‘Today’ visits Hudson, praises city’s resilience

Mary Dempsey/Columbia-Greene Media Savannah Guthrie, left, and Al Roker of “Today” share a laugh as they reunite on air for a special broadcast from Nolita’s Cafe in Hudson.

HUDSON — The city woke up to a pair of familiar faces Tuesday.

Al Roker and Savannah Guthrie filmed “Today” on Warren Street in the early hours of the morning, surrounded by Hudson’s picturesque shops and church steeples.

The broadcast, which marked the first time that Roker and Guthrie had been together in person in more than three months, put a spotlight on the reopening efforts of local businesses.

Guthrie praised downtown Hudson’s beauty and said “Today” sought to highlight a quintessential river town in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I hope there’s traffic on the Taconic, all the people driving up here right now,” Guthrie said.

Production managers first scouted locations on Thursday and spent the following day walking on Warren Street with Mayor Kamal Johnson to plan the logistics of the shoot.

The location in front of Nolita’s Cafe was chosen for its hillside view of the river, said Production Manager David Naggiar, who oversaw the production crew.

The First Presbyterian Church’s imposing steeple glowed in the early morning sun as production got underway.

Roker and Guthrie reunited on air after months of broadcasting from their upstate homes. Roker, a frequent visitor to Hudson, has been living at his house in Columbia County.

The two anchors greeted each other with a socially distanced air hug before launching into the day’s segments, which included an interview with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who joined via satellite.

In her opening remarks, Guthrie encouraged viewers to support the economic recovery of small businesses hit hard by the three-month closure.

Later in the show she was joined by Home/Made Hudson owner Monica Byrne and Hudson Hall General Manager Sage Carter, both masked, who spoke about how the city’s business owners are banding together to navigate reopening and avoid business closures.

Carter was asked to participate in the broadcast after producers heard that she is involved in the Shared Summer Streets program, which will close certain downtown areas to cars on weekends starting Friday.

“The idea is to use collective space on Warren Street to provide space for residents and businesses to come back together in safer ways,” Carter said Tuesday afternoon.

Carter, who helps oversee Hudson Hall’s schedule of cultural and educational programs, said she was “very nervous” to be on national television.

“I work in theater, but I work backstage for a reason,” she said.

“Today” correspondent Vicky Nguyen brought her family along for the visit to Hudson and gave viewers a glimpse of their outings in a video shared during the broadcast. The family made a trip to the Hudson Farmers Market, ate ice cream at Nine Cakes and Nguyen’s husband got a haircut at Mane Street Hair Salon.

Nguyen presented Guthrie with two toys from Fluff Alpaca for her children, noting that the soft alpaca fibers would be unlikely to cause any eye injuries. Guthrie underwent retina surgery in November after being hit with her son’s toy train.

Fluff owner Suzanne Werner said Nguyen’s visit with the camera crew was the result of a spontaneous sidewalk meeting. Werner’s niece Kit struck up a conversation with Nguyen and her family after seeing them outside.

“It wasn’t scheduled ahead of time, but we love to have kids in because we have lots of kids’ toys,” Werner said.

Werner expected the footage to end up on the cutting room floor, so she was thrilled to see the shop included.

“We really appreciate Savannah and Al helping out their neighbors,” she said. “We have friends from all over the country who saw it.”

“The Today Show”’s visit was great promotion for the city, giving the nation “a glimpse of what we get to enjoy every day,” Johnson said.

Hudson residents sometimes take the city’s beauty for granted, the mayor added.

Keith Peters, of Stockport, saw a post about the “Today” visit on Facebook after camera crews were spotted filming at the Olana State Historic Site.

Peters arrived early to photograph Roker emerging from his white Tesla, and later snagged a distanced photo with Guthrie as she entered the set.

Peters and several dozen bystanders stuck around to watch the shoot. Except for the filming area, which was cordoned off, residents were allowed free range.

The three-hour broadcast was the result of extensive preparation. A team of photographers and engineers arrived before dawn to begin assembling the camera and lighting equipment.

Some members of the crew left New York City at midnight to arrive in time for set-up, said Naggiar, who has been a production manager with NBC since 1973.

A truck carrying an enormous satellite on its roof beamed signals to monitors in Hudson and New York City, allowing off-site producers to watch the action and speak directly to Guthrie and Roker, who wore earpieces in addition to their microphones.

The show is broadcast live, leaving little room for error.

“If they curse, you’ll hear it,” Naggiar said.

Naggiar, who arrived on Thursday to make logistical arrangements, said he and his crew are used to anticipating inclement weather and other setbacks, but the Hudson shoot went smoothly, he said.

After finishing her anchor duties, Guthrie said she hoped to visit local cheese shop Talbot & Arding with her children, who were nearby eating chocolate cupcakes and other snacks from Nolita’s.

“My kids have radar for baked goods,” she said.

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