By Rebecca Sloan
‘Good Morning America’ will bring singer Brad Paisley along for a show.
GUSTAVUS — Rumors are flying and tongues are wagging in rural Gustavus in northern Trumbull County.
Everybody wants to know if it’s true ABC’s “Good Morning America” is coming to town to tape a live broadcast as part of its whistle-stop train “50 States in 50 Days Tour.”
“It’s true,” said Gustavus resident Linda Lipps. “They’ll be taping here Sept. 17.”
Lipps and her husband, Henry, have known about this breaking news since last spring.
They remember well the day the show’s producers contacted them and asked permission to tape some of “Good Morning America’s” live broadcast from their farm on Hayes Road, which is located near the railroad tracks here.
“The show’s producers actually contacted my brother-in-law and his wife first. They live next to us on an adjoining farm,” Lipps explained. “At first we kind of laughed about it because we didn’t really believe it was true — it’s not every day that ‘Good Morning America’ calls, you know. But then we realized it was legitimate, and we got excited.”
After the Lipps families agreed to let GMA use their farms, which total about 200 acres, the show’s producers swore everyone to secrecy.
In short, the Lipps’ lips were sealed.
“But it wasn’t easy keeping such big news a secret,” she said.
Even now the Lipps are hesitant to say too much about next week’s big event.
“We’ve been told to direct calls to an ABC producer,” Lipps said. “There’s still a lot of secrecy surrounding the event. Nobody knows for sure exactly what is going to happen or what exactly is planned for the morning.”
One reason the event is shrouded in such mystery is because there’s a good possibility one of the presidential candidates might ride in on the “Good Morning America” specially equipped Amtrak train.
“The possibility of this has been mentioned on the TV show,” Lipps said. “If that’s the case, the Secret Service will be involved.”
GMA’s whistle-stop train tour kicked off in New York City on Tuesday and will conclude Nov. 4 — the day Americans vote for their new president.
During the tour, USA Today reporters and ABC News anchors and correspondents will report on one state each day.
ABC News President David Westin said in a Monday press conference that the purpose of the tour is to “look at the election from the point of view of the voters and citizens.”
“Good Morning America” news anchors Diane Sawyer, Robin Roberts, Chris Cuomo and Sam Champion are bunking on the train and broadcasting live from wherever it stops.
Other whistle-stop destinations next week include Stockbridge, Mass.; Niagara Falls, N.Y.; and Harper’s Ferry, W.Va.
Of course, locals have only one stop on their minds: Gustavus.
“Now that the news has been leaking out, everyone is talking about it,” Lipps said.
Bridgette Maney of GMA’s press room said the show’s producers chose Gustavus for Ohio’s whistle stop because it’s such “a great slice of Americana.”
Though Maney could not say whether a presidential candidate will be a part of Wednesday’s programming, she did promise a “very big news maker interview.”
Talk intensified Tuesday when students in the Joseph Badger School District received fliers telling of a Brad Paisley concert that will be part of GMA’s live broadcast next week.
The fliers indicate that tickets for the country music superstar’s performance will be available from 3 until 6 p.m. Saturday at the old Gustavus Elementary School grounds at 4224 state Route 87. Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Maney also said the location of the Paisley concert will be revealed Saturday when those tickets are distributed.
Meanwhile, GMA reporters have been seen around Gustavus and Kinsman, conducting interviews with farmers.
“Viewers will have a chance to see what Ohio’s farm country is like,” Maney said, adding, “And Ohio is such a crucial state in the presidential election. We are thrilled to be in your area.”
Chris Austen, who works at Nancy’s Cozy Caf√© in Kinsman, said she was floored when a GMA producer named Maureen White walked into the restaurant Sept. 2 and asked to interview patrons.
“[White] introduced herself and said ‘Good Morning America’ was doing a piece on farming in conjunction with the presidential election, and then she said she wanted to talk to local farmers because Ohio is swing state,” Austen said. “She had heard Nancy’s Caf√© was the place to go if you want to find some farmers.”
Austen said White talked with some local men and returned again the next week and asked permission to tape footage of Austen chopping cabbage to make cabbage and noodles — a dish served at the restaurant.
“That’s when I heard that ‘Good Morning America’ was planning to broadcast in Gustavus as part of its whistle-stop tour,” Austen said. “[White] asked if, on the day of the live broadcast, we [at Nancy’s Caf√©] could serve cabbage and noodles to the news anchors.”
Austen said she doesn’t know if GMA news anchors plan to sit down and dine at Nancy’s Caf√©, which is located just north of Kinsman center on state Route 7, or eat their cabbage and noodles elsewhere.
Nancy’s Caf√© is owned by Austen’s mother and father-in-law, William and Nancy Austen, and has been in business for 23 years. The restaurant is open from 6 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. seven days a week.
“Good Morning America” is broadcast live from 7 until 9 a.m.
Gustavus resident Steve Ragalyi said “Good Morning America” staff contacted him about three weeks ago and asked if they could erect broadcasting transmission towers on his state Route 87 property near Stoddard Hayes Road in Gustavus.
“I told them they could, but it doesn’t mean they really will. They might change the site at the last minute,” Ragalyi said. “They don’t say very much about what their plans are.”
Ragalyi said the towers are slated to go up Monday and Tuesday.