‘Today’ show celebrates Sonoma County, delights local fans with special broadcast from Santa Rosa
Thanks to the “Today” show and the magic of television, Sonoma County can expect to welcome some 5 million virtual visitors starting at 9 a.m. Friday morning, when segments taped Thursday at the St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Santa Rosa air during the NBC morning show’s third hour.
In front of an outdoor live audience of nearly 200 people, with vineyards providing a lush green backdrop, “Today” co-hosts Sheinelle Jones, Craig Melvin and Dylan Dreyer, and veteran weather forecaster Al Roker, conducted interviews and talked among themselves for two hours.
They then stayed on to tape short lines for the breaks, like, “We’ll be right back,” and “And now the local news.”
Just as fans do when the show broadcasts from its home at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, spectators sported colorful signs with attention-grabbing messages. The local samples included “TODAY and Every Day is Wine Day,” “School Nurses Love Wellness” and “Love You, Mom.”
Before taping began Thursday, Stephanie Mansour, the show’s regular fitness contributor, led the crowd through a mild set of exercises, gave instructions on how to capture a good selfie with the show’s hosts in the background and issued the two basic instructions for any live TV audience: Smile and be loud when you cheer.
Roker, known as “American’s most trusted weather forecaster” and a cornerstone of the “Today” show since 1996, delighted the crowd each time he walked by, fist-bumping with bystanders, tossing off a quip now and then and winning a warm response when he shouted, “Cheers to living the California Dream.”
The first segment taped Thursday had Roker arriving to the set aboard the winery’s pedal-powered trolley “Tour de St. Francis,” and inviting his fellow cast members to join him.
“The crowd out here was especially vociferous, with the great weather and the beautiful setting,” Roker said when the day’s taping was done.
Fans came to the taping from as far away as Arizona and Texas and from such cities as Seattle, Atlanta and Cleveland.
In one segment, “Today” lifestyle contributor Jill Martin hosted local artisans and entrepreneurs. Interviews featured 11-time Olympic medalist for track and field Allyson Felix, a native Californian, and Nikki and Brie Garcia, identical twin sisters who were formerly in the WWE, along with TV personalities, podcasters and entrepreneurs.
“Today” regulars clearly enjoyed the break from the routine.
“Three of us brought our spouses along, like a little trip,” Melvin said.
Billed as the first “Start ‘Today’” event, Thursday’s taping and a series of local events Friday featuring the show’s supporting cast and guests were sponsored by Sonoma County Tourism at a cost of $1.2 million as part of its strategy to promote tourism in the county from across the nation.
“It’s part of the DNA of ‘Today’ to take people places they wouldn’t have thought of going,” Roker said.
“Today” show fan Karen Lumibao, 70, of Santa Rosa, said she was delighted by the cast’s visit to Sonoma County.
“I am so happy they came here,” she said. “We want people to see how beautiful it is.”
The “Today” show, which debuted in January 1952, has been broadcasting for more than 70 years. “Today” reaches more than 5 million people every day through its broadcast, and millions more through Today.com, the Today mobile app and social media platforms, according to NBC.
You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.