Diagonal was by far the smallest RVTV stop ever by the WHO-HD Channel 13 crew on Monday.
Diagonal’s population is just under 350. Keith Murphy, WHO sports director, told the CNA Monday the traditional tour of Iowa during Iowa versus Iowa State football week had never had an overnight town of less than 1,000.
But, Diagonal is used to being smaller than the rest. Whether it’s a school activity, or putting on a giant Labor Day weekend celebration, Diagonal has never let its relatively small size hold it back.
Adding to the challenge on Monday was foul weather. Over a 24-hour period, more than 2.25 inches of rain fell on this Ringgold County community.
“I don’t think we had one full open hour without rain,” said Ryan England, Diagonal Lions Club president, just before he was interviewed on the air by Murphy during the 5 p.m. newscast
“When we got here, we talked about making lemonade out of lemons,” said sportscaster Michael Admire. “When it rains, have fun in the mud.”
And that’s what they did. Since the truck and tractor pulls had to be postponed until Sept. 23, other activities were set up on the grounds.
The RVTV crew set up the story line of Admire, the “city kid” from Kansas City, confidently taking on all challengers in a variety of contests.
“They kind of played off the story of (Admire) showing the little town what’s up,” England said. “He got beat by a little kid in the pedal pull, and in the lawn mower pull he couldn’t even get it started. Then he did the mud dash (obstacle course) and he did pretty well. I’d say he was in the top third.”
There was also skiing in the mud, pulled by all-terrain vehicles. It turned out to be a lot of fun.
“I know they are really bummed here about the rain, but they came up with some things to do and we shot a little sketch over at the school,” Murphy said. “There aren’t many little schools like that left, with about 100 kids in grades K-12. It’s a throwback, really.”
They shot a spoof video showing the faux panic when fire alarms went off as Chief Meteorologist Ed Wilson smoked a cigar in the boys restroom. Then they all went sliding down the fire escape chute from the top floor to ground level.
The 10 p.m. newscast included a nice segment put together by the WHO crew on Diagonal’s athletic history and local economy. It included a visit with Gina Warren, who not only manages the family business, Diagonal Building Products, but also coaches the girls basketball team. Former high school principal and coach Larry Teply was also interviewed about school activities.
Murphy said there was a local connection at WHO that sparked the idea of starting this year’s tour at Diagonal’s annual holiday celebration.
“Roger Riley’s wife (Susie Bentley) is from Diagonal,” Murphy said. “It made sense to go to a place on Labor Day where something was going on, even if it is smaller than other towns we visit.”
Riley is a multimedia journalist with the station and was on the scene Monday at Diagonal’s City Park, where the live shots were set up during the newscasts.
The crew likes to have both fan bases in view as they do the weather and sports segments in the host towns. Cyclones may have outnumbered the Hawkeyes in the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts, but it seemed to be reversed during the 10 p.m. newscast.
“I would say it’s pretty even,” said Hawkeye fan Cindy Goins, Diagonal native living in Creston with husband Darin and two children. “It’s been pretty neat having them here. The town pulled together and found things to do in the rain.”
England, whose grandmother Joyce caught Wilson’s attention with her ISU rain boots, represented the Cyclones.
“I’d say it’s a fairly even split today,” England said. “We all get along pretty well.”
Indeed. Diagonal, again, showed it’s the little town that could.
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