Teenage miner Schnabel nets rush of fans from hit TV show


December 15, 2011

Is Parker Schnabel a household name?

The Haines High School senior and star of Discovery Channel’s reality television show "Gold Rush" has about 1,500 Facebook fans.

Schnabel is a bit behind pop star Lady Gaga, with more than 45 million Facebook fans, but the extra attention of a prominent role in the show’s second season has been entertaining to both Schnabel and his peers.

"It’s a little weird for us," said Haines senior Brook Cinocco. "To us, it’s just everyday, but there are people on Facebook who are trying to add (Schnabel) and ‘friend’ him. Everything’s really normal for us, but when you see it on Facebook, you say, ‘Parker’s really famous.’"

She said students at the school think Schnabel’s fame is cool. "Who doesn’t like admirers?"

A Google search for "Parker Schnabel" this week brought up 73,000 listings, indicating Schnabel is apparently more popular than Haines notables such as model Carolee Bass (59,300) and author Heather Lende (52,700).

Cinocco said it’s "awesome" that Schnabel may be the most famous person from Haines right now. "For that person to be a teenager, I think that says a lot. He’s a good guy. I’m happy for him."

Schnabel set up his Facebook fan page in mid-November and announced his presence with this post: "Hello world. 168 days and counting till we are back at it. Hopefully. May 1 might be a little ambitious. As for now, the snow has taken over."

The page allows Schnabel to keep his real-life friends separate on his personal Facebook account.

"I just set it up because I didn’t want to accept friend requests, because I got about a thousand of them, too," Schnabel said. "I just threw that on there, and I don’t really tend to it as much as the other players in the show … I should (post) once a week or so, but don’t quite get there."

The page describes Schnabel as a "public figure … as seen on Gold Rush." He lists just one personal interest – mining.

Fans have responded to say Schnabel is a hit at a University of Michigan dorm. They also compliment his work ethic.

"You are the best part of the show, Parker!" one wrote. "Smart, resourceful, hardworking. Your family must be proud of you!"

A Schnabel post apologizing for a mishap at Smith Creek generated more than 100 comments, with many crediting the bond between Parker and grandfather John Schnabel, who owns a claim in the Porcupine mining district.

"The gold may be worth a fortune, but the relationship you have with your grandpa is priceless," a Wisconsin woman wrote.

Schnabel has received some female interest, expressed in posts like, "Need a girlfriend?" and "Stay safe! Stay cute!" He deflects their praise, saying they don’t really know him.

Other fans are looking for employment at Porcupine. "I’m putting a crew together, still, but I’m not looking outside for people," Schnabel said.

He said he hasn’t left town since the second season premiered in October, so he doesn’t know the extent of his celebrity status. He traveled to Anchorage with the Haines basketball team this week and said he didn’t think opposing squads would make too much fuss about the show.

Recent episodes of "Gold Rush" on Friday nights have drawn nearly 5 million viewers a week, up from the first season’s average of 3.73 million.

"For me, it’s business as usual, because it’s about mining," said Parker’s mother, Nancy. "I don’t really pay much attention to the other stuff."

She noted Parker has spent summers at the mine since he was 6 years old.

Nancy has yet to make an appearance on the show, but in a recent episode, Parker called in his father, Southeast Roadbuilders president Roger, and brother, Payson, to help on a project.

"They’ve both supported me quite a bit, and it’s nice to see them on there, helping things out," Parker said. "Working up there wouldn’t really be possible for me without my dad and without the support he gives me, because he contributes a lot of equipment and a lot of support up there."

Teacher Lilly Boron said she finds Schnabel "refreshingly normal" on the show, and she’s proud of him.

"It’s pretty cool that a kid his age could work with his grandpa and portray a good, hard-working Alaska kid, instead of somebody with a lot of attitude and all of that," she said.

Boron said she’s an avid follower of Schnabel’s Facebook page, but sometimes she wants to remind fans, "That’s a real kid."

"They just see it as a TV show, but you see that as somebody you know and care about," she said.


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