Glades area up next for fame via PBS ‘On the Town’ series

BELLE GLADE — Crews from South Florida PBS were out and about in the Glades area of Palm Beach County on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 7-8, shooting at various locations for an upcoming episode of the twin stations’ “On the Town in The Palm Beaches” series.

South Florida PBS is a partnership of the stations serving the region, WPBT-Channel 2 out of Miami and WXEL-Channel 42 from Boynton Beach, and “On the Town” is a series made possible by the Palm Beach County Tourism Development Council (TDC) in cooperation with the Palm Beach County Film and Television Commission. Its shows are reaching PBS viewers from Sebastian to the Florida Keys, and being distributed in all other markets serving Florida. Series host Frank Licari participates in most of the visits the crews make to tourist destinations as well as unusual or unique attractions in the county.

For a taste of what the series offers, viewers may watch repeats of the most recent show, which aired Thursday and focuses on destinations in the Boynton Beach area, at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 23, on WXEL-42 and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 24, on WPBT2.

As for the episode about the Glades, which is scheduled to air in March 2018, the crew had an ambitious itinerary in which Mr. Licari was not going to be able to make all the stops.

Because of that, according to Melissa Harmon, direction of production/south for South Florida PBS, the station planned an additional trip to the Glades in January for crews to shoot film footage at some other locations for inclusion in the TV show.

Subjects scheduled to be interviewed last week are:

• Stephen Weeks, a birder for 30 years, former Belle Glade mayor (2009) and a board member of the Glades Historical Society, at the Torry Island Campground;

• Melissa McKinlay, mayor of Palm Beach County, at the Pahokee Marina & Campground on Lake Okeechobee;

• Captain Mike Challancin of Eagle Nest Airboat Tours, who is also an artist and was to pilot an airboat to a favorite spot on Lake O where he goes to paint;

• Chris Davenport, Palm Beach County’s archaeologist, who was to discuss the history of the Glades, the Torry Island Campground, farming in the area, the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail and the Herbert Hoover Dike, at the Lawrence E. Will Museum of the Glades;

• Keith Wedgworth, a fourth-generation farmer in the region who’s affiliated with the Florida Farm Bureau’s This Farm CARES program, who was to discuss the agriculture community and how it affects not only Palm Beach County but the entire country, at Wedgworth Farms;

• State Rep. Rick Roth, a farmer and the Republican representative from House District 85, who was also to discuss the history of agriculture in the region, at Roth Farms;

• J.P. McKay, a fishing guide for decades, known as the “Lake Okeechobee Fish Whisperer,” who was to tell his fish tales along with fact-based information about the natural habitats on Lake O, which he claims is on every man’s bucket list, at Slim’s Fish Camp in South Bay; and

• Leigh Woodham, theatre director, at the Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center on the Belle Glade Campus of Palm Beach State College.

An agriculture tour, either “Sugarland” or “Raisin’ Cane,” was on the agenda as well, and Ms. Harmon said PBS staff were able to get a recreational vehicle donated so Mr. Licari could visit the Torry Island Campground in Belle Glade in style and sit around a campfire speaking with campers by flashlight for the cameras.

That was Thursday evening. On Friday afternoon, at Slim’s Fish Camp in Belle Glade, the producers, film crew and Mr. Licari visited with proprietor Charles Corbin, who has been running the bait/tackle store and fishing-guide base on Torry Island since 1965, and talked with him about the state of the fishing on Lake O this year while preparing to go out on the lake with professional guide Mark Rose of Bass Online.

According to Don Kolodz, who is a senior vice president of Discover the Palm Beaches (DTPB), the sort of exposure that South Florida PBS was working on last week fits right in with the efforts going on at that agency. DTPB is the official tourism marketing corporation for the county, and tourism is the second-largest driver of its economy. Mr. Kolodz focuses on forming operational, information technology and strategic partnerships for DTPB.

Last month, he was among a county delegation who took an airboat ride out of Torry Island in a session aimed at helping to form a Community Tourism Action Plan for the Glades, as part of the overall tourism master plan that DTPB is writing.

Mr. Kolodz and others are hoping that through “Tourism Talks,” which are local informational sessions that the TDC and DTPB put on at various locations in conjunction with groups such as the Lake Okeechobee Regional Economic Alliance of Palm Beach County, they will be able to get more partners for their efforts in the Glades cities of Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay. Even one would be an improvement; “right now we have zero partners from this region,” he said last month.

“The 30-minute video of just the Glades area for PBS is to highlight all the different assets,”

Mr. Kolodz explained. “It’s kind of like … I use the analogy of going to Lake Tahoe, where in the morning you can go skiing and in the afternoon you can play golf. And this is one of those destinations, at least it’s my perception. Once you get here, there’s just tons of things to do.”

Noting that about a third of the visitors who come to Palm Beach County locations travel from within Florida, he said the PBS show will be excellent exposure and is hoping it will see wider dissemination.

“It’s one of these well-kept secrets,” Mr. Kolodz said of the Glades, describing the void in which it seems to hover. “Part of it, I think, is just communication and that can be (addressed through) marketing, but I think we can use social media, we can use PR, we can use the press to educate people.”

Producing a video such as PBS is doing “is what I refer to as low-hanging strategic fruit.

That is, real easy to deploy and we don’t need Ph.D.s to do this, we can just plug and play,” he said.

Ms. Harmon said she and her co-producer produced the jam-packed itinerary after doing some research.

“We came up about a month ago, went around, met a few folks and eyeballed different spots and were able to connect with some farmers, and then we sort of put it all together.

The biggest eye-opener for myself has been the size and scope of the agriculture. I’ve always known there was sugar cane up here by this lake, but I never knew that this was the biggest agriculture producer county east of the Mississippi, and that was really eye-opening to hear the vast amounts of food that come out of here and feed the nation every day,” she said.

About this particular show, which despite the sheer number of places the crews were to visit is still going to be only a half-hour long, Ms. Harmon explained: “It’ll probably end up being roughly 10 to 14 segments. We may be closer to 10 because we spent a lot longer time, like out on the airboat. That’s going to be a longer segment because there’s just so much to see and so much to learn about when we were out on the water. And the same with today, with going bass fishing, I think that’s going to be fun, it’s also going to be a little longer piece. We pack quite a bit in these shows.”

Frank Licari (left center), “On the Town” series host, interviews his boat pilot as they and the rest of the crew (in background aboard Mike Rose’s boat) get ready to go out bass fishing on Lake Okeechobee while cameraman Jeremy Nicholson records footage. Photo by Chris Felker.

 

Frank Licari, host of the “On the Town” series, takes care of a last-minute detail, calling the state’s toll-free number to get a fishing license while South Florida PBS’s Jeremy Nicholson mans the camera. Photo by Chris Felker.

Frank Licari (center), “On the Town” series host, interviews Slim’s Fish Camp manager Thomas Dean next to a live shiner tank at the bait store on Torry Island while cameraman Jeremy Nicholson films the encounter. Photo by Chris Felker.

 

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