Charlie M. Holmes
FLY CREEK —
Rodney Miller’s enthusiasm is contagious. He loves rural America and learning about the people who live in it.
Saturday morning he was standing outside the Fly Creek Cider Mill hanging on every word co-owner and vice president Bill Michaels had to say about the history of the Fly Creek Cider Mill. The two were preparing to take a tour of the facility that will air on Miller’s new show “Small Town, Big Deal” on Dec. 13.
“We’re always looking for something that’s a real slice of Americana,” Miller explained. “To me (the Fly Creek Cider Mill) is a real slice of Americana. This shows some history. We want to preserve that history. We also want to give what it means to grow up in rural America.”
The roots of “Small Town, Big Deal” started to grow about seven years ago.
“When I was the CEO of Montana Tractors, the marketing firm wanted me to do some of the commercials,” Miller said. “I got in front of the camera and really enjoyed it. I collected antique tractors, and I thought I’d like to have an antique tractor show at some time.”
Soon afterward Miller moved to Atlanta and met his executive producer Roger Mahr. Mahr grew up in Canajoharie and still owns a farm near there.
“The way we came about being friends was over our love for tractors,” Mahr said. “We’re in the city now. There’s not a lot of people in the city that know anything about tractors.”
Mahr had already been in television for years and had originally moved to Atlanta for a job at CNN. The two put together a pilot of the antique tractor show and presented it to some people in television.
“They loved Rodney on camera,” Mahr said. “But they said, ‘I think you’re limiting yourself doing an agriculture show, a tractor show. You need to make this more mainstream and make it for rural America in general.’”
Out of that meeting “Small Town, Big Deal” was born. The show started airing on RFD-TV about a month ago.
“We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback,” Miller said. “You never know who’s watching around the country.”
Jann Carl the former host of Entertainment Tonight is one of the viewers of “Small Town, Big Deal.”
“She contacted us and just loves the show, loves the concept,” Miller said. “Since then, her and I have been talking a lot. She’s interested in helping us out in some way.”
Other celebrities that will make appearances on the show include Bob Gunton, who played the warden in “Shawshank Redmeption”, comedian Jeff Foxworthy and country singer John Berry.
Out of the stories Miller has heard so far there are two that have really stuck out.
“We got to meet with a guy who jumped out of the very first plane that led the invasion of Normandy – 92 years old,” Miller said. “He was the 15th guy to jump out of the very first plane. He was the very tip of the spear of the largest invasion in the history of the world. It was just an awesome interview.”
The other story that made an impact on Miller was relayed by the grandson of a missionary who was killed in Ecuador in 1956.
“He’s developed a flying car that will help in missionary work in remote areas. It also has uses in other areas, too. They’re adapting it in ranches in Montana,” Miller said. “It’s hard sometimes to get passion to come through, but it really came through on that. You could see his hear”
“There’s a lot of neat stories out there in rural America,” Mahr added. “We’re finding out that even people in the city are interested in finding out what rural America is doing. There are some interesting characters out here. We’ve done some really neat things, traveling around, and we’ve met some really cool people.”
Saturday and Sunday the show had lined up interviews at the Fly Creek Cider Mill, the Cooperstown Bat Company and Howe Caverns.
“Small Town, Big Deal” airs Thursday nights at 9:30 on RFD-TV, which is channel 794 on Time Warner Cable, 345 on Direct TV and 231 on Dish Network.