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Wow! Reality hits home in Utah

Tears flow as family gets first look at rebuilt house

SHARE Wow! Reality hits home in Utah

BOUNTIFUL — There were tears, hugs and a lot of smiles as the Gordon Harrison family took a first look at their new home on Saturday.

Six days ago, the two-story structure had been nothing but a plan on paper. After 106 hours of nonstop work, plans became reality as all five Harrisons stood — surrounded by a cheering crowd of thousands — and prepared to walk inside their Bountiful home.

For the past week, volunteers have worked to completely rebuild the Harrison home, selected for a "makeover" by producers of the popular ABC reality show, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." As taping for the show wrapped up on Saturday, celebrity designers praised those volunteer efforts and the positive attitude of the Harrison family.

"They're neat, simple, articulate, caring people," said Michael Moloney, a member of the "Extreme Team" who oversees interiors/glamour.

Said Paige Hemmis, designer over carpentry/nuts & bolts: "Truly this community is amazing. Lots of times we get community support, but they've never been so nice or sweet."

The Harrisons, who spent the week in San Diego, weren't allowed to comment. Neighbors, spectators and even Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said their homecoming appeared very sweet and deserving.

"It was hard to see because I had tears in my eyes," said Huntsman. "In a day and age of reality television, this is the kind of reality TV that really matters."

Just minutes before 2 p.m., the Harrisons drove up 500 South in Bountiful in a black limousine. The crowd cheered as "Extreme Makeover" host Ty Pennington greeted all five: Harrison, 40; his wife, Lisa; and children Chase, 15; Ben, 13; and Claire, 7.

For about five minutes, the crowd watched, occasionally chanting "move that bus," as the Harrisons were directed how to move their arms and "wave away" a big, black bus that blocked their home from view. Moloney peeked outside from an upstairs window, encouraging the crowd with waves of his hand.

Then, the moment. With a shout of "move that bus" and a wave of their arms, the Harrisons watched as their home was revealed. Lisa Harrison covered her face with her hands. Her sons were smiling. Gordon Harrison hugged Pennington.

"It was a good reaction," said designer over construction Ed Sanders. "They're good people, very good people."

Carol Montgomery, Bountiful, said it was a "feel-good" experience. "The whole atmosphere is high-energy, one of excitement and pride in the community," she said.

Like many other spectators, Montgomery spent the week near the construction site. She's a fan of the show — something she calls a "feel-good" reality show. "The others are selfish," she said.

Jenni Slagowski, Rachael and Jessica Wayment of Layton said they were impressed to see how personable "Extreme Makeover" celebrities were. Candice Mueller, Bountiful, said she was excited to see the stars (Pennington in particular) and wanted to support the Harrisons.

"It was neat to hear people talk about how grateful they were for the family," said Mueller.

The Bountiful episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," is expected to run sometime in September. The Harrisons will be allowed to move back in on Monday.

In honor of Harrison

On July 30, the Gordon Harrison family was notified that they were selected to receive a home makeover. The family was nominated by neighbors, who wanted to honor Harrison, 40, for his work in the community, even while suffering from pancreatic cancer.

For the past week, volunteers have worked round-the-clock for 106 hours. More than 1,500 employees of Okland Construction, a Salt Lake firm, worked on the project, according to Megan Jones, project director.

Little was revealed about what was inside the home, which was designed to be very "clean and contemporary," according to designer Michael Maloney.

The kitchen is expected to be big enough for gourmet cooking (Lisa Harrison has a catering business). Also, Gordon Harrison will have his own workshop. Harrison is a carpenter by trade.

E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com