Huffpost Chicago

Oprah's Michigan Avenue Party Kicks Off 24th Season

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CHICAGO — Thousands of Oprah Winfrey's fans gathered on Michigan Avenue to help the talk show host celebrate the 24th season of her show with a public taping Tuesday that included performances from the Black Eyed Peas and Jennifer Hudson.

"Hello Chicago," Winfrey said as she came on stage to a cheering crowd for a taping that will shut down the famous downtown street – known as the Magnificent Mile for its upscale shopping – to traffic from early Monday through Wednesday morning. "Isn't this the most fabulous city in the world? I see you all the way down the Magnificent Mile."

The Black Eyed Peas sang their hit single "I Got A Feeling" as the crowd performed a choreographed dance. Hudson, who is from Chicago, performed her song "Spotlight" as Winfrey stood on the side singing along and dancing.

"It feels good to be home," Hudson told the crowd.

Diane Stimson lined up at 5:30 a.m., nearly 12 hours before the taping started. The 43-year-old Chicago resident called Winfrey an inspiration.

"She worked her way to the top, and she made it," Stimson said. "She gives us all hope."

Winfrey's production company, Harpo Productions, said it would cover all costs for police, paramedics and sanitation at the outdoor taping, which also featured Rascal Flatts, James Taylor and magician Criss Angel. "The Oprah Winfrey Show" normally is taped at the Harpo studios on Chicago's near west side.

Both Harpo Productions and the Chicago Police Department estimated the crowd at 21,000.

Several people said they wanted to come because of the difficulty in getting tickets for the regular tapings. Gloria Jones, 60, of Chicago, said she was excited because "I never get a chance to get a ticket, and I figured this is the closest I could get."

The special outdoor event took place on a three-block stretch of Michigan Avenue near the Chicago River, with two blocks of audience members. The taping was free and open to the public.

"She knows where she came from and she remembers that," Janie Wu, 31, of Chicago, said of Winfrey. "That's why we're all here today."

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley attended the taping, which he has said will give the city global exposure.

It also came just weeks before the International Olympic Committee will announce if Chicago will have the winning bid to host the 2016 Summer Games. During last year's season premiere of Winfrey's show, 6,000 fans crammed into Chicago's Millennium Park as she celebrated more than 170 American Olympic medalists from the Beijing Games.

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On the Net:

Oprah's 24th Season Kickoff Party: http://www.oprah.com/party

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Oprah Bash Takes Over Michigan Avenue