Two years ago I stepped off of a bright yellow school bus with 39 other kids I barely knew, and a camera crew capturing our every move. It was April of 2007 in New Mexico; it was hot, dusty, and I was perhaps the most nervous (and excited) I had ever been before. Sure the past few months had been a mixture of the two, waiting on edge to find out if I had gotten the part. If I had been cast in the reality television show I auditioned and interviewed for, at least, five to six times already.
In December of 2006, during my last tour with Chicago’s Children’s Choir, I was approached by a casting director for the show Kid Nation and asked if I would be interested in auditioning for it. Of course I said yes! From then on I spent weeks meeting at the CBS headquarters located in downtown Chicago (my hometown) regularly and being flown back and forth to Los Angeles to partake in the semi-finalist round of auditions.
My life was suddenly changing! It was everything I dreamed of! Staying at the great Double Tree Guest Suites Santa Monica hotel, only minutes from Third Street Promenade (the premier shopping destination in West L.A.), Venice Beach, and Malibu Beach (all of which I visited often with my stepdad). Although all of it had been exhilarating nothing could compare to finally being on-set in Bonanza City, New Mexico for the filming of the show after all those months on pins and needles. Actually being in the place I would be living in for the next forty days made everything seem more real.
Time soared past in a blur of TV interviews, “showdowns”, and, naturally, adolescent drama. During showdowns we all competed as four separate teams to win special rewards that were offered to us to help improve the ghost town we were living in. We had to do tasks like putting together giant puzzles, catapulting eggs over a ten foot high wall and catching them on the other side, and even jumping into a giant frying pan the size of a small pool into slimy baked beans and live pigs! All of that plus a saloon filled with shelves and shelves of soda, a coop filled with live chickens and goats, and roaming cows and exotic native birds as far as the eye could see.
There were many unique things about Bonanza City that no one got to experience but me and my fellow contestants. Like how the mornings felt like the evenings in the middle of January, but the afternoons were more like an Independence Day weekend or the sounds of coyotes howling to each other at night and the gorgeous sunrise over the Sandia Mountains that painted the pre-dawn sky a myriad of reds, oranges, and blues.
As wonderful as the on-set aspect of my trip was it wasn’t the only memorable thing about my time in New Mexico. Just a few miles away from our secluded little town on the Bonanza City ranch was the largest city in the state, Albuquerque. It’s situated in the central part of the state, straddling the Rio Grande, a beautiful river that flows through the city north to south. The tours I took showed me the natural beauty of New Mexico itself and all the greatest tourist attractions like the privately funded museum. Everything about Albuquerque- its history, its amazing architecture, and the wildlife and natural world surrounding it makes it just about one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
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