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Honored on air again 'The Early Show' puts Niagara Falls back on TV

Dave Price, weather anchor for "The Early Show" on CBS, took one bite of an Anchor Bar chicken wing with suicide sauce Thursday morning and was too shocked to give the national weather report.

"I can't swallow right now," Price choked into the camera as he stood at Terrapin Point on Goat Island in front of dozens of onlookers and the mist from the falls.

Niagara Falls State Park got its second dose of national exposure for the summer Thursday when Price and "The Early Show" rolled in to showcase the falls as one of the nation's great vacation destinations.

The program was the second national morning show to feature Niagara Falls this month. Two weeks ago, "Today" showcased the waterfalls as one of the nation's beautiful sites.

"You couldn't come close to buying this kind of publicity for Niagara Falls and Western New York," said Mark Thomas, director of the State Parks Western District.

Niagara Falls is one of nine locations the CBS News morning show chose to visit this summer for its "Great American Vacation" tour. Network staff are taking the tour aboard a 50-foot Winnebago. The show also will visit spots that include South Padre Island, Texas; Key West, Fla.; and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Price hammed it up for more than 200 Goat Island visitors who came to watch the two-hour broadcast in person. He made chicken wings, showed off the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours and played with puppies from a Hinsdale animal rescue facility.

And he read a poem written by an anonymous Buffalonian.

"Jack Kemp was a quarterback not a politician. It's pop, not soda or Pepsi or Coke," Price read. "That's what this city is all about. It's real; forget brands. That's what's important here -- how it tastes."

Another Buffalo taste made its way to the producers of the show when a fresh La Nova pizza arrived at 7 a.m.

The show attracted a wide range of Western New Yorkers, from autograph seekers to Buffalo boosters. A group of Girl Scouts, a clown and someone dressed up as SpongeBob SquarePants were part of the crowd trying to get some television face time.
Junior Girl Scouts Alonia Thompson, 9, of Buffalo, and Samantha Grizanti, 10, of Wilson, were a little unsure whether it was worth waking up so early to see the show, but they were all smiles after getting autographs from Price.

Irving resident Brenda Allen woke up at 4 a.m. to travel to Niagara Falls for the show. A member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, she said the early-morning trip was worth it when Price showed off a hat she gave him featuring the slogan "Native Pride."

"We're in Niagara Falls, N.Y., one of the most beautiful spots in our entire country," Price told CBS viewers. "If you haven't been here, you need to come. If you have, you need to come back."

Niagara County's attractions were prominently featured on the national broadcast. Price spent a day about three weeks ago fishing in the Niagara River, riding the Maid of the Mist and climbing the Cave of the Winds -- experiences that were aired during Thursday's program.

"We're surrounded by some of Mother Nature's most beautiful creations," said Price, emphasizing to national viewers that a passport is not needed to visit the falls. "The New York side is one of the most scenic and adventurous places to visit in our country; in fact, in the world."

John Percy, Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. president and chief executive officer, was thrilled with the attention the Falls has received this month.

"Any national coverage is validating," said Percy, who oversees marketing efforts for Niagara County.

Plenty of local groups took the opportunity to capitalize on the national exposure. Joyful Rescues of Hinsdale, Community Missions of Niagara Falls and the Girl Scouts of Buffalo & Erie County all had volunteers holding up signs in the background.

But for Tricia Bollenbacher and her nieces, Hamburg resident Kala Kelly and Houston resident Morgan Owen, Thursday was all about people watching. They were taking pictures of people in the crowd to prove they were up at dawn for the show.

"It was spur-of-the-moment," explained Bollenbacher, a teacher from Buffalo. "At 11 o'clock last night, we thought it would be a fun vacation thing to do."

e-mail: djewell@buffnews.com

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