Tube Talk: History Channel’s ‘American Pickers’ in town July 9

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

Hold onto your old bikes (motorized or people-powered), porcelain advertising signs and sundry collectibles — the American Pickers are comin’ to town! But if you want to unload your old treasures, you could try sticking something eye-catching in your front yard to draw the pickers to your door — that’s what usually attracts their attention when they’re “freestyling” on the show.

Hardcore fans of History Channel’s hit series American Pickers know the show’s stars — Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz — have been in Rockford before. On two different episodes, they “picked” the incredible stash of Rockford’s own Judy Gambrel, who happens to be on the Midway Village Museum’s board of directors.

“Frank and I picked Judy twice,” Wolfe says. “She then asked us to attend this fund-raiser.”

That would be Midway Village Museum’s “Afternoon with the American Pickers,” Saturday, July 9, at the museum campus on Guilford Road. In addition to Wolfe, Fritz and friends (including Judy), there will be a flea market, antique car and motorcycle show, and other activities. Tickets are $18 for adults and $9 for students ages 10-17. Admission is free for kids younger than 10.

“Appearances like this for museums are very important to me,” Wolfe says. “Small-town museums are preserving history and teaching folks about their local history.” Wolfe estimates that in the last year or so, he and Fritz have done at least 50 similar appearances.

“It’s very important to talk to the folks who watch the show,” Wolfe says. “At these appearances, we can reach out to a lot of people at one time. I love talking with the children that watch American Pickers. They are gonna be the next crop of pickers one day!”

Hand in hand with a love for old things comes an appreciation of history, which is why you’ve probably seen Wolfe and Fritz in TV spots for Give150, a promotion asking people to donate $1.50 (matched by History Channel) to help preserve historic Civil War sites. That’s a novel and inexpensive way to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. All donations go directly to the Civil War Trust and the National Park Foundation. Learn more here:

Considering Wolfe and Fritz are based across the river in Iowa, roughly 125 miles from here, they were probably passing through the area long before they ever had a TV show. These days, Wolfe says they spend half the year on the road filming the show. “The other half of the year we’re on the road either for events and appearances or doing our own personal picking,” Wolfe says.

Asked if they plan to do any picking while in town, Wolfe says: “Definitely. Judy told Frank and I she has a secret stash that we can check out while there — and she may even sell us some of it!”

For more information about “Afternoon With the American Pickers,” go to

American Pickers airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on History Channel.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to

From the  July 6-12, 2011, issue

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