Parkland residents watching the History Channel later this month will have a chance of spotting one of St. Francois County’s own competing on the popular show “Forged in Fire.”
Each episode of the show has four blacksmiths competing against each other for a top prize of $10,000. John Wigger, a North County graduate and current Central School District employee, will be a featured competitor on the Nov. 21 episode of the show.
Wigger is co-owner and co-operator of Hawthorne Forge, a smithing business started by Wigger and Joe Nipper.
“About four years ago I acquired an anvil,” Wigger said. “A guy that lives down the street from me, named Joe Nipper, we worked together at the railroad. He used to be a full-time blacksmith about 15 years ago. He saw I had an anvil and said, ‘If you ever get a forge, let me know and I’ll show you some stuff.’”
After John obtained a forge and starting learning from Joe, the two began smithing items. They soon began making knives and eventually starting selling them and posting their work on Instagram.
“I guess the producer of ‘Forged in Fire’ saw our Instagram and found us,” Wigger said. “They asked if we would want to put in an application for the show. I thought it was some kind of a scam or something at first, but the more I looked into it, I was like, ‘I think this is real!’”
After sending in an application, having a telephone interview and sending in a video of himself at work, Wigger flew to New York in August and from there traveled to Stamford, Connecticut to film the show.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “Everything was just how you see on TV — it’s a true competition. The first two rounds they have you make a knife or weapon and they test that out. In those first two rounds, they eliminate two people and then in the last round, they send you back to your home forge to make a finale weapon.”
To find out how Wigger fared on the show, viewers will have to tune in to the History Channel at 8 p.m. on Nov. 21. For an even more immersive experience, however, a viewing party will be hosted at the Central High School Auditorium that evening.
“Everyone’s welcome to attend,” Wigger said. “The show starts at 8 o’clock and we’ll open the doors at 7 o’clock for people to come in. There will be some vendors set up to accommodate everybody — the First Baptist Church of Desloge will be doing nachos with all the toppings, RaeCole’s will be there with cappuccino, hot chocolate and coffee, the Sugar Shack will be there with desserts, Rustic and Weathered will be there with shirts and Sweet Tee Screen Printing will also have shirts.”
More than just watching the episode with the community, attendees will have the chance to hear firsthand from Wigger about his experiences during the filming of the show.
“During the viewing party, I’m going to talk during commercials about what was going on or running through my head,” he said. “Afterward, I’ll kind of sum up the whole experience and talk about it.”
If there are any updates regarding the viewing party, they will be posted to Wigger and Nipper’s page, www.hawthorneforge.com.
Despite being filmed for hours for such a widely broadcast show, Wigger said he hasn’t felt the immensity yet.
“It hasn’t really hit me,” he said. “I filmed for a long time, so I don’t know how it’s going to be portrayed or what they’re going to use, because we had hours, and hours, and hours of film. It all has to get crunched down into an hour, so I might only be on TV for 20 minutes or something. I guess it will all hit me during the show.”
For more information about the show, visit www.history.com/shows/forged-in-fire.