Thousands line up for Oprah

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CHICAGO (AP)—Thousands of Oprah Winfrey’s fans gathered on Michigan Avenue to help the talk show celebrate the 24th season of her show with a public taping on Tuesday that was to include the Black Eyed Peas and Rascal Flatts.

Diane Stimson lined up at 5:30 a.m., nearly 12 hours before the taping was set to begin, and by the afternoon the 43-year-old Chicagoan was dancing behind a metal barrier as she waited. She called Winfrey an inspiration.

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WHITNEY HOUSTON AND OPRAH WINFREY ON THE SET

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

Winfrey’s production company, Harpo Productions, has said it expects “thousands” of people to attend the event, which will also feature Jennifer Hudson, James Taylor and magician Criss Angel. The company said it would cover all costs for police, paramedics and sanitation at the outdoor taping. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” normally is taped at the Harpo studios on Chicago’s near west side.

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 will take place on a three-block stretch of Michigan Avenue near the Chicago River and have two blocks of audience members. It will shut down the famous downtown street—known as the Magnificent Mile for its upscale shopping—to traffic from early Monday through Wednesday morning.

The taping is free and open to the public. General admission will close when the event reaches capacity. By midafternoon, one block of the audience area was full.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has supported the taping, saying it will give the city global exposure and create jobs.

It also comes 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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