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NILES TV soap stars lure fans to garden show



Published: Sun, February 24, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



A surprising number of men were in the line to meet the TV hunks, the show's producer said.

By MARALINE KUBIK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

NILES -- They came by the hundreds, women in their teens to their 80s, swooning at the sight of their favorite soap stars, Jason Cook and Don Diamont.

Baragona Mid America Events brought the TV idols to the Mahoning Valley Home and Garden Show at the Eastwood Expo Center Friday and Saturday.

"We wanted a female-oriented attraction that would produce masses of people to draw attention to this show," said Dominic Baragona, president of the Niles-based company.

Baragona's company produces events such the Great American Rib Burn Off and Canfield Haunted House.

The fans: Hiring the television hunks worked. Some 3,000 fans waited in line for the chance to have their pictures taken with Cook on Saturday; 1,500 waited to meet Diamont Friday evening. Cook portrays Sean D. on "Days of Our Lives"; Diamont plays Brad on "The Young and the Restless."

"I definitely came to see Jason. If he wasn't here, I wouldn't be here," said Angela Baker, a freshman at Thiel College, Greenville, Pa., who drove from campus for a chance to meet her favorite soap star.

Alexis D'Amato, 17, and Molly Hartman, 18, both seniors at Ursuline High School, were waiting in line too.

"I love Jason -- I love Sean," D'Amato gushed as she tried to snap a close-up of the 21-year-old actor.

"He's so adorable," Hartman cooed.

Both girls tape "Days of Our Lives" so they can watch the program after school. Next year, when they're both in college, they said they will schedule their classes around the soap.

Cook's background: Cook dropped out of college after a year to become an actor, he said. He's been appearing on "Days of Our Lives" the past 21/2 years and does personal appearances every other weekend.

Although he acknowledges that most fans who turn out to see him are young women, he doesn't think they are his only fans. "I get a lot of mothers and grandmothers and some guys," he said. "A lot of guys don't admit to watching soaps, but there are a lot of them who are closet soap watchers."

"I'm surprised at how many men there are waiting in line," Baragona said. Of course, he added, a lot of them came with their wives and girlfriends.

Aggie Spencer of Newton Falls came with her 24-year-old daughter, Mindi Walker.

Spencer said it was her daughter who wanted to see Cook, but she worked her way up front to get a good look at him while her daughter waited in line.

An 81-year-old fan, who declined to give her name, came to the show with her daughter, too. While her daughter worked at one of the exhibitor's booths, she wandered over to see the soap star. "I enjoy the program. I've been watching it for three or four years."

The home and garden show continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At the close of the show, landscape materials used in the display will be offered for sale.

kubik@vindy.com




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