Echo Shappell grew up watching Mister Rogers, Reading Rainbow
and Sesame Street, but never imagined she would one day be the grown-up
inside the TV helping kids learn and have fun.
But as the new host of WTIU’s The Friday Zone, that’s exactly what she’ll be doing.
The 19-year-old IU Kokomo student has joined the Zone to replace Holly Gregory, who has moved to New York City. In the April 4 episode, Gregory introduced Shappell to Friday Zone viewers as her replacement. The new host went solo today.
Gregory was the creator, producer and host of The Friday Zone, WTIU’s weekly kids program. In January, Gregory moved to New York, but had been coming back to Bloomington regularly to host until the transition was complete. Nina Shelton was hired as the new producer and started in February.
“We are delighted to have Echo Shappell join us as the new host of The Friday Zone. Echo’s natural talent combined with her kid-friendly appeal will make her a favorite among our viewers,” said Shelton. “Being a young student herself, Echo’s eagerness to explore and experience the world around her is definitely contagious. We look forward to bringing that adventurous spirit into the Zone.”
The guests, and the quality of the show, are what impressed Shappell the most about The Friday Zone.
“It’s such a high quality program,” she said. “The guests and subjects are interesting to me even as a college student.”
Shappell began her television career in high school when she was selected to anchor the Channel One student-produced news program for two weeks. After a national talent search, she and two other students were flown to Los Angeles to work as anchors on the project. From there, she produced and anchored a local high school news program in Kokomo, where she grew up. She also participated as an actress in children’s civic theater productions and took part in an educational film in Indianapolis while living in Kokomo.
“On The Friday Zone, I’m most looking forward to working with children and being able to expand my horizons at the same time I help them expand theirs,” she said.
The goal of The Friday Zone is to excite children about their community and the world around them. With a new episode each week, The Friday Zone delivers thrilling segments relevant to kids. The program features performances and appearances by guests of all ages from the Indiana community. It also provides activities, crafts, games and even a community calendar with kid-friendly events.
The Friday Zone format starts with 14 minutes of local segments, followed by a children’s spotlight show of the week where it broadcasts a half-hour PBS kids series, and then concludes with 14 minutes of additional local segments. The format of the program has allowed more than 2,500 people to be included on the air.
With a reach of 1.2 million households, The Friday Zone airs on WTIU in more than 20 counties in west and south-central Indiana and also on WFYI in the Indianapolis market.
The Friday Zone has been on the air since October 1999 and in 2001 received two regional Emmy Awards—one for an episode shot at Ski World in Nashville and another for Gregory as the Zone’s ever-curious host.