Ever wondered what it would be like to be a volunteer with Antiques Roadshow? I was fortunate
enough to have that experience this July. My sister-in-law won tickets to the event in Omaha, Nebraska, and since she couldn’t make it, she gave them to me. The excitement then started to build. However, about two weeks before the event, I was contacted and told that I had been selected to be a volunteer. The planning then began in earnest.
I had e-mails to read, a release form to sign, find my two items to bring and most important of all, find some really comfortable shoes.
The motel reservations were made earlier, but now I needed to change them from one night to two. Since I had about a three-hour drive and knew the working day was going to be close to 12-13 hours, there was no point in heading out right after the event ended, and we were released from work.
Training was to start the Friday evening before the big Saturday event. Antiques Roadshow Executive Producer Marsha Bemko welcomed the group and introduced several other individuals with Roadshow and Nebraska Public TV. At the end, there was a short explanation of the different working areas and a call for volunteers for each section. When each group had been filled, the volunteers had separate meetings with their supervisor/producer.
The main, central Antiques Roadshow filming area is divided into four “quads.” I was in the “Quad 2” group, and we had seven members. Each quad is responsible for several different categories of items. We were responsible for Pottery and Porcelain, Glass, Silver, Jewelry, Watches, Clocks and Folk Art. These were divided up into three sections, each with several tables for the appraisers. Since the Pottery and Porcelain area is usually quite busy, one whole section was devoted to it. We also had very long lines for watches and jewelry.
Our jobs were to make sure all the ticket holders had their category slip from triage, have the ticket punched, were lined up in the appropriate category,] and when it was time to see the appraiser,
direct them to the correct table. And, oh yes, making sure no one walked on the blue carpet (the filming area). One member of our group had to wear a headset to be able to contact producers for filming interest, supervisors, EMT, security, etc.
One rule was stressed to us: One must never touch an item that was being brought in; we couldn’t help tickets holders in that way. They had to be able to handle everything themselves or ask another participant for help. The only exception I can remember is that if the holder dropped their item and it broke, we could help pick up the pieces.
Also, the only area we couldn’t enter was the Green Room. This is where the items chosen for filming were readied, make-up applied to individuals and legal papers signed. I was lucky enough, after training, to be called to take part in the test filming with cameras, microphones and a faux appraisal.
Then came Saturday, the big day! It was suggested we be there by around 6:15 a.m., and Antiques Roadshow had a great breakfast ready for everyone. We needed that nourishment for what was to follow. A little before the 8 o’clock start, all volunteers and crew were gathered together in the middle of the filming area for a photo shoot and the Antiques Roadshow yell to kick-off the event.
The ticket holders were filing in, smiling, chatting, excited to be a part of the event. Lines were starting to form and, throughout the day, there were some very long lines. We kept moving the people through as fast as the appraisers wanted. At times the center filming area became extremely crowded and we had to hold back. We saw many items brought in for appraisal; from small pieces of jewelry to wagon loads of large pieces. (It got tricky trying to maneuver the lines now and then.)
The afternoon was more of the same excited ticket holders, and yes, some very tired feet – but always a smile on our faces. It turned out there was always another little bit of help that was needed in other areas, helping people contact another family member they couldn’t find (remember, there
were thousands of people there), helping others find the area they needed, and, importantly, pointing out the exits and restrooms.
As the 13-hour day ended, it had a bittersweet feeling. First was the enticing thought of being able to sit down and lift your feet, but then came the realization that it was over. Your day of helping to make this television show you religiously watch happen is done. The frenetic pace slows and you mingle with the friends you have made this day, exchanging e-mail addresses, wishing them well.
The cast and crew of Antiques Roadshow and the Nebraska Public TV network gave us all such an exceptional day.
Editor’s Note: Click here to enjoy another story by Ms. Eilts about a couple who experienced their first ‘Roadshow'. Eilts is an Antique Trader subscriber and member of the part of the Antique Trader Readers’ Advisory Board.