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Oprah setup takes over Mich. Ave.

Monday, September 07, 2009
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Oprah kicks off her 24th season on Michigan Avenue Tuesday, and Monday night the final preparations were underway.

Supporters say the worldwide exposure is great for the city, but critics say the traffic and congestion just aren't worth it.

Michigan Avenue between Wacker and Ohio was closed just after midnight Monday and won't reopen until Wednesday morning.

Expect thousands of excited people crowding into three blocks, and if you intend to come organizers recommend you dress comfortably and bring water. It will standing room only at the taping, and you will be standing awhile because doors open at noon and taping doesn't begin until 5 p.m. Oprah's 24th Season Kickoff Party is already a big production, with crews working into the night, assembling the stage set right in the middle of Michigan Avenue.

"We all get together and brainstorm for days and days about how we're going to raise the bar or turn up the heat or do what we haven't done before so yeah, it's a huge challenge," said Sheri Salata, executive producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

The flurry of activity seemed to be a treat for tourists like Sheryl Ackerman, visiting from Canada. She put seeing the queen of talk on her to-do list.

"We're coming tomorrow for sure, and I'll email all my friends tonight to tell them I'm going to be here tomorrow," Ackerman said.

For some, having part of the Magnificent Mile shut down for two days is more nuisance than novelty.

"I think it's inconvenient. It could have been done in a better place. I don't know why. It highlights a great tourist attraction, but we're closing off a main artery. It's silly," a passing motorist told ABC7.

Foot traffic can still get through, and the hope is businesses on Michigan Avenue will see an uptick in sales.

"We're not keeping anybody from getting to where they need to be, and I think a lot of people will come down who would otherwise may not have come down to Michigan Avenue and hopefully spend some money," said Megan McDonald, of the Mayor's Office of Special Events.

That's already happening at Bandera Restaurant, which overlooks the Mag Mile.

Ellen Tachmazian came all the way from Fort Myers, Florida to see Oprah and ordered a hearty meal to prepare her for tomorrow's excitement.

"They said the gates open at 12, and I'm going to be there tomorrow in that line and in that crowd just to see her for the second time live," Tachmazian said.

One of the guests performing made an impromptu appearance Monday on Michigan Avenue.

"It's unbelievable, it just goes to show you I'm no different than anyone watching. If you have a dream, you can achieve it. To be on Oprah again is more than a dream come true," illusionist Criss Angel said.

Admission is free for the show taping. The gates at Michigan and Ohio will open at noon on Tuesday, but camping out overnight is not allowed.

Organizers say there will be space for 30,000 people at the event.

There is an all-star guest list for the event, including Angel, the Black Eyed Peas, James Taylor, Jennifer Hudson and recently added Rascal Flatts.

CTA will be rerouting several buses for the duration of the shutdown. More information can be found here.

For those that can't make it to the taping, the show will be broadcast Thursday, September 10th at 9 a.m. on ABC7.

For more information, a press release about the event is available here.

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