The obstacle course may have been lit up like an amusement park ride, but the set of American Ninja Warrior was all business on a Sunday and Monday in March at Fair Park.

The show filmed its season premiere right in front of the Hall of State, where about 120 competitors tried to qualify on a course riddled with challenges they had never seen. Viewers can watch it on NBC on May 30.

The competition included a few walk-ons and veteran ninjas such as Dallas Cowboys flag runner Kevin Klein and Karsten Williams of McKinney.

Dallas trainer Karsten Williams jumps through hoops (for real) as 'American Ninja Warrior' finals start Sept. 4

"I'm excited, a little nervous, feeling pretty good," Williams said while waiting. He was number 56 on the call sheet. Williams, who competed in the show's finals last year, called out encouragement to training partners and friends as they went through the course. 

He acknowledged that it is a competition, but "it's a ninja fraternity." As in: "You want everybody to do their best ... and stay safe."

He was one of almost 20 Dallas-area contestants trying to navigate the field, including something called "the floating stairs." And that was just the first obstacle.

Testers had already traversed the course, to the approval of fans settled into bleachers on one side. The course was held up with what looked like an outsized erector set. And it was an all-night affair: Filming was officially set to start at 8:15 p.m. Sunday but started awhile after and at 10:30, there were still many ninjas to go.

Fans of all ages -- some displaying flags, others in matching T-shirts, all cheering under direction -- were in it for the long haul. American Ninja Warrior is entertainment for the entire family. 

Watch Dallas Cowboys flag runner Kevin Klein compete on 'American Ninja Warrior' finals

"It's become a show where dads and moms get off the couch and kids get away from video games and they all get together in the back yard and play together and that's something that makes me so proud," said executive producer Kent Weed. 

"It sends good messaging to kids. You fail and you try again; you don't get upset, you just try and do better the next time."

Affable hosts Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila revel in the hold-your-breath runs of each contestant and have the almost enviable task of imparting that excitement to viewers. (That could explain the energy drinks both were holding before filming began. No sugar, Gbajabiamila pointed out.)

"We want them to do well because we know how much they sacrifice," Iseman said. "Don't tell ... but we're doing what we'd be doing at home anyway."

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But the hosts put in work, too. Gbajabiamila said he was up late watching film, and the two of them have even tried a course. 

They're serious about honoring the athletes. "It's time to give them love, appreciating them for all the hard work they put in, the sacrifices, some of them giving up their jobs," Gbajabiamila said. "So, the same emotion people get at home watching it is the same emotion we have right here live."

One reason for their emotional calling is because they get to know the ninjas. America gets to know the ninjas, too, and that's by design.

"We realized that the stories that we could tell were very relatable to people at home," Weed said. "Then it became more about those stories about people overcoming obstacles in their lives -- and then overcoming obstacles on the course."

And now Dallas, which has played a pivotal part in the show's history, will be in the spotlight again. And the show has a surprise in store to honor a historic run by a former ninja.

"This was the city where Kacy Catanzaro became the first woman to make it over the warped wall, and not only that, the only woman to finish a finals course. And being our 10th season, we thought it would be really nice to come back here," Weed said in March before filming began. 

"We had such a great response from Dallas when we were here last time and the whole city came out for us. Texas is full of friendly people and it's never more exhibited than when we come here. So we're very very appreciative and very very grateful for that."

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