published Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Biker historian shoots TV episode here

Stann Ellsworth, the host and creator of the "American Ride" TV history program films a scene near the New York Monument on Lookout Mountain.
Stann Ellsworth, the host and creator of the "American Ride" TV history program films a scene near the New York Monument on Lookout Mountain.
Photo by Tim Omarzu.
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Wearing a black leather jacket and biker's "skull rag" over his long, blond hair, Stan Ellsworth strolled Friday morning near the New York Monument at Point Park as a camera crew captured his every word.

In a gravely baritone voice, Ellsworth said Lookout Mountain had ferocious fighting during the Civil War, "but now, it's serene and twanquil."

"Twanquil?" a crew member asked, repeating the blooper.

Ellsworth laughed.

"Where did that come from?" he said.

That scene will end up on the digital version of the cutting room floor, but footage from Lookout Mountain and Chickamauga Battlefield will air next year on Ellsworth's show "American Ride." The show is in its second season on BYUtv, an HDTV channel operated by Brigham Young University that's available in more than 50 million households.

The show features Ellsworth rolling through the country on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, giving unscripted history lessons. He draws on his lifelong love of history and a decade teaching the subject at Highland High School in Salt Lake City.

Ellsworth, a 6-foot-2, 300-pounder who played briefly in the early 1980s as a linebacker for the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks, said his approach removes the "bow-tie and sweater vest" of typical history teachers.

"I want to make it relevant to people," he said Friday. "I'm concerned that a lot of kids don't remember who we are. I just want to be a voice reminding us of our greatness."

Ellsworth, 53, first saw Chattanooga-area Civil War battlefields during summertime family tours of the South when he was an early adolescent.

"I'm not a descendent of, but I'm related to Robert E. Lee," he said. "A lot of my family history is tied up in American history."

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park historian Jim Ogden said recognition and publicity can help drive visitors to the park.

"The Ken Burns [Civil War] series ... at some battlefield parks, particularly those in Virginia, when that series was first released, it did create quite a bump up in visitation," Ogden said. "Assuming this is done well and lots of people watch it, we may have a few more people come in."

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about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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