Wednesday, February 09, 2011

TOP STORY >> Oprah crew films in area

Leader staff writer

Millions of television viewers across the nation will soon learn about the Civil War Battle of Reed’s Bridge off Hwy. 161 in Jacksonville. On Sunday morning, film crews for “Home Takeover with Simon and Tomas” — a new home-makeover show that premiers in March on the Oprah Winfrey Network — were out at the battlefield site recording footage of Civil War reenactors fighting at Reed’s Bridge. The episode is scheduled to air in April.

Swedish designers Simon Davies and Tomas Cederlund, the stars of “Home Takeover,” were in Furlow last week filming an episode for the show. Davies and Cederlund were restyling the house of Wanda and Don Cook of Furlow. Wanda Cook, queen of the Concord Grapettes, a Red Hat Society chapter based in Furlow, is known by many as the Coca-Cola lady.

She is an avid collector of Coke memorabilia with thousands of Coca-Cola pieces on display throughout the first-floor rooms of her home. The Cooks open their house at Christmas for Lonoke Elementary School students to tour the Coke collection.

To add more content to the television show, film crews recorded footage of Davies and Cederlund discovering the history of the region they were working in. 

 For the episode, the stage was set at the Reed’s Bridge battlefield. Davies and Cederlund happen to be driving along and see a Civil War re-enactment. Back in August 1863, Confederate soldiers fought against the Union army and burned Reed’s Bridge that crossed Bayou Meto to slow down the Union as it made its way to Little Rock.

The designers stop their car, get out and start chatting with 11 members of the Concord Grapettes who are watching the re-enactment from bleachers. While visiting the ladies, two additional soldiers are needed for the en-enactment. Davies and Cederlund are chosen from the audience to participate as Union soldiers.

The Swedish designers changed into Civil War uniforms. The television crew filmed the two television hosts learning how to load and fire muskets and cannons. The two men then join other Civil War re-enactors from around the state to recreate the Battle of Reed’s Bridge for the show.

Daniel Singleton of Hot Springs, 61, has been re-enacting for eight years. He said he participates in six or seven events a year. He portrays soldiers from both North and South sides because there are not enough Yankees.

“When I was a kid, I was impressed with the Civil War. People talked about it weekly,” Singleton said. 
Several eighth-through 11th-grade students from St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Pine Bluff were spectators as well as re-enactors for the battle.

“Jacksonville should be commended; no way could this be done without the city’s help. Jacksonville is the model for preservation in Arkansas,” Ron Kelley, a history teacher at St. Joseph’s Catholic School, said.

Steve Shore of Jacksonville, past president of the Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society, said the filming of the re-enactment was beneficial for the Reed’s Bridge battlefield.

“It shed light on what happened here and gives Arkansas some notoriety on a national stage. There were important battles west of the Mississippi (River),” Shore said.

After the filming crew left the battlefield, a dedication was held by members of the Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society for three educational panels about the battle along the hiking trail beside Bayou Meto. The panels were designed by Steve Shore. One panel tells about troops escaping from Tricky Hill. A second panel depicts thirsty Union soldiers getting water from Bayou Meto. The third panel describes the work of Dick Collins, who scouted for the Confederacy.