All week, a loud shriek could be heard from the spectator pit: “Tyyyy!” Ty is Ty Pennington, the animated-yet-rugged host of the show. At the front of the gates are Kristina Greguski and Ali Woods, both 16 and from Lake Grove, who consider themselves to be Pennington’s biggest fans. “I’m amazed by everything he does,” says Ali, who is sporting a handmade shirt and bag featuring pictures of Pennington. Both girls are holding posters, one autographed by the man himself. They met him earlier the day before, they say, where they stood for five hours waiting for him. “He gave me a hug and autographed this poster,” Ali says. “He made my dreams come true.”
It’s not just their dreams coming true.
In a span of two days, the new Lutz home is fully framed. The walls are beginning to go up, and momentum is building. What was at first so hard to picture is materializing before the spectators’ eyes.
[popup url="http://assets.longislandpress.com/photos/gallery.php?gazpart=view&gazimage=5287"]Click here to view photos from Friday at the build site[/popup]
But it’s clear more than just the house has taken shape. Volunteers begin to greet each other with hugs, exchanging stories about their kids, their day jobs, what they saw on set the day prior. They say, “Hey, stranger,” when they pass each other. It’s not just the lives of the Lutzes that are changing—it’s the whole neighborhood.
“People are talking more—neighbors that usually don’t talk are coming over to each other to see what’s going on,” says Erik Kleine, a neighbor of the Lutz family. “I’ve lived here my whole life, and this is definitely the coolest thing to happen in this neighborhood.”
As the deadline looms, the chaos reaches a fever pitch. Hundreds of spectators gather for a glimpse at the big reveal—the moment the Lutzes will be allowed to see what has been built for them—and volunteers, construction crews, designers and camera crews clamor to put the final touches on the house and bring production to a close. Volunteers spray down the crowd with water, as they chant, “Move that bus!,” with the same fervor you’d see at Yankee Stadium during a Subway Series. (Indeed, it was at Yankee Stadium during a Subway Series the Lutzes were informed they would be the recipient of this goodwill.) Pennington films a few scenes on the front lawn, with a marching band traipsing down the street for good measure.
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With the excitement of the Lutzes’ arrival and their first glimpse of the house—the culmination of all the hard work of the past week—Alure’s Ferro adds some perspective to the frenzy. “Right now it’s the most important part of the build—the part where we get our reward,” he says. “[A] thousand million hands [are] running around all over the house trying to finish little things.”
Ninety-six hours after construction started, the house is complete. Ferro shares his thoughts post-build, with an air of both exhaustion and exhilaration. “Building this house, it took a lot of heart. Long Island really stepped it up,” he says, acknowledging the record number of volunteers Alure received throughout the week. “This week I’ve seen more good in people than most people have seen in a lifetime.” He promises that as long as he’s alive, he will provide all maintenance on the house.
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Eventually, the spectator barricades come down and the camera crews pack up. The army of blue shirts and white hardhats return to their homes and families. The Alure team says hello to their husbands and wives for the first time in a week, catches up on sleep, and preps for their next build. The chaos is over. Ringneck Lane is restored to its idyllic suburban self. The surreal little world in which everyone was wrapped up in has vanished, a bizarre tornado that touched down and dropped a new house on the street, like in The Wizard of Oz.
After the Extreme team leaves and moves on to the next city, the Lutz family remains here. Their episode will air in September, but by then, they will be comfortable and settled in. This is the place they will return to after a day at school; this is where they will spend holidays, and lazy summer days by the pool. This is where they will live their lives. The camera crews and directors made the show. Alure and the volunteers built the house. Now Kathleen Lutz and her siblings will turn it into a home.
With additional reporting by Samantha Batel. Visit our blog for additional updates and interviews.
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Tags: abc, Ali Woods, Alure, Alure Home Improvements, Danielle LaRose, Down Syndrome, East Meadow, Erik Kleine, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Grace Lutz, John Lutz, Kathleen Lutz, Kristina Greguski, Lake Grove, Lutz Family, Massapequa, Ringneck Lane, Sal Ferro, St. Rose of Lima Church, Subway Series, The Lutzes, The Wizard of Oz, Ty Pennington, Yankee Stadium