Article from the Dayton Daily News
Will TV stardom spoil Ohio's Amish?
Talk of "Amish in the City" doesn't rattle quiet country life
By Bob Batz
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Berlin, OHIO-- Amish in the City, the new reality TV series that features five young people from the country sampling life in Los Angeles, may make for interesting talk around the supper table, but travel officials say that so far, it isn't having a detectable impact on one of Ohio's most popular tourist attractions.
"When they announced Amish in the City was coming, we had a meeting to determine how we would handle it if visitors deluged us with questions about the show," said Jo Ann Hershberger, 48, president-elect of the Berlin Area Visitors Bureau in northeast Ohio.. "But even though the locals are talking about it plenty, that just hasn't happened."
It remains to be seen it that holds true, of course, as the show either rises or falls with popularity over the course of its 10-part run. The second installment aired Wednesday(8pm,UPN-17). The plot revolves around three Amish men and two Amish women who put their no-frills lives on hold to share a sprawling mansion with six offbeat city folk, including a wannabe rock musician, a ditzy party girl, and a gay club promoter. Then they start adjusting to their new surroundings.
The show has gotten plenty of national media attention, much of it aimed at Ohio's Amish country-- Holmes, Wayne, and Tuscarawas counties. Last year, 4 million people visited them to observe the 25,000 Amish who live here and to scope out the offerings at Mrs. Gadget's Fudge Shop, the Two Peas in a Pod Furniture Store and other trendy businesses, where inexpensive trinkets are displayed alongside honest-to-goodness handmade Amish crafts and popular edibles that include trail bologna, homemade peanut butter and Swiss cheese.
Hershberger, who was born Amish but is no longer a member of the church, enjoyed the first episode of Amish in the City.
"It made us laugh,'' she said. "It seemed funny to hear expressions we use around here on TV. I was entertained by the show, but I'm still a little fearful. It's hard for me to believe that a major TV company is going to make a reality series that's without controversy. That makes me leery of what may be coming in future episodes."
Residents of Holmes County village of about 3,000 and those living in nearby Millersburg, Kidron and Charm have more than just a passing interest in the show because one of their own--22 year old Miriam Yoder-- is the star of the show, and grew up in Mt. Hope, which has 250 residents and is just a short buggy ride up the road from Berklin.
"I know Miriam, but I still think the show is pretty dumb," La Fonda Miller said between customers at the Java Jo coffee shop in downtown Berlin.
Miller, 18, belongs to the Mennonite Church, which unlike the related Amish denomination, doesn't discourage it's members from watching television.
"Miriam is the daughter of an Amish bishop and when I saw her on the TV show, I got the feeling she was a girl trying to prove something," Miller said. "During the show, when the others are escorting the Amish around the city, they showed Miriam looking at a parking meter and she said something like, 'Oh, I've never seen a parking meter before.' That's ridiculous because they have parking meters just up the road from here in Millersburg. And I'm sure Miriam's been to Millersburg."
The Amish, who trace their beginnings back to 17th century Switzerland, live simply, practicing pacifism and eshewing most modern conveniences, including electricity, automobiles, TV, radio and movies. They travel in black, spindly wheeled buggies, work the land with horse powered farm equipment and send their children to private Amish schools, which the youngsters leave at age 14 so they can help support their families.
Amish men dress in black suits, and wide brimmed wool or straw hats. The women wear long dresses, white aprons, black bonnets, or head-hugging black or white caps.
Tanya Miller, marketing director for the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, said that nobody has complained to her about the TV series.
"Most of our visitors don't mention the show," she said. "This show isn't going to keep visitors away from Holmes County or bring them here. But I do know the people who live here are aware of the program and most have opinions about it. Those opinions vary. Personally, I was offended by portions of the show. But everybody doesn't feel that way."
For more years than most can remember, quaint Berlin has been the shopping hub of Ohio's Amish country. The first customers--many sporting bonnets and bushy beards and riding in boxy horse-drawn buggies-- usually start trickling into town around sun-up. By 10, the village's store-lined main drag is crowded with cars, tour buses, and monster moter homes with out-of-state license plates.
J.R Sommers, 58, is a Berlin native and owner of Sommers General Store, which bills itself as an "Olde Tyme General Store" and sells Unkers salve, kitchen gadgets, and Berlin Flyer wagons, which have been manufactured locally for more than 40 years.
"When someone mentions Amish in the City to me-- and not many of my customers even bring it up-- I tell them it's just another off-the-wall TV show," he said.
by Bob Batz of the Dayton Daily News
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