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Jeff Korbelik: NETV2 to show Nebraska native's program about river

Charles "Chuck" Strinz is not one to sit and watch the world go by.

"Life is to do stuff," the former Nebraskan said in a phone interview from his Eagan, Minn., home.

Like hopping into a car filled with video equipment to make a TV show about the Mississippi River.

Strinz's first TV effort, "Back on the Mississippi — Hidden Trails, Offbeat Tales," will air at 8 p.m. Nov. 9 on NETV2 (channel 17).

But first, he will screen the program in his hometown of Milford in the city's new 500-seat auditorium at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The screening is free, but donations will be accepted. DVD and VHS copies will be available. Half of the proceeds will go to the Milford Fine Arts Boosters.

Strinz, 51, grew up a farm near Milford and graduated from Milford High School in 1971. Before leaving Nebraska, he worked as a radio announcer (KFMQ, KLMS, KECK) and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for three years.

 "To be able to go back to Milford to show this thing is just a kick," he said.

As was making "Back to the Mississippi," he said.

 A freelance copywriter, Strinz conceived the project after years of traveling the river, mostly on the back roads, alone or with his wife and two children.

He retraces the path of the Grand Excursion of 1854, an historic but largely forgotten event that celebrated America's first railroad connection to the Mississippi River.

The Grand Excursion featured free rail and river rides between the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

Strinz used the excursion's recent 150th anniversary celebration as the jumping off point for his hour-long program, focusing on the people and places on the river between the two regions.  

"I was surprised to learn how certain pieces of contemporary life across America — and around the world — originated on the shores of and in small towns along the upper Mississippi River," he said.

Viewers will meet a modern river rat judge who forever changed the way law-breakers paid for their crimes, discover the birthplace of water skiing and learn about Nebraska's Buffalo Bill Cody's birthplace.

Strinz also visited Fountain City, Wis., where there's a house with a giant boulder in it.

"You've probably heard of ‘The House on the Rock' (in Spring Green, Wis.)," Strinz said. "We don't go there. We go to rock in the house."

Reach Jeff Korbelik at 473-7213 or jkorbelik@journalstar.com.


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