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Host Eric Bergstrom takes viewers on a tour of south Orange County

Host Eric Bergstrom interviews Zoomars Petting Zoo owner Carolyn Franks in the pilot episode of Bergstrom’s new show, “South County Safari.” Credit: Screenshot via
Host Eric Bergstrom interviews Zoomars Petting Zoo owner Carolyn Franks in the pilot episode of Bergstrom’s new show, “South County Safari.” Credit: Screenshot via

By Brian Park

A new local cable television program aims to show south Orange County residents what they may be missing in their own backyard.

San Juan Capistrano resident Eric Bergstrom, creator and host of “South County Safari,” debuted the pilot episode of his show last Thursday, in front of a crowd of friends and business and civic leaders at the Capistrano Volkswagen dealership.

The show, which runs around 20 minutes, is presented in three segments that showcase local hot spots and interesting characters. Its “maiden voyage,” as Bergstrom called it in the episode, featured interviews and footage of the world champion Sky High Flying Canines disc-dog team, Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari in Dana Point and Zoomars Petting Zoo in San Juan Capistrano.

“I wanted to do something that featured all the cool stuff, the interesting people, places and events in south Orange County,” Bergstrom said.

Bergstrom is no stranger to speaking in front of a camera or an audience. Starting as an intern and moving his way up to camera work and some reporting, Bergstrom spent three years at ABC’s Palm Springs affiliate station, KESQ-TV. He’s also worked on and hosted shows produced out of Saddleback College. Around San Juan Capistrano, he’s a regular emcee for the Fiesta Association’s Swallows Day Parade and other Fiesta de las Golondrinas events.

Last November, Bergstrom discussed the possibility of doing a show with a cameraman he’d been working with for his advertising and marketing business. The pair shot several segments before presenting the concept to producers at Cox Communications. Whereas most shows take months to be approved, “South County Safari” was green lit within a few weeks.

“I rolled the dice. This very first show, I had to shoot it, pay for it and cross my fingers,” Bergstrom said. “I don’t know if my neighbors complained because I let out a big yell and I was jumping for joy.”

So far, Bergstrom said he’s heard his show compared to the late Huell Howser’s PBS program, “California’s Gold,” which filmed two episodes in San Juan Capistrano. Bergstrom said he got to know Howser over the phone, while helping others to book the show. Although his show differs from Howser’s—in that “California’s Gold” covered the entire state and focused on one location—Bergstrom said the beloved TV icon was an inspiration.

“People liked it because of his folksiness,” Bergstrom said. “I wanted to go out with a camera and show the action of people doing what they do … It’s a faster moving, fun show that way.”

Each segment takes about a week to make, with new shows broadcasted each month. This week, Bergstrom said he plans on filming at The J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center in San Juan Capistrano. He also plans on doing a segment on the upcoming RanchoFest, a two-day community festival in Rancho Santa Margarita.

“I don’t want this to be a show for one age group or demographic,” Bergstrom said. “‘Safari’ basically means it’s always an adventure, wherever it may be, in south Orange County.”

“South County Safari” is shown weekly, at 8 p.m. on Thursdays and 11 a.m. on Saturdays, on Cox Channel 3.

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