WAUWATONKA, WI—Local newscaster Randall "Herch" Herchwick is no stranger to the spotlight. As a member of WTNK's award-winning Channel 15 Action News Team, his nightly reports on crucial, late-breaking stories are seen by hundreds of people throughout the tri-county area. But the popular TV personality enjoyed a taste of even greater stardom Sunday, when he was the special celebrity host of the 14th Annual Wauwatonka Area Charity Fun Run.
"I guess I'm used to people recognizing me," said the 44-year-old Herchwick, who, in addition to anchoring the 6 p.m. news, co-hosts the weekly Wauwatonka Live At Five. "It happens once or twice a week—at the grocery store, at Sears, at the garage where I get my tires rotated, you name it. But this event was really something special. Seeing all those people and getting a chance to meet so many of my fans in person, well, it really brought home to me just how much of a celebrity I actually am."
The Wauwatonka Area Charity Fun Run—held just outside Wauwatonka in nearby Plovis—consistently attracts big-name celebrities. Past hosts have included such notables as former Wauwatonka mayor Fred Underwood, Big Ed's Bar-B-Que owner Edward "Big Ed" Gartner, and local hair-care expert and beauty-salon manager Lynette Murkowski, winner of the Wauwatonka Chamber of Commerce 1992 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
But despite the star power of these past hosts, the consensus among the estimated 450 people who attended this year's fun run agreed that Herchwick is the biggest luminary to host the proceedings yet.
"Landing a celebrity of Randall Herchwick's magnitude was a real coup for us, and I know it really boosted community participation," said Iris Schmidt of First Federal Bank of Plovis, the event's principal sponsor. "As a TV star, he lent an air of showbiz glamour, truly making this 'an event to remember' for all of us here at Federal Bank Of Plovis—and everyone throughout the greater tri-county region."
As celebrity host, Herchwick's duties included welcoming and "warming up" the crowd before the race, thanking the various event sponsors, and firing the official starter's gun. He also signed 8x10 glossies of himself for fans, distributed free Action News promotional stickers reading, "WTNK—News You Can Use©," and waved to cameras from atop the Channel 15 Action NewsTruck, which was on hand to document the occasion. Footage of Herchwick cheerfully performing his hosting duties was used in a special "WTNK—Reaching Out To The Tri-County Community" feature segment on Action News later that evening.
"Of course, being a celebrity, 'Herch' enjoyed a variety of special privileges befitting someone of his status," said event co-organizer Thom Hebelvich. "That's just our way of saying thank you to him for graciously taking time out from his busy schedule to be here with us."
Herchwick not only received a free Wauwatonka Area Charity Fun Run T-shirt, but he was also treated to a special pre-race luncheon at the SkyView Club with race sponsors from throughout the Wauwatonka and Plovis business communities. In addition, he was given full access to the event's "VIP tent," which featured hot dogs, soft drinks and other complimentary food items courtesy of Kathy's Katering.
Fun-run attendees said meeting a star like Herchwick was a real thrill.
"I'd seen him on TV many times, so obviously you can understand how exciting it was to see him in person, up close," said Plovis homemaker Ellen Knapf, who brought her four children to watch the fun run and opening ceremonies. "He looks so different in real life!"
"I couldn't believe it," said another Herchwick fan, Wauwatonka elementary-school teacher Gwendolyn Briars. "I got up right next to him, and when he was signing my autograph, I told him that I'd actually met him once before, about eight years ago, during a Christmas party at the home of our pastor. And you know what? He remembered me! Sure, he's a big star now, but he hasn't let that change him." "What can I say?" Herchwick told reporters. "I've been in the public eye so long now, sometimes I forget just how lucky I am. All this acclaim and attention really makes me realize how much I've been blessed, and I thank the fans for that. I'm nothing without them. And it's important to remember that and to take time out to give back to the community, as I've done here today."
"You know, the irony of it all is that I actually had to leave the post-race reception a little bit early, because I had to pick up some suits at the cleaners," Herchwick added with a smile. "I guess it just goes to show you it isn't all glamour. I may be a celebrity, but at the end of the day, I'm really just a regular, ordinary guy like anybody else."