Oprah's audience begins Australian adventure

SYDNEY (AP) - December 6, 2010

Winfrey kicked off her 25th and final season of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in September by surprising her shrieking, jumping and sobbing fans with what she's billed as the trip of a lifetime. The hand-picked audience was made up of some of who the program called its most loyal viewers over the years.

The itinerary for "Oprah's Ultimate Australian Adventure" remains a closely guarded secret, but it is expected to cover every corner of the continent - from the glittering Great Barrier Reef to the east, to the dusty red Outback in the center, to the crocodile-infested rainforests of northern Oz.

Excited audience members - who on Tuesday still had no idea exactly where in Australia they'd be heading - waved at reporters and photographers as they were ushered through Sydney airport and onto a bus, which whisked them away to a hotel for a briefing. Winfrey was traveling separately by private jet and expected to land sometime later in the day or week (that, too, was being kept secret.)

"It's an unbelievable experience, and I just want to soak in every bit of it," said Jocelyn Kelley, of Boston, who was traveling with her mother, Gloria. "To be in that audience, to be a part of something so big, is just amazing."

Winfrey will film two episodes at the Opera House (which the Australian media has renamed the "Oprah" House) and a third episode at a yet-to-be disclosed location, rumored to be somewhere in the Outback.

Her arrival has been treated with breathless anticipation in Australia, which is forking out more than $4 million for the trip between the federal and state governments. Officials say that's a small price to pay for the many millions of dollars of tourism advertising the show will bring.

"Oprah is a household name, not just in the United States but in the 145 countries where the show is broadcast," Federal Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said in a statement. "That Oprah has chosen Australia as her Ultimate Adventure destination sends a powerful message to her millions of fans around the world."

The audience, which ranges in age from 18 to 75, will be split into different groups and sent to various sites around the country. Ferguson confirmed on Tuesday that they will be visiting each of Australia's eight states and territories, which includes the island state of Tasmania.

"I would have never thought little bitty ol' me would ever have this opportunity," Orlando Bogins of Detroit said as he arrived at Sydney's airport. "It came at such a very hard time in my life - my mom had nine hours (of) surgery, I was laid off from my job and my house had been broken into. So we had all of that happen, and then I got notification that I was selected to go on the Oprah show."

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