EXTREME MAKEOVER: Welcome home, Gommesh family
Their faces said it all. As the Bill and Adair Grommesh family set eyes for the first time on their brand-new Moorhead home, their reactions were a visibly overwhelming mix of shock, joy, tears and pure happiness.
Those precious seconds of raw emotion marked a rare unscripted moment during Sunday's reveal of the Grommesh residence, which was constructed as part of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
The reality show's production crews surprised the Grommeshes last week with news that their former modest home off Eighth Street South would be relocated and a new handicapped-accessible home would be built in its place in just 106 hours.
The Grommeshes have two children: 10-year-old son Garrett, who was born with spina bifida and must use a wheelchair to get around, and 11-year-old daughter Peighton, who has a pancreatic enzyme deficiency known as Axenfeld-Reiger's syndrome.
The spectacle of the home's unveiling Sunday drew thousands of observers to the streets around the Grommeshes' home.
Heritage Homes, the local builder for the project, estimated about 8,000 people had flocked to the area by 2 p.m.
Production crews and volunteers were on site Sunday morning, making last-minute preparations.
Filming began in the afternoon, with numerous staged shots of the vast crowd cheering and chanting, "Move that bus!"
Just before 3 p.m., a white stretch limo brought the Grommesh family home, where the lively audience waited.
Even before seeing the house, the family was brought to tears by the thousands of onlookers.
"We love you guys so much," Adair Grommesh shouted to the exuberant crowd.
A few minutes later, the infamous bus moved out of the way to a roar of cheers.
More tears and hugs ensued as the Grommesh family exchanged disbelieving gawks at their new two-story home.
The family interacted a bit with the crowd, and the show's host Ty Pennington spoke with them out front.
A short while later, the Grommeshes were allowed to go inside - a moment followed by additional surprised reactions when the family got their first looks of the interior.
As the front door closed behind them, Bill Grommesh stuck his arm out for a thumbs-up to the crowd.
The exact details of the Grommeshes' new home remain a mystery to all but the family, the production crews, the volunteers and the rare other few who've gotten a glimpse inside.
The episode featuring the Grommesh family is expected to air sometime between mid-November and mid-December. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" airs at 7 p.m. on Sundays.
The 5,200-square-foot residence includes three bedrooms, five bathrooms, a two-car garage, an elevator and an indoor pool with a lift for Garrett, Heritage Homes' spokeswoman Megan Messer said.
None of the Grommesh family, the show's producers or on-air talent was available to talk Sunday following the reveal.
Crews were slated to spend about four hours Sunday evening filming the Grommeshes' reactions inside the home.
The family will be available to speak publically for the first time today about their experience.
Meanwhile, family members of the Grommeshes who observed Sunday's reveal were equally as overwhelmed by emotion.
Adair Grommesh's sister, Yvette Krzyzaniak, described the scene as "amazing" and "surreal."
"We are so grateful and thankful for everything that has come our way," she said.
While the home was constructed last week, the four Grommeshes were sent on vacation to the Bahamas.
The project's representatives said an ABC producer was with the family throughout the vacation to ensure they had no access to TV, Internet or cell phones and no contact with anyone who might spoil the surprise.
The family arrived back in town by Saturday afternoon to see their old home passed on to another deserving family.
The Grommeshes' history of giving back to the community and son Garrett's idea to donate their former house to the Izja and Valdete Hajdari family inspired the theme for the show's Moorhead projects: "Pay It Forward."
"That was one of the most incredible gestures of generosity that we had ever heard," executive producer Brady Connell said of Garrett's idea.
"We probably should have known that this was the perfect place to come for a 'Pay It Forward' episode because the volunteer spirit here is alive and well," Connell said to the crowd Sunday. "This is a fantastic example to the rest of the country on how everyone should be treating their neighbor."
Although the formal project is complete, crews are expected to remain working at the Grommesh home until mid-day Tuesday.
Today, ABC crews will finish filming interviews and shots of the home's interior. Volunteers coordinated by Heritage Homes will complete cleanup work at the site.