April 1, 2010

‘My Heart Will Always Be in Carolina’ celebrates
10 years on TV with new programs

Coastal Production Company will celebrate 10 years of production of "My Heart Will Always Be in Carolina" with the release of a new series of programs on UNC-TV beginning this month. 

"All of the new programs for this year are good, but I believe several of them may be some of the best we have ever produced," said Ken Mann, executive producer for the series. 

The program first aired in the spring of 2000, and they continued once each week on Sunday mornings, on WGNT-TV out of Hampton Roads, Va. 

Then, as now, the topics were about the people, places, and things of the Outer Banks and northeastern North Carolina. Mann and his crew have recorded well over 100 episodes, and he says every week viewers e-mail, send letters, or stop him on the street to give him ideas for another show. 

In 2002, the program moved to WSKY-TV 4 and has continued to grow from there. 

Today the program is broadcast more than 20 times per week on 17 commercial and public TV stations, 11 of which are part of the UNC-TV network, carrying the program from the mountains to the coast of North Carolina and into parts of Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina. 

"My Heart Will Always Be in Carolina" is not just another weekly TV show, the producer says. Each program is like a mini-documentary and is preserving for future generations a part of life in northeast North Carolina. 

Some programs have served other important purposes in addition to the broadcasts. A tour on the Dismal Swamp Canal was used to encourage Congress to continue funding for the waterway. A program about the Newbold White House in Hertford is used to train volunteers who work at the historic site. A segment in a program about Swan Days on Lake Mattamuskeet was used to raise public awareness about the need to restore the pumping station. Educators use the programs for teaching about subjects that are not always found in school books, such as where softshell crabs come from and the list goes on. When the late Captain Wayland Baum of Wanchese was on the show, he was the oldest living lighthouse keeper in America. Before he passed away, Pete Hampton of the Hampton Fish Company gave Ken and his viewers a first-hand account about North Carolina’s great herring fishing industry that has all but disappeared. 

The economic impact on the communities that have been featured in the show has never been measured, but in some cases it is believed to be substantial. 

Kay Mitchell Thomas in the Chowan University Office of Development said the number of people who attended the Murfreesboro Watermelon Festival increased from 15,000 to 30,000, the year after the festival was seen on "My Heart Will Always Be in Carolina."

Doward Jones with the Washington Waterways Commission in Plymouth says he can always tell when any of the programs about the town or the Roanoke River are on TV because he always gets phone calls and e-mails from people interested in visiting the area. 

The program has been recognized over the years with the prestigious Communicator Award for a show taped while sailing the Elizabeth II, and most recently in 2009, with a MarCom Award for a program produced about the Lost Colony and the Waterside Theater that focused on the history and contributions of the people of the Outer Banks to the outdoor drama.

The director of photography for "My Heart Will Always Be in Carolina" is Bob Boyer. Boyer has been involved with almost every episode of the show. He is an award-winning videographer who retired to the Outer Banks after a career with NBC. He worked on the “Today” show and in the Washington, D.C., news bureau of NBC. 

Mann credits Boyer with giving the show a professional look right from the beginning. Mann’s background was in radio. When the idea came up to start the show, Mann said he knew what he wanted to do, but did not know how to do it. His nephew, Will Glenn, also with NBC, told him that Boyer was retiring to the Outer Banks. Mann started looking and finally met Boyer when they ran into each other while taping at the Native American PowWow on Hatteras Island. 

Mann said, "Bob understood what I wanted to do, and most importantly, he knew how to do it."

The Mann family has also been an integral part of the program over the years. Paula Mann, Ken’s wife, is responsible for working with the sponsors and underwriters for the show and is in charge of accounting. As his sons Omie and Rex were growing up, they also helped, traveling to the different locations with the production crew, moving equipment and sometimes appearing in the shows.

Even with the many changes in technology, Coastal Production Company has stayed on the cutting edge. The very first programs were produced in a digital format at a time when many TV stations and production companies were still working with analog tape. All of the shows since 2008 have been produced in wide-screen high definition.
Over the years, the cost of producing the program has been paid for almost exclusively by the private business sponsors and underwriters. Some of the sponsors you see on the show today helped sponsor the very first broadcast 10 years ago. Since production began in high definition, the UNC-TV network has also contributed to the cost of production. 

Some of the new programs scheduled for this year are about the history of surfing in North Carolina, riding five North Carolina ferries in one day, the purple martin roost at the Manns Harbor Bridge and the Wings Over Water program, the North Carolina Lions VIP tournament, the largest fishing tournament for the blind in the world, a tour of Hatteras with two of the Island natives, and the arts of the Albemarle.

The first broadcasts of the new series of programs will begin on Sunday, April 4, at 6:30 p.m. on UNC-TV. A complete broadcast schedule is available on the company’s Web site, www.obxtv.com.

As for the future, Mann says, "I have truly been blessed to be able to do this type of work and particularly here on the Outer Banks and in northeast North Carolina, because one of the great things about living and working here is there will always be another story to tell." 

(On the Outer Banks, “My Heart Will Always Be in Carolina” can be seen each week on WSKY-TV 4, UNC-TV HD, UNC Explorer, and OBTV 12.)

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