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Published: Thursday, 5/14/2009

C-SPAN bus tour draws newshounds out locally


The bright blue C-SPAN Civics Bus rolled into Toledo yesterday, offering inside looks of one well-furnished moving part of the network that peers inside national government.

"To C-SPAN, it's very important that we as a network don't just focus on what's inside the Beltway," said bus rider Vanessa Bailey, a marketing representative for the network.

The 45-foot-long motor coach is one of two that trek nearly continuously across the country to expand the reach of the nonprofit cable television network, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Ms. Bailey and fellow traveling guides share stories and lessons on public affairs at each scheduled stop, and often conduct interviews from the coaches' mobile television studios.

Yesterday morning, the bus stopped for a civics lesson at St. Catherine of Siena School in West Toledo.

During the afternoon, it swung by the Main Toledo-Lucas County Public Library downtown.

There, parked outside the library's Michigan Street entrance, the bus opened its doors to the curious and those obsessed with politics.

"I'm a bit of a newshound, so I was intrigued to see this interesting and unique traveling studio here," said Edward Cardenas, 35, of suburban Detroit, who wandered in cradling his 3-year-old son, Zachary, while in town for a Mud Hens game.

A former press secretary for U.S. Rep. Candice Miller (R., Mich.), Mr. Cardenas shared how he once regularly commuted to Washington, and could hardly flip the channel away from C-SPAN while there.

Ms. Bailey, a Washingtonian herself, assured him that he's not alone.

"It's the only town where, if you go somewhere for happy hour, C-SPAN is on the TV," she said.

He wasn't the only bus visitor to marvel aloud.

Naim Abdulhakim, 36, of central Toledo, admired the wide expanse of audio and visual equipment, flat-panel televisions, and plush furniture.

Bus guides pegged the full cost of the bus, which has amassed nearly 600,000 miles during its 15 years of service, at about $1 million.

"I love this bus," Mr. Abdulhakim said. "Let me use it this weekend."

C-SPAN's bus program has stopped in all 50 states since hitting the road in 1993. The buses were wrapped in plastic and shipped aboard a freighter for trips to Hawaii and Alaska, which happened during years the vehicles were painted yellow.

"The joke is it looked like a giant Twinkie," Ms. Bailey said.

Other guests yesterday included Allan Block, chairman of Block Communications Inc., whose Buckeye CableSystem hosted the bus visit.

"If this bus is in Toledo, I certainly want to stop by and say hello," he said.

Contact JC Reindl at:


or 419-724-6065.

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