally got it right.

“I watch them on TV every day, and I thought it would be interesting to see them in person and see how they do it,” said Elizabeth Zuniga, a tireless Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce supporter who, as much as anyone, can be credited with bringing Fox to Evergreen’s block. “I contacted them last year just to say ‘hi’ and ask if they could do the show from Evergreen. They said they would, but they didn’t say when.”

About two weeks ago, “when” showed up from out of the blue.

“It all happened very fast,” said Evergreen chamber president Melanie Nuchols. “They called and said they were coming on the 22nd, and they wanted to feature the area’s recreational opportunities, arts and the beauty of the community. It took about a week to pull it together.”

That must have been one busy week. The “Fox on Your Block” format of breaking to remote broadcast during each of several weather segments every hour requires plenty of fresh and, hopefully, interesting local faces on tap. Fortunately, before you could say “Lights, camera, action!” Nuchols had corralled an ample herd of volunteer TV stars.

Folks from Blue Quill Angler were on hand with fishing tips, local artist Ted Garcia spent the morning capturing the lake’s western wetlands on canvas, and a team of massive, chocolate-brown Percherons from Rawhide Partners Carriage rides clip-clopped in with a rustic chuck wagon in tow. Since an empty wagon isn’t nearly as telegenic as a full one, it’s lucky that a troop of Evergreen Country Day School kindergartners dropped by for a few laps around the parking lot. Kindergartners are great TV.

Picturesquely draped and bejeweled Main Street businesswoman Elizabeth Ostteen, along with her supple and sequined colleague, Ali Gelormino, gave Canals a quick primer on the ancient art of belly dancing. By means of some none-too-gentle goading by their fellows at Evergreen Fire/Rescue, firefighter Ted Luke and hook-and-ladder apprentice Kevin Gilbert were persuaded to sit in on the class. Ordinarily, in such cases, it’s customary to include a few words about how the firefighters — rough-and-ready men of action — surprised everyone with their natural grace and a hitherto unsuspected harmony of movement. Ordinarily.

Joining Canals on the dawn patrol, meteorologist Crystal Eggers repeatedly forecast partly cloudy skies and scattered showers, while madcap color man Dan Daru supplied his own frenetic brand of comic relief. Fox eye-in-the-sky Rob Marshall and his furry co-pilot, Deuce the Flying Dog, were forced to cancel their planned appearance when Marshall carelessly landed the chopper in a fog bank and couldn’t take off again.

From 6 till 10 a.m., Canals, Eggers and Daru performed a fascinating broadcast ballet — a curious, low-impact TV tag-team exercise where each round lasts less than a minute, but nobody ever gets to go to their corner and rest. While Hiwan Homestead Museum honcho John Steinle (wearing the type of bright yellow aloha shirt presumably favored by Colorado pioneers) regaled Eggers with tales of Evergreen Lake’s long and colorful history, Daru was over by the Lake House flagpole cramming for his segment with Evergreen Junior High School patriot Jeff Sahli and his 14-year-old lieutenant, Stephen Hardy. The light goes on, and it’s show time. Just as suddenly, it’s “back to Steve and Heidi in the Fox 31 studio.” Next up, Ron Rosa of the Evergreen Golf Course gives Canals a hit-and-run putting lesson. A pair of silent cameramen raced back and forth, somehow managing to keep up with their three on-air associates. Say what you will about “talking heads,” it was an impressive performance all around.

“I don’t really know if I screwed up or not,” said Hardy, looking painfully relieved following his chat with Daru. “But I only spoke, like, one word, so I probably did OK.”

“I had all of these things I had planned to say, and then she only gave me about 10 seconds,” laughed Evergreen Nature Center director Michael Stills. “My daughter is watching at home, and I called her to see how I did. She said I talked too fast. Oh well,” he grinned.

Luke’s and Gilbert’s swaying hips aside, EFR enjoyed its share of air time. The department’s public education officer, Einar Jensen, gave viewers the 411 on fire mitigation, and Dave Montesi, who heads the nonprofit Evergreen Public Access Defibrillation, treated Canals and Daru to a quick tutorial on jump-starting refractory hearts.

It might be interesting to note that, of the middling crowd gathered in front of the Lake House, precious few had come merely to witness television magic in the making. The Blue Spruce Kiwanis crew serving up hot pancakes and cold OJ; the delegation from the Center for the Arts Evergreen; the numerous representatives of the Evergreen Animal Protection League and their four-footed friends — nearly everyone present seemed to be part of the scheduled entertainment. Thank goodness for the Mortons.

“I saw it on TV just now,” said Jim Morton, who, with 11-year-old daughter, Keely and 8-year-old son, James, pulled into the parking lot about 7 o’clock. “I thought it would be fun to come down before school and see what’s going on.”

What was going on, judging by Keely and James, was mostly flapjacks swimming in maple syrup. Both appeared far more impressed with breakfast than with the front end of live television.

“It’s kind of cool,” said Keely, dismissively. “I just really love pancakes.”

Keely’s indifference is understandable. Television, after all, is best seen on a television set, and not everybody cares to know how their hotdog is made. And besides, to a youthful observer the “Fox on Your Block” shoot looked a whole lot like a bunch of grown-ups standing around flapping their gums.

“I like the horses, too.”

By 10:30, Evergreen Lake was quiet, again, a peaceable domain of ducks and joggers, impressions of the morning’s exciting events fading like indistinct shreds of a dream. Evergreen’s 15 minutes of Fox 31 fame was up. For the folks at the chamber, though, that brief moment in the spotlight was well worth the effort.

“We hope this will generate some business for Evergreen this summer,” Nuchols said. “We feel that Evergreen is a hidden treasure, and this is a great way to get the word out.”