Jack Steward and Colton Smith have been making adventure films for as long as they can remember. Best friends and outdoorsmen, they’ve now turned their passion into a television series.
The duo met at St. John’s Elementary School in Excelsior as second-graders. A friendship grew and continued all the way through college in Montana, where the pair attended school together. They graduated from the University of Montana, Missoula, in 2012. It was there that they began shooting more professional videos of themselves exploring national parks and anything outdoors.
Steward grew up in a media family. Both his parents worked in television, and his mother, Colleen Needles Steward, founded her own television production company, Tremendous! Entertainment.
“Jack was always the film guy,” Colton Smith says. “I just wanted to explore.”
Their first videos were made just for friends, but Needles Steward saw what the pair was doing and felt there was potential as a television series. “Jack and Colton are authentic and have a great chemistry,” she says. “They are fun to watch and have a natural excitement for the places they visit.”
The videos featured Steward and Smith going into state parks and simply exploring, driven by their love of nature and a good story. “The first time I went to Yellowstone, I was blown away by the mountains and wildlife,” Steward says.
He and Smith began going on outdoor adventures as much as they could, just for fun. When Steward’s mom mentioned the pair could have a real television show on their hands, they were stunned. They were just messing around, not trying to build a career.
Needles Steward helped them put together a “sizzle reel,” video highlights meant to entice television producers. They pitched their show to a variety of networks and eventually hooked up with Litton Entertainment, which works with the CW Network on a five-hour block of shows on Saturday mornings that feature educational programming about the outdoors. Steward and Smith’s show was a perfect fit. Rock the Park was born, and Steward and Smith were officially television hosts.
They began filming in July 2014 and recently wrapped their first season. Smith and Steward have visited parks all over the country; each episode focuses on a different park, and the duo spend the duration of the show finding wildlife, interviewing park rangers and experts, and just exploring. “Each park has special qualities,” Steward says. “On a personal level, the best experience was mountaineering the North Cascades in Washington.”
While the show is mostly aimed at a younger crowd, Rock the Park has reached a diverse audience. Parents watch it and get ideas for family vacations, and families sit down together to learn more about our national parks.
“We’re really everyday guys,” Smith says. “We try to bring to the table a fun energy; our tagline is, ‘If we can do it, so can you,’ and we both truly believe that.” Their hope is that younger kids in particular will see how much fun they are having, and a new generation of explorers will be drawn to the great outdoors.
Mostly, Smith and Steward just want to inspire people to have adventures. You never know what can happen if you grab a video camera and set out to have some fun. The world has a lot to offer.
“It’s the culmination of telling stories from when we were young, and a love of the parks,” Steward says. “And to have such a great friend like Colton to do this with is just awesome.”
Watch Rock the Park on the CW Network; check local listings for details.