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Nancy Jo Eckerson: Akron feels the love from Hollywood

Akron, the charming, sleepy little village of my birth, has now officially been loved by Hollywood. And I, for one, am thrilled and amazed. I was fortunate enough to witness the wonder of the big-screen royalty as they first set up camp in Akron Falls Park to shoot scenes for the coming Hollywood film “Marshall.” That’s all it took. I was bitten by the movie bug!

On my lunch break, I visited the park to see if there were any signs of greatness lying about, and there were plenty. First, I saw four lampposts added to the Parkview bridge, adding charm to that gorgeous 1930s renovation.

Secondly, I was lucky enough to briefly talk to a local freelance lighting person who was putting up enormous floodlights that would eventually light up the lake and the creek banks like it was daytime. Hollywood magic in the making!

Lastly were the crew members, moving about the bridge and creating a huge bounce mattress at the foot of the minifalls. 

I returned home but was struck only hours later with an undeniable urge to return. At 8:30 p.m., I found myself entering the Brooklyn end of the park, leaving my car and hoofing it up the path to the underside of the bridge. There, watching the few spectators down below, was Kate Hudson, herself. I was amazed, because not only was a huge star on our little bridge, but she was waving hello to a group of young girls who were quietly exploding with joy at the sight of their idol.

What was so amazing about all this? These youngsters didn’t make a peep. They waved back, of course, but nothing above a whisper could be heard as they reveled in their find, and that, folks, was a proud moment. You know you’re in a great town when even the children are accommodating, courteous and thoughtful.

At about 9 p.m. (six hours since my first glimpse at this cinematic spectacle), I headed to the upper park for an even better view. I was blown away by what I witnessed. A huge portion of Akron Falls Park had been transformed into a bustling Hollywood metropolis. I saw a mammoth white tent, like a wedding tent, lit from within. Next, I saw one trailer after another lined up on the roads and paths around the tennis court like a little village. There were directors, crew members, extras and stars everywhere. Gigantic rolling machines with arms reaching toward heaven bore panels of six or eight more floodlights each. I felt like I had stepped into a fairy tale.

It was astounding; the legwork, the hours of coordinating and planning must have been mind-boggling.

What an honor to have been chosen to be part of this cinematic creation. I was lucky to speak with one of the crew, an aspiring director herself, and was treated with respect and warmth. The whole event was a night to remember, and I hope the cast and crew felt the same way about our village.

Thank you to the filmmakers who are bringing to life this story about Thurgood Marshall with such brilliance and charm. Thank you to location manager Michael Nickodem for finding Akron; thank you Reggie Hudlin for your directing talents, and thank you to the cast and crew. I hope Western New York will always be a shining star in the movie industry.

It is a win-win proposition, the movie companies bring in excitement and money, we give them tax breaks and courtesy. Yes, everyone wins.

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