We all know that Hallmark Channel specializes in producing family friendly programming, and we have heard many of their actors say that they love being part of the Hallmark Family, but hearing that and experiencing it are two very different things. For two hours, I reveled in the friendly and fun atmosphere of this special family. As special guests of the show, we weren’t treated as guests but as cherished family members on a whirlwind vacation.
When Justine Valdez-Lebel, audience coordinator extraordinaire, posted in the Fans of Hallmark’s When Calls the Heart Facebook page that Erin Krakow would be a guest on their daily show Home and Family, I was presented with an opportunity that I knew I couldn’t miss. What #Heartie wouldn’t drive seven hours for the opportunity to see the lovely Erin? Certainly not this one!
Already set to join Erin on the show were Nikki DeLoach and Andrew Walker, who star tonight in The Perfect Catch, but as we drove down to Los Angeles on Wednesday, Justine called. At first, like most of us, I didn’t pick up. I mean, I don’t have Justine’s phone number programmed into my iPhone, so I let the call go to voicemail. Listening to her message, I learned some fun new information: Lori Loughlin was joining Erin on set! For my first time to Home and Family, this was epic!
Faster than I really thought possible, 11:30am on Thursday arrived. We boarded the shuttle in the Universal Studios back lot and traveled in small groups over to the set. We pulled up in front of a trailer and some pop-up tents. As an introvert, new experiences and new people cause me to curl into my shell, so I hung back a bit and observed until I got my bearings. Behind-the-scenes staff of Home and Family sat around at tables, eating their lunches under the shade of the pop-ups. Voices buzzed. Snacks and drinks lined a couple of tables to our right. As my butterflies subsided, I began to recognize some familiar faces. The Hearties! Isn’t it fun when we finally get to meet those social media faces? I recognized so many, and suddenly I was right at home.
Justine approached and gathered us around. “We have another surprise for you,” she explained. “Today, you are our guests. In honor of the season finale of When Calls the Heart, we want to throw you the Ultimate Hearties Viewing Party.” She invited us to grab a drink and snack before we headed on set. Needless to say, we all made a beeline for the waters and sodas. Refreshed, we waited a few more minutes before following our fearless coordinator to our seats.
To keep us organized, Justine pointed us to specific seats. In a gesture of kindness to the “newbies” like me, all first-time visitors were given front-row seats. I just happened to be front and center. I was 20 feet from everything! And I do mean everything, because we were in for more surprises.
While you may have seen the airing of Home and Family on Friday morning, there is so
much behind the scenes that needs to be shared. Andrew Walker is a cutie! Having known the Hearties for quite a few seasons now, he kept peeking at us and smiling in genuine pleasure to see us. You see, Hearties, there is something special about a group of people who love and support others unconditionally. Even other actors feel the energy.
Someone asked me the other day, “Are Erin and Lori as kind and beautiful as Elizabeth and Abigail?” My response, yes…and more. Seeing these two BFFs in action made my eyes well up as I thought about my own friends, near and far. You just never know who God will place in your life, and how he will ge
t them there. I could easily tell that Lori and Erin share a precious closeness that is often hard to find these days. And, to our delighted surprise, Paul Greene joined in the fun. I saw, first-hand, the camaraderie between them all. That is a memory I will carry with me and a connection I will strive to attain in my own friendships.
Another highlight for me was experiencing the “Ultimate Hearties Viewing Party.” Who wouldn’t love being at a party with cake, punch, Mark Steiner, Debbie Matenopoulos, and Erin Krakow? In fact, my son and I tried to recreate the cake that Debbie and Erin made…let’s just say that having the right ingredients and correct size of cookie cutter on hand is a good idea.
But the best and most memorable part of the day for me was spending time with Erin. My friends, if you ever have the opportunity to visit with her, don’t hesitate. Her demeanor on social media is not a facade. In between segments, she would smile at us and apologize before rushing off. “Don’t worry. I will be right back. I promise,” she assured us. And she kept her promises. In fact, she spent time with every fan there. Erin has an inherent way of making you feel as though you are the most important person in her world while she is with you. She is funny and sweet, gracious and kind. Erin loves her fans and is genuinely grateful for their encouragement, love, and support.
The Home and Family experience is one that I will most definitely repeat, and Thursday’s visit is going down in my books as the experience of a lifetime.