Move over, Your Majesty, Al Roker is here

__[Read The Flat Hat’s interviews with “Matt Lauer”: and “Al Roker”:]]__

“You look like George Washington,” shouted an onlooker as NBC’s ‘Today Show’ weatherman Al Roker, dressed in colonial garb, greeted the crowd just before climbing into a horse-drawn carriage.

“The Today Show” broadcast live from Colonial Williamsburg this morning as part of a series on battleground states in the 2008 presidential election. Roker talked with the banner-waving, slogan-chanting crowd of 700 about national issues such as the economy and foreign policy.

Further down Duke of Gloucester Street, the show’s co-host, Matt Lauer, broke down Virginia’s voting demographics with Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor and former Virginia Sen. George Allen in the Capitol building. Virginia, worth 13 Electoral College votes, could decide the presidential election in August, Lauer said.

The show featured Williamsburg’s colonial attractions, including a fife and drum band and basket weaving. Roker filmed a food showcase of the King’s Arms Tavern for the show’s final segment.

Members of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation have known for two weeks that NBC would film an entire episode of “The Today Show” on DoG Street, and have been preparing since. The foundation hopes the show will attract more tourists to Colonial Williamsburg.

“We could not afford this type of advertising,” Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Director of Historic Sites Diane Schwarz said. “We’ve got a great product here and we hope that ‘The Today Show’ viewers know that, too.”

Colin Campbell, the president of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and a member of the College of William and Mary’s Board of Visitors, said that Williamsburg is still important today.

The colonial city also shared the spotlight with a crowd of 700, many of whom traveled from surrounding areas to appear on the show. One couple waved an “Ohio” banner in front of the camera to greet family back home.

Brenda Morris and her daughter drove from West Virginia so they could catch a glimpse of Roker.

“I can’t wait to see Al Roker,” Morris said. “He loves food like we do.”

Though students from the College had a shorter trip, they were just as excited to be on television.

“We got here at 4:45 a.m.,” Katherine Covina ’12, who came with other members of her freshman hall, said. “We sprinted down DoG Street to get a spot and one of us got injured.”

Students adorned in green and gold dotted the crowd, but were overshadowed by something other than school spirit.

“I think most people are here for political reasons, but small groups of us are here for Tribe Pride,” said Kevin Dua ’09, who wore a green wig and gold face paint.

The College Republicans organized a group to make an early morning trek into Colonial Williamsburg for the show. Ten members waving pro-McCain signs arrived early enough to get a front-row spot.
“We are here to show McCain pride,” John Michael ’12, a member of the College Republicans, said. “Virginia is going red this year.”

In a segment that upset some students from the College, an NBC correspondent praised the University of Virginia mere blocks from campus. Luke Russert, son of the late Tim Russert, failed to mention the College and other Virginia schools while commenting on a segment he had taped earlier in the week at U.Va.

“You have to remember the smartest kids in [Virginia] go [to U.Va.],” Russert said. “So it is leaning a little bit toward Obama.”

He later issued a public apology, and once again failed to address the College by name.

“I meant to say that many of the kids who go to U.Va. are from affluent, highly educated households who are leaning Obama, and hence their kids lean Obama. Plenty of smart college kids will vote for John McCain from U.Va., and plenty of smart kids go to Virginia Tech or George Mason and they, too, could end up being big Obama voters.”

Student Assembly President Valerie Hopkins ’09 expressed her regret that Russert ignored the College while filming in Williamsburg. Though she has not talked to him yet, Hopkins plans to invite Russert to campus.

“I will be contacting him and inviting him to come to the College, hang out with my friends and go to some of my classes so he can check out the intellectual rigors of the school for himself, and I am certain he will change his mind,” Hopkins said.

Politics remained at the forefront of the event, as a group holding a 10-foot-long pro-Obama banner began chanting “Yes we can.”

The McCain supporters started chanting back, but before the situation escalated, the Tribe Pride crowd began singing the Alma Mater, and shouts of “William and Mary” calmed the atmosphere for a moment.

“I think the rules are thrown out. I think there are no rules,” Roker said. “I don’t think anyone can assume anything.”


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