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'Makeover' about to land in Wichita once more

  • Published Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011, at 12:06 a.m.

When "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" built its first house in the Wichita area, it was a big deal.

It was 2005. The show was in its third season and at the height of its four-hanky popularity.

Ty Pennington and his crew of designers "moved that bus" right into Rose Hill, where they built a 3,800-square-foot home for the Nutsch family, whose home had been destroyed by a propane explosion earlier in the year.

Martina McBride showed up to sing, and thousands of local people volunteered to help.

The spectacle will return next month, only this time, the makeover will likely take place within the Wichita city limits.

The ABC show, which grants new dream homes to families in need, announced earlier this week that it would base another show in Wichita.

They've narrowed a list of nominees to five deserving families, publicists said, and the winning family will be surprised on Feb. 17. On Feb. 24, they'll be handed the keys to their new home.

Though the show is still popular, it's in its eighth season, and several instances of unfavorable outcomes — families not being able to afford the taxes or bills on their new homes, jealous neighbors and hard feelings — may have dried a few of those four hankies.

But the show will no doubt still get Wichita very excited when it arrives for a community pep rally in a couple of weeks.

Producers work hard to keep the chosen family's identity a secret until the day of the big surprise, which could take place either in the winner's hometown or in some other venue, said senior publicist Diane Korman. And the show also discourages speculation about the family's identity.

Still, several names are popping up as possible winners, including Carl Hall, a former Wichita State baseball player who was paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident last summer and whose supporters have been working to raise money to build him a house that's wheelchair friendly. (Read more about him at www.carlhallbenefitfund.com.)

Two Kansas families who have been featured on the show have faced post-makeover drama.

Kevin and Cathy Nutsch faced criticism after their home was built when it was revealed that they owned valuable investment property in downtown Wichita, leading many to question if they were really a family in need.

In November 2008, the show also built a home for Chapman war veteran Patrick Tutwiler, whose house had been destroyed by a tornado.

But Tutwiler and his wife, Crystal, put the house on the market a year later, saying that some residents of Chapman had suggested they were unworthy of the windfall, which also included a new pickup truck and a family cruise. The family moved to Texas.

Families in other parts of the country have reported having trouble paying utility bills and taxes on their new homes, but the show works to avoid that, including encouraging the families to work with financial planners, Korman said.

Six representatives of the show are already in Wichita, arranging the millions of details it will take to build the home so quickly.

They'll need volunteers, including painters, plumbers and electricians, as well as regular people willing to volunteer for jobs such as food service.

Those interested must be 18 or older and should e-mail wichita@emhe.tv.

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