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'House Hunters': Iowa couple to be featured on popular HGTV show

WATERLOO — Anyone who is a fan of HGTV’s “House Hunters” knows the most important word on the show: “Wow!” It’s a word that can convey surprise, dismay, disappointment and, of course, being impressed.

One lucky Waterloo area couple will say it for real on an upcoming episode of “House Hunters.”

The hit HGTV show takes viewers behind the scenes as potential home buyers view houses and decide whether or not to buy. “House Hunters” ranks consistently in the top 10 of the network’s shows.

Last fall, the show traveled to Iowa and accompanied Emma Peterson and her partner Shannon Rubino on the search for their first home. Their episode is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

“We did say ‘wow!’” Peterson says, laughing. “We watched the show a lot. It’s the one show we could agree on and watch together.”

The show inspired Peterson, a chaplain at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo, and Rubino, who works for Dolly’s Taxi and Transport, to look into buying their own home. On the spur of the moment, Peterson submitted an application to be featured on “House Hunters.”

Almost immediately, she was contacted by the show’s producers. “We’re a young gay couple in a smaller town in Iowa, and it’s a smaller market where housing prices are lower, so it must have seemed like a unique opportunity,” Peterson said.

Shannon admits she was “super surprised” that the show would want to come to Iowa, particularly since the HGTV show typically features larger metropolitan cities.

Filming began in October and took two weeks. After the initial “getting to know you” interview, which included filming at a local farm where the first-time home buyers picked apples and at stops along Fourth Street in downtown Waterloo. After a week’s break, the producer and crew returned to Iowa and began filming the week-long house search.

The couple, working with Linda Curran, a Realtor at Oakridge Realtors in Waterloo, was required to narrow their choices to three houses. Until the episode airs, they can’t reveal too much except to say a storyline was developed, and there are scripted moments.

“When you spend two weeks and 10-hour days together, you get to know people and make friends. The producer, Matt, and the crew were really funny. Matt has worked on other reality shows like ‘Real Housewives’ and ‘Extreme Home Makeover,’ so he had some funny stories to share,” Peterson said.

Rubino, a self-described introvert, joked that “it was two weeks of torture for me,” but mostly she enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime experience. “Emma is the talker, and I was the one wondering what I was going to say and how it would sound,” she said.

They’re both excited about seeing the show on Tuesday. “Buying a house is a big deal in our relationship,” Peterson said. “It’s so awesome to think that in 30 years, we can look back at this episode and remember this time in our lives. Who gets that kind of opportunity in a lifetime?”

The couple and their dogs, Molly and Roxy, are living in the home they purchased. Built in 1925, the house has “good bones,” but needs cosmetic changes and updates. They’ve already pulled up some carpeting and painted a few rooms.

Now if only the couple could appeal to Joanna and Chip Gaines to bring their “Fixer Upper” show to Iowa. Or maybe “The Property Brothers” are available?

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

From left, Blake, Jeri, and Ryan Severson stand in the Anytime Fitness gym, which they bought, remodeled and run, on Friday in Mason City.

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Anytime Fitness in Mason City receives remodel, new owners (with photos)

MASON CITY | A 24-hour gym in Mason City has received a facelift.

That’s thanks to new owners Jeri and Ryan Severson, and their son, Blake, 21, of Northwood.

“We looked at other gyms prior to buying this ... and this one just seemed to fit better,” Ryan said.

The Seversons took ownership of the gym at 687 S. Taft Ave. on Dec. 1, and over a three-day period later that month, they remodeled it.

Fresh paint, new flooring and an 800-square-foot group fitness room are among the improvements.

“We wanted to make it a little brighter and more inviting,” Blake said, noting the gym hadn’t been updated in years.

The Seversons, who have a habit of purchasing businesses in North Iowa, started looking for a gym more than a year and a half ago in large part because Blake, a 2015 Northwood-Kensett High School graduate, got into weightlifting.

Blake, who is a Gold Cross emergency medical technician and a Southeastern Minnesota Emergency Medical Services instructor, has been a member of Anytime Fitness since 2015.

“At the time, I got hired with Mayo and I wasn’t sure if I’d be in Rochester, Owatonna or Austin, so this was nice because one membership rate gets you access to all 3,000 Anytime Fitness gyms around the world,” he said.

Blake’s at the gym about four days a week to oversee its operations.

“My whole thought was maybe if I’m here more, I can lift more, and it’s kind of went the other way,” he said.

The gym is one of more than six businesses the Seversons have owned in Iowa.

“We like to own businesses,” Ryan said. “We’re always looking for different things.”

The Seversons purchased Strike Zone, a bowling alley and sports bar in Northwood, three years ago, and Jeri oversees its operations, while Ryan teaches and coaches within the school district.

They’ve also owned a pizza place, baseball card shop, craft barn, food wagon and drive-in restaurant in Northwood, as well as a small resort in Okoboji.

“We like the challenge,” Jeri said.

Jeri and Ryan are also the parents of high school freshman, Carter, who is involved in athletics.

Since taking ownership of Anytime Fitness in December, the Seversons said things have been going well, especially with the addition of the group fitness classes, facility updates and the New Year’s rush.

The gym offers a variety of cardio machines, like treadmills, elliptical, spin bikes, and a stair-climber, as well as strength and free weights.

There’s also a water-massage bed, tanning and private showers.

Blake said fitness classes and equipment will be offered outside this summer, so people looking to “work out and get sun” can do so simultaneously.

An open house will also be scheduled by the Mason City Chamber of Commerce once the weather warms up, he said, adding people interested in learning more about the gym can stop in or visit the Facebook page.

Photos: First Look - Anytime Fitness Mason City

Iowa native known for RAGBRAI performances advances on 'American Idol' (with video)

CLARKSVILLE - Maddie Poppe is known for her performances on RAGBRAI, but now she gets a national stage.

The Clarksville native appeared Sunday on the premiere of "American Idol," performing for the judges for a chance at a trip to Hollywood.

She advanced to the next round. Judge Katy Perry said of Poppe: “You definitely have your own distinctive quality in your voice, that’s pretty dope."

Poppe spoke about her tryout ahead of the premiere Sunday night. She says her father is the one who encouraged her to try out for American Idol after she grew up as a fan of the show.

Poppe has been singing since she was a kid and is hoping her style and singer-songwriter format will help her stand out for the judges. She shared a story of how one producer almost crushed her dreams during the tryout only to let her pass on to the next phase.

RAGBRAI riders may also know Poppe as she has performed along the route since 2014, when she first performed for RAGBRAI passing through Clarksville. She earlier tried out on "The Voice," but none of the judges turned their chairs.

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Mason City family receives free car through 'Wheels for Work' program

MASON CITY | Multiple area organizations have teamed up to provide a Mason City family a new car.

United Way of North Central Iowa, the Mason City Motor Company and the North Iowa Community Action Organization partnered to give the vehicle to the Piippo family, according to a news release.

The vehicle was donated by Mason City Motor Company and has undergone a safety inspection and repairs. 

Abigail Piippo, who has two kids and works full-time for the Mason City Community School District, received the car through United Way's "Wheels for Work" program.

The Piippo family applied through the North Iowa Community Action Organization, which selects qualifying families on "stringent criteria," according to the release.

Piippo, who did not have reliable transportation, will use the car to get to and from work and for childcare and early Head Start programs.

"With reliable transportation, Abigail plans on growing her and her children’s future," the news release said.  

For more information about "Wheels for Work," contact Jen Arends, Community Impact Director for United Way of North Central Iowa, at 641-423-1774.