By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE March 1, 2005 The national spotlight went dim on Jeffersonville Saturday night.
After five episodes of a new show focused on the village, The Learning Channel (TLC) aired its sixth and final Town Haul Saturday night.
Host Genevieve Gorder and crew Carpenter Jimmy Little, Landscape Designer William Moss and General Contractor Ray Romano wrapped up their final project to overhaul the town, a rehab of the facades of three Main Street businesses.
Ironically, national audiences saw less than what was done in Jeffersonville although Michelangelos Restaurant, Teds Restaurant and the Jeff Pharmacy all got the TLC treatment on TV, Jeffersonville Hardware, which now boasts a fancy sign put up by Romano, must have ended up on the cutting room floor.
As it was, much of the work done on the three businesses was shown as an afterthought to the antics of the townspeople, including Project Manager Frank Haskell who was portrayed eating on the job and campaigning heavily for the Most Valuable Project Manager title throughout the village.
Romano, whose tiffs with Gorder and tendencies to disappear when the work has to get done have featured heavily in past episodes, was hard at work for once, and frustrated that the volunteers just werent there to help get the job done.
In one scene, Romano is on the job alone on a Saturday Haskell and other regular faces on Town Haul jobs are a half-mile away at a Sullivan West football game.
In one of the silliest stunts yet seen on the show, Romano headed to the school to convince the victorious Bulldogs to celebrate a win by helping put up new siding on buildings downtown.
The boys took a ride in the back of a pickup truck with Gorder pumping them up then they set to work, still dressed in their helmets and padding from the game.
Gorder and the Sullivan West cheerleaders stayed on the sidelines (in this case, the sidewalk).
Gorders design work in Saturdays episode was limited maybe because she was tired out from a stint as a waitress during a mid-Thursday lunch rush at Michelangelos.
After winning Gorder at a fundraising auction in Episode Five, Mike DAbbraccio told the host she was going to put in a few hours working for him and brother Angelo at the familys Main Street eatery.
Gorder, who waitressed in college, was game.
Dressed in a skirt and high heels to impress the crowd, she reported for duty at 11:30 a.m. right before the restaurant was set to get busy.
A sign on the door warned customers they were in for a special treat, and most were amused by the wayward waitress propensity to screw up orders and delay the whole process.
Mike razzed their newest staff member, but he confirmed what many loyal customers have always wondered when Gorder asked what he did there, the burly restaurant owner sputtered, Nothing!
In truth, the DAbbraccios shared their story of hard work from Italy to the city and then up to Sullivan County, where theyve owned the Jeffersonville eatery for years.
With years of hard work behind them, the brothers said it was nice to have someone doing something for them for a change. And they readily agreed to have their building put on the list of fix-me-up projects Town Haul had slated.
And while the buildings on what Gorder deemed the beige side of Main Street got a facelift, Moss set to work on his one and only big project of the series a public park.
With the help of Bea Kubenik-Erlwein (who acted as a liaison between local contractors and the Town Haul crews while TLC was in town) and Mayor Ed Justus, Moss was put in touch with Eddie Lama, owner of a swath of land between The Good Earth and Matsons Deli.
Lama, who is the principle in the Oasis Animal Sanctuary in North Branch, is also the landlord of the Landmark Building, which houses the health food store, Jims Barbershop and a number of apartments.
But the lawn has remained empty since Lama purchased the building a few years ago and Moss had big plans to make it a sanctuary of his own making.
Moss wanted Lama to allow people to enjoy the park as a place to eat their sandwiches and take-out from Michelangelos or Teds.
Lama, an animal rights activist, said hes willing to share Main Streets one green spot with the community but no meat products are allowed within the confines of the property.
At first, Moss was resistant. In talks with Kubenik-Erlwein, he was seen Saturday rolling his eyes and pooh-poohing the whole idea.
But Lama stood firm. He told Moss there wouldnt be meat police at the entranceway, but he said people should respect a sign erected in the park advising them not to bring meat products in.
The space could then be a sanctuary for people and animals, Lama said.
Desperate for a space to call his own with little landscaping to do through the entire Jeffersonville series Moss agreed. But the negotiations had put him down to the wire, so much of the work had to be done by a mixture of volunteers and professionals from D&R Landscaping who were called in to make the park happen at the last minute.
Main Street was the biggest project of them all, Gorder claimed, and the crews had waited until their last week in town to start.
But, as with most TLC reality shows, the pressure of the deadlines will they finish in time? was more made-for-TV hype.
The work was done in time for a cheering crowd to block off Main Street, gathering for a glimpse of the new downtown and first dibs on gift bags from show sponsor Swiffer.
Haskell, who won his campaign after all, earned a chrome-plated Swiffer stamped with Gorders autograph.
And the townspeople who have featured heavily in the past six episodes said their tearful goodbyes to Gorder and friends.
Although most know Romano was let go from the show (a biography of the team on the TLC Web-site no longer lists Romanos name), the rest are off to Laurens, SC, to overhaul another town.