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Barnhart hands over 'Vets Visits' TV show

Photo courtesy of Jerry Barnhart Jerry Barnhart, right, talks with co-host Brad Lindsay during a production of Vets Visits.

After 15 years of producing " Vets Visits on TV ," host Jerry Barnhart has decided to step down and let new talent take over.

The last monthly show, No. 180, produced in Rochester and hosted by Barnhart is airing this month on public access cable channel 10. Going forward, the half-hour show will be hosted by Lisa Ghylin, of St. Paul, and produced by a crew in White Bear Lake.

Barnhart, 82, of Rochester, started "Vets Visits" in April 1997 with the mission of keeping military veterans and their families abreast of important issues and resources. Barnhart often interviewed military personnel and veterans, who would talk about the latest issues, upcoming events and history.

Barnhart said leaving the show is tough for him, but he wants to have more time to take care of his wife, who is having medical problems. Also, he said, the younger people taking over will, hopefully, attract some younger viewers.

"I feel bittersweet," he said about leaving. "I feel sad in that the baby grew out of its crib and it's taken a life of its own with new parents — and, hopefully, new people to watch after it and care for it and keep it nurtured."


"Vets Visits" quickly gained in popularity after it first aired. It started showing on Rochester's public access channel, then expanded to Winona, Austin, Albert Lea, Stewartville, Byron, Eyota, Zumbrota and Kasson.

Today, the show is on cable channels in 390 Minnesota communities and in 20 other states, including Connecticut, Ohio, Georgia, Arizona, California and Montana.

Barnhart, a native of Aberdeen, S.D., is a veteran himself, having served in the military from 1948 to 1952. His specialty was in music and, specifically, as a trumpet player in Army bands. His assignments were in Japan and Korea. He also entertained military personnel in a traveling, 27-person roadshow, for which he was a ventriloquist.

When he left the Army, he went to the University of South Dakota-Vermillion, where he earned a degree in radio and television production and soon went to work in the industry.

In about 1961, Barnhart was ordained as a minister and stayed in the ministry for 40 years. He and his wife, June, came to Rochester in 1995, when he retired from the ministry. His longest stint as a minister was for the United Methodist Church in the Mankato area. His last position was for a church in Freeborn County.

Barnhart said he started "Vets Visits" because he saw a void in TV programming for veterans.

"Oftentimes, when veterans do a program, it's a little blurb, or it's part of somebody else's show," he said.

Although "Vets Visits" will be produced in White Bear Lake, Barnhart plans to keep contributing material from southeastern Minnesota. He plans to shoot some video segments himself and send them to the show's new producers.


In addition, he will keep producing his other cable TV show, "Festival of Music," which highlights all types of musical acts in the area.

"It gives me an outlet for being able to share some of the fine arts aspect," Barnhart said.

See see past episodes of "Vets Visits on TV" go to www.vetsvisitsontv.org .

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