Newman is feeling its oats after filming of Quaker ad

NEWMAN -- Television viewers with a quick eye may be able to spot fleeting scenes of downtown Newman, Fink Road in Crows Landing and a couple of Patterson-bred alpacas in a commercial set to air next month.

Quaker Oats filmed parts of a commercial on the West Side about two women who are munching on a new brand of granola bars called Simple Harvest during a road trip across the United States.

The 30-second spot includes footage of alpacas -- a species of South American camelid that resemble small llamas -- raised by a Patterson family. Newman and Crows Landing serve as the backdrop in the commercial, representing generic small-town America.

"There's a real charm to Newman," said Jof Hanwright, a freelance location manager for film companies who scouted out areas on the West Side for the Quaker Oats spot.

Production companies like filming in central California because the footage can air anywhere in the United States, he said. Within the region, there are rolling hills, the coastline, heartland America -- which looks similar to the San Joaquin Valley -- and Lake Tahoe, which just as easily could pass for a scene from the Colorado Rockies, Hanwright said.

"Newman feels like the heartland in Anywhere, USA," he said. "That is not captured in many places."

Most of the shots were taken on Newman's Main Street and in front of a private residence, said Newman interim Police Chief Randy Ulibarri. The shooting was completed in one day in early December.

The directors wanted to capture a "natural look" of a small town, so the roads weren't shut down and pedestrians walked around as usual, Ulibarri said. Only a few "No Parking" signs and the camera crews distinguished it from any other day.

They did such a good job that "99 percent of people didn't know what was going on," he said.

Quaker Oats donated $1,000 to the city to hold an event for senior citizens on Jan. 17 called "Lunch with the Chief," where residents can learn about government services and chat with Ulibarri.

The spot will air in mid-February, although there are no guarantees that the West Side scenes will be included in the commercial, said Leah Hammond Barrett, spokeswoman for Quaker Oats' advertising firm, Element 79 in Chicago.

Hanwright said it was "raining like cats and dogs" on the day of the shoot, so some of the film may not be used.

It's not the first time a West Side community has had its 15 seconds of fame.

Coca-Cola shot parts of a national commercial in Gustine that aired during the NCAA basketball championship game in 2006. The one-minute commercial featured the Gustine and Orestimba high school marching bands, along with 200 paid extras who re-created a parade scene along Gustine's main drag.

Coke chose Gustine over Newman at the last minute because the town was considered more blue-collar.

Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at csalerno@modbee.com or 238-4574.