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Tarpon Springs to get a moment on TV

North Pinellas viewers of Good Morning America soon will see familiarterritory: the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks.

As part of its live broadcast from The Pier in St. Petersburg next week, the program will show footage from a sponge warehouse, a pastry shop on Athens Street and a restaurant facing the Anclote River. The taped segment will be fleeting and will air between 8 and 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

"They looked for things to visit that were off the beaten path and would say something about the different kinds of people who live there," said Cathy Rehl, the show's representative. "They wanted to cover things important to people in the area."

The show, anchored by Joan Lunden and Charles Gibson, will broadcast from the top floor of The Pier. It is one of five broadcasts from Florida throughout the week.

For the taped segment, producers also shot footage of the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary and Roy Parke's 140-acre strawberry farm in Dover.

All three scenes will be featured in a four-minute time slot, Rehl said.

Tarpon Springs has been a topic on several television shows, including NBC's Today Show and the National Geographic Explorer series on cable's WTBS. George Billiris, owner of the sponge warehouse that was shot for Good Morning America, said he has been in a show anchored by Charles Kuralt.

Producers came to the city Jan. 31 for about seven hours. They taped Billiris speaking in Greek to his workers as they cut and bound sponges for shipping.

"What's exciting is we're still recognized as an industry," he said Wednesday. "They thought enough of us to come here."

Charlie Phillips, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said the show would help attract tourists, the city's main industry.

With a viewing audience of between 5-million and 6-million people each day, Good Morning America has surpassed the Today Show for the most-viewed network morning show in the country.

"It's the kind of exposure you can't buy," Phillips said. "We're unique. We aren't the everyday Florida beach."

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