Bobby Walker has spent much of his work career as an employee at Palisades Nuclear Plant in Covert Township.
But when he’s not at work, he spends much of his free time helping others in the South Haven community, especially folks who live in the Elkenburg Park section of town.
Walker’s passion for helping people, whether as a minister or as the founder and promoter of the popular Bobby Walker Basketball Tournament – now entering its 45th year – will be featured as part a new travel show that focuses on towns throughout the Midwest.
Produced by Milwaukee-based Plum Media, “John McGivern’s Main Streets,” is set to air in 2022 as a weekly half-hour show.
“In each episode of ‘Main Streets,’ John visits a different city and seeks out the fun and positive aspects of each community,” said Ken Schellin, producer of the show.
McGivern is best known for hosting the show, “Around the Corner with John McGivern,” which ran for nine seasons on PBS stations throughout Wisconsin.
After “Around the Corner” ended, McGivern decided to broaden his horizons to featuring towns in the Midwest.
“The name came from the fact that in all of my years of experience out on the road, I have found Main streets are alive and well,” McGivern stated in an interview earlier this year with Milwaukee Independent news magazine. “They’re local and they have a real sense of familiar. It’s really where the heart of the communities beats the loudest.”
Schellin said Plum Productions was very interested in producing such a travel show.
“Even though ‘Around the Corner’ focused only on Wisconsin, it was PBS’s highest-rated, locally produced show,” Schellin said. “Now, we’re expanding our content and distribution to cities and stations all over the upper Midwest.”
“Main Streets” will focus on two towns in each of the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.
South Haven and Kalamazoo were chosen for the two towns in Michigan, according to Lois Maurer, director of “Main Streets.”
“We wanted to show the contrast between a smaller town and a larger one in Michigan,” she said.
Part of the South Haven episode will focus on how adults, organizations and businesses help youngsters on a regular basis – one of the reasons Walker will be featured on the show.
“I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Bobby a few times,” Schellin said. “His story is exactly the kind of thing we feature on our show.”
‘A call for me’
Walker and his family first came to South Haven in 1966. They were by no means well-to-do.
“People don’t realize this, but when I was little, the school brought me food,” Walker said. “I realized God had a call for me and my life.”
Walker’s employer, Palisades Power Plant, which will also be featured on the South Haven episode, also helps youngsters in the community.
Over the years, the company and its parent company, Entergy Corp., have contributed thousands of dollars for youth-oriented undertakings, such as the Bobby Walker Basketball Tournament.
“One of the ways Bobby has impacted the local community is through his basketball tournament,” said Val Gent, communications specialist for Entergy Corp. – Palisades Power Plant. “The 5-on-5 basketball tournament is held in conjunction with the National Blueberry Festival and has worldwide draw with players coming to vacation in South Haven, play basketball and participate in the family-friendly events … Bobby also does behind-the-scenes work to help those in need within the community.”
McGivern and a film crew spent an afternoon last week interviewing Walker and Palisades Power Plant staff, who were packing food baskets to donate to We Care Food Pantry in South Haven.
The crew spent several days last week interviewing other people and filming scenes at the Michigan Maritime Museum, the Historical Association of South Haven museum, South Haven City Hall, and visiting two popular tourism spots in town – Clementine’s Restaurant, housed in one of the downtown’s most historic buildings, and Sherman’s Dairy Bar, known for its signature, locally created ice cream flavors.
South Haven will be one of 13 towns featured on “Main Streets,” Schellin said.
“At this point, we know which stations will carry the show in our home state of Wisconsin, and we’re currently negotiating with commercial stations in Michigan,” Schellin said. “We’re lining those up now and will announce the stations when they’re confirmed.”