'Antiques Roadshow' visits Boise: 'A remarkable showcase for Idaho'

Idaho StatesmanJune 28, 2013 

— Expo Idaho has long hosted gun shows in firearm-friendly Idaho. But Saturday’s first-ever visit by “Antiques Roadshow” elevates the Gem State gun owner to a higher plane — the airwaves of the PBS show that draws 10 million viewers a week.

"I expect to see some nice guns," said Marsha Bemko, executive producer of the series that’s stopping in eight cities this summer to tape the show’s 2014 season. "Our militaria guys are very excited about being in this city."

The first waves of an expected 6,000 people are passing though Expo Idaho at the Western Idaho Fairground in Garden City, bearing one or two items.

Every piece gets an estimated value from one of about 70 appraisers who came to Idaho at their own expense. From that larger pool, Bemko and her colleagues, Supervising Producer Sam Ferrell and Associate Producer Jill Giles, are furiously culling the items to about 90 that will make the show and another 15 that will appear on web-only appraisals.

The result will be three one-hour shows airing during Roadshow’s 18th season, sometime between January and June. Additional material will appear in “Junk from the Trunk,” special episodes featuring items from various cities on the 2013 summer tour.

Bemko, who’s been with the show for 14 years, said she’s delighted to be in Idaho, one of a handful of states that hadn’t yet been visited. Even though the population base is small compared to many stops, about 15,000 people applied for 3,000 pairs of tickets, on par with Jacksonville, Fla., and more than Knoxville, Tenn., and Baton Rouge, La.

“Without a doubt, enough things will walk through the door that we’ll have no problem filling three-plus episodes,” Bemko said.

Host Mark Walberg, taping his ninth season, said high value in some items is flashy, but the tales of their acquisition are just as important.

“The entrée to watching our show may be waiting to see that little ‘brrrring’ across the screen to see if the person is rich, and, therefore, I could be rich from finding something in my garage,” Walberg said. “But the reason people stay with the show is still story. We tie objects and peoples lives and families to moments in history.”

Boise can thank Billings, Mont., for paving the way for the Roadshow reaching Idaho. With no Idaho convention center big enough to accommodate the program's typical needs, a 2010 taping at MetraPark in Billings showed using multiple buildings in a fairground setting could work, said Giles, the associate producer.

“The people at Expo Idaho have risen to the challenge,” said Giles, noting that light leaks had to be plugged, tents erected, parking shuttles arranged and security assured.

Idaho Public Television has provided 120 volunteers, to supplement the crew of 45 from Roadshow’s WGBH-Boston home and 15 local technical crew.

Idaho Public TV General Manager Peter Morrill was wowed by the scale.

“I am speechless,” Morrill said. “This is a huge operation and I can see why they generally don’t come to cities without 100,000 square feet of convention space without obstructions. It’s going to be a remarkable showcase for Idaho.”

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