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Outdoor show host's fan base grows



Published: Sat, January 15, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



TV host Wayne Hubbard has a reality show with a minority view.

KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A moment at the Kansas City Sportshow recently illustrates how much Wayne Hubbard's life has changed in two years.

Once, he was just another face in the crowd at Bartle Hall. Not now.

As a janitor swept the aisles, she glanced up and spotted Hubbard interviewing a fishing guide for a segment of his "Urban American Outdoors" television show. And her face immediately brightened.

Tugging at the sleeve of Candice Price, Hubbard's wife and the executive producer of the show, she said, "Isn't that the guy who hunts and fishes on TV?"

Price nodded, then giggled.

A good response

As the janitor walked away, talking excitedly about her "celebrity sighting" with a fellow worker, Price said, "It's unbelievable, the response we're getting.

"The other day we were at a Wal-Mart and a little old lady in her 80s came up to Wayne and said she watches the show every week.

"The people have been great. They're showing us that we must be doing something."

Welcome to Wayne's World.

Not long ago, that world centered on the marketing game, where Hubbard owned a business and was busy promoting, among others, athletes such as former Chief Andre Rison.

But Hubbard also was an avid hunter and fisherman -- and an avid viewer of the many outdoors shows on television. And he was bothered by something that was missing on those programs: a minority presence.

So he set out to change that. Hubbard, a black man, began to do his research and collaborated with his wife, who had extensive experience in television work, to come up with a show.

That program, "Urban American Outdoors," made its debut in August of 2003. And life hasn't been the same for Hubbard and Price, who live in Kansas City, Kan.

"Urban American Outdoors" is one of the few outdoors television shows in the country that stars and is produced by black Americans.

The show now airs in more than 90 markets and is viewed by 35 million households weekly.

Winning awards

The show already has won 10 national awards, including two Tellys, which honor outstanding local, regional and cable TV programs.

Hubbard is attracting national attention for his show, receiving critical acclaim from journalists as far away as New York.

And that exceeds anything in Hubbard's wildest imagination when he set out on this venture.

"I used to watch the outdoors shows on television and I would get frustrated," said Hubbard, 37. "There are a lot of African-Americans who hunt and fish, but they were like the silent minority. They weren't being represented.

"And a lot of the shows featured trips that most urban residents could never afford to do. I felt there was a need for something the average guy could relate to."

Hubbard's research convinced him he was on the right track. He found that black people and Hispanics spend more than $100 million on hunting and hunting-related activities annually, according to federal surveys. And those two segments of the U.S. population accounted for a 43 percent increase in participation in outdoors sports over a five-year period in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Given that growth -- and the lack of exposure provided those minorities in the past -- Hubbard guessed that a television show with a black presence could flourish.

He was right. He established what he calls "an outdoor adventure reality show," featuring not only the hunt or the fishing trip but also some of the history and flavor of the area he is visiting.

One thing is certain: Hubbard doesn't have to act when he displays his enthusiasm for the outdoors. Hunting and fishing have always been a big part of his life.

Where he grew up

He grew up in Nowata, Okla., a little country town about 50 miles north of Tulsa -- a place where hunting and fishing were almost a way of life.

"Hunting and fishing were a part of who we were," he said. "Everyone around me enjoyed the outdoors, and I was brought up surrounded by that atmosphere."

That carried over into Hubbard's adult life. He still enjoys being in the outdoors every minute he can. The only difference now: He usually has a television camera, often held by his brother Lamonte, following him.

Though his show is blazing new paths for black outdoorsmen, Hubbard takes pride in the fact that it appeals to a wide range of ethnic backgrounds.




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