Rob Taylor distinctly remembers his first taste of TV fame.
The life-long Haverhill resident was 12 years old at the time. He remembers not remembering much about that day other than his nerves.
Taylor was a participant on “Candlepins for Kids,” a program televised on Southbridge (Ma.) Access Cable.
”I had bowled hundreds of games. But I was shaking the night before until I threw my first ball,” recalled Taylor, a co-op student Northeastern University. “It is funny now looking back, because the show’s audience was so small.”
Now 21, Taylor is part of a volunteer group that is bringing “Candlepins for Kids,” which had been seen only on the Internet the last nine years, to the mainstream television -- Saturday, 11:30 a.m. on NESN. It marks the first time candlepin bowling has been on TV since the Northeast-based sport was cut because the game’s governing body couldn’t afford the production costs.
Taylor is hoping to re-ignite the sport, eventually setting the table for a return of the professionals, and the best place to start is with the kids.
”I grew up here in the Merrimack Valley, which is the capital of the candlepin world,” said Taylor. “A lot of the game’s top talent comes from the area, and we’re excited to get this show on TV.”
”Candlepins for Kids” was founded by Steve Renaud, a professional candlepin bowler, in 2002 as a way to give kids the chance to get some experience bowling under the TV lights, so they’d perform better under the television pressure when they possibly bowled professionally. The show originally aired on Southbridge Public Access before moving to the internet.
Taylor bowled on the show until he graduated high school. He later joined the volunteer staff in the fall of 2009 for its seventh season, eventually taking over the production and editing side of the show.
”We added a camera, instant replays, some graphics, and the show really started coming together,” said Taylor. “In the summer of 2010 the show aired on Cox Sports in Rhode Island when I worked there as an intern. We then developed our website, and realized that we were a television quality production.”
Taylor & Co. made a push to NESN this past summer to see if they could purchase air time. NESN agreed if they could raise the money -- $4,200. They did and tomorrow is first episode.
Taylor’s fascination with this show is two-fold. One, he loved being on the show and says he made some of his best friends while competing on “Candlepins for Kids.” And two, he recently founded his own production company -- Holiday Turtle Productions, LLC -- which is producing this show.
”I’d love to build the company up, be my own boss, and produce more shows -- especially ones with a multimedia emphasis,” said Taylor. “I think most television shows aren’t using the Internet and social media to their full capabilities, and this is an awesome chance for me to pull it all together with this show.”
Taylor said he has been amazed with the support this venture has received.
Eight different bowling centers -- including Pilgrim Lanes in Haverhill and Park Place Lanes in Windham, N.H. -- agreed to purchase commercials on the first episode and have helped publicize the program. In addition, the International Candlepin Bowling Association, the game’s governing body, agreed to fund “Candlepins for Kids” for six more episodes in the spring.
”We really want to this to work,” said Taylor. “I’m working to get some bigger sponsors for our spring episodes to give us the chance to boost our equipment, increase prizes and pay our staff. If we get some good ratings, I’m hoping to shoot for a full-year season of 20 to 30 episodes that includes both episodes with kids and professionals and really help bring back candlepin’s popularity.”
Some Valley stars, kids and pros Here are some of the best young and professional bowlers who hail from the Merrimack Valley: KIDS Colleen Dumas (Haverhill): Beat all the girls and boys, there's about 150 total bowlers or so, at the ICBA 2011 championships, for a $1000 scholarship; Candlepin for Kids Season 8 12-to-14-year-old and 15-to-18 champion Sonya Richard (Seabrook, N.H.): Candlepin for Kids Season 9 runner-up Sage Johnson (Seabrook, N.H.): Candlepin for Kids Season 9 11-and-under champion Steven Powers (Danville, N.H.) : State championship runner-up for $300 scholarship; Candlepin for Kids Season 9, 12-to-14-year-old runner-up Michael Pelchat (Lowell): Candlepin for Kids Season 10 12-to-14 championship contestant (to be filmed in March) PROS Chris Sargent (Haverhill): Two-time World Champion; holds world record for highest game ever at 245 David Godwin (Haverhill): Two-time World Champion Dave Barber (Merrimac): 2012 Pro Series Champion