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Wellington Garden Club hosts garden tour

April 4, 2016 on 4:11 pm | In As Seen In..., Palms West Monthly | No Comments

Spring cleaning is for the birds, so dump the disinfectant and sweep those dust bunnies under the rug – it’s time to get outside and enjoy the wonders of the season before the summer heat bears down.

What better way to surround yourself in spring’s lushness than by exploring some of Wellington’s very own backyard oases in full bloom? Thanks to the Wellington Garden Club’s upcoming biennial garden tour, it couldn’t be easier.

“Glorious Gardens” is a day-long tour of five Wellington residences, each boasting different styles, and takes place Saturday, April 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.garden_tour

If you miss it, it’ll be another two years until you have another chance.

And these are not your garden-variety gardens – all five gardens were chosen by the gurus at the Wellington Garden Club for their uniqueness.

“They’re selected on the basis of variety of plant material, interesting landscape design and interesting plants that many people may not have heard of,” says garden club member and  past president Twig Morris.

If you take the tour, you’re bound to meet some very interesting people along the way. Take Anne Hlasnicek, whose garden was also featured back in 2012.

Known to locals as the “Bromeliad Queen,” Hlasnicek’s garden combines a mass of fruit trees and flowers along with a well-tended vegetable garden into a serene setting that includes homemade artwork and wildlife that surrounds the entire home.

Hlasnicek says the inspiration for her garden was to disguise her average looking home.

“The original idea was to trim the house because this house is the most ordinary, most common house in the world, bordering on homely,” says Hlasnicek as she laughs. “The only way to turn it into something a little more special was to landscape it.”

The result is what the garden club labels an artistic treasure.

Lush with a variety of flowering plants, Hlasnicek’s home is a refuge from the mass of ordinary lawns dotted with plain old palms. There are fruit trees, peaceful patches of singing bamboo, a vegetable garden and yes, even a pair of roaming Rouen ducks.

Hlasnicek hopes to inspire visitors on the tour with her garden.

“I hope visitors on the tour get ideas to take home,” says Hlasnicek. “That’s what I do when I look at other people’s gardens. I hope they get solutions to problems that every garden has.”

Hlasnicek’s love of digging around and puttering with plants started in her home state of New Jersey. Like many club members, when she moved to Florida, everything she thought she knew about gardening changed.

“The seasons are completely turned around down here,” says Hlasnicek, who had to relearn what to grow and when.

The tours are self-guided on average-sized properties and Hlasnicek, along with the four other garden owners, will be on hand to answer questions.

Plenty of plants are also available for purchase and the tour will feature a raffle and refreshments, including water.

“Four of the five gardens are not on big estates, they’re more typical of our gated communities,” says Morris. “Once you’re at each property you can take as little or as long as you like. People can talk with the homeowners, other garden experts and others on the tour to learn about plants and how to make beautiful landscapes.”

Other gardens featured this year include:

• Backyard Haven: Small spaces are no barrier to beauty in this garden that blends Buddha Belly bamboo, orchids and a special gumbo limbo tree that will leave guests chanting “Om.”

• Sensory Delight: Known by area gardeners as the secret garden, guests will cross through the arbor entrance and follow a path of Chinese perfume trees, a dwarf ylang-ylang tree, sweet almond bush and Milky Way trees – all while experiencing nature’s own aromatherapy.

• Succulent Showcase: It’s the unique rock garden along with a showcase of succulents that give this garden its edge. Visitors will come across terraced cacti, agaves, bromeliads, kalanchoe, cassia trees, bougainvillea, Gerbera daisies, roses and Phalaenopsis orchids, along with a koi fish pond beckoning at the front door.

• Lakeside Serenity: The stars of the largest garden on the tour are the trees, with several bamboo varieties including angels mist, giant bamboo, two varieties of black bamboo, a Buddha belly and golden bamboo stretching over an acre.

Guests will also enjoy Royal Poinciana, jacaranda and a rainbow eucalyptus tree.

There is also a koi fish pond as well as beautiful parrots overlooking a peaceful lake.

“You’d be amazed how beautiful these properties are – it’s not just grass and a couple of foundation plants,” says Morris. “One garden has no grass at all, its pebbles and stepping stones are surrounded by this wonderful variety of foliage.”

There is one trait that all five gardens have in common, however – the homeowners have invested time, energy, heart, soul and plenty of sweat.

“All of these gardens have been designed by the homeowners, some with advice from professionals – but they are not professionally landscaped properties,” says Morris.

Which is one of the purposes of the garden club: a gathering of enthusiasts who guide each other.

The Wellington Garden Club was established in 1982 to educate members – most of whom, like Hlasnicek, had gardens up north and moved down south only to find that gardening was very different here.

“We try to teach members and the general public the proper use of pesticides and how to use natural things instead of chemicals,” says Morris. “We go to different wildlife places or garden places. It’s more social, but it’s all still education.”

The biennial garden tour is one of the club’s most popular events and raises money to support programs including youth garden club programs, scholarships for environmental youth camps, Habitat for Humanity landscaping and community projects and college scholarships for horticulture and environmental studies.

Tickets are $30 on the day of the event, but can be purchased in advanced for $25.

“It’s our single biggest fund-raiser,” says Morris. “It’s a big undertaking.”

Garden Tour Information:

TOUR DATE: Saturday, April 9.

HOURS: The tour runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

ADVANCE TICKETS: Advance tickets may be purchased at a discounted price of $25 until April 8 online atwellingtongardenclub.org.

Tickets may also be purchased at Amelia’s Smarty Plants, 1515 N. Dixie Hwy. in Lake Worth.

DAY OF ADMISSION: On the day of the tour, tickets will be priced at $30 and will be sold only at First Baptist Church of Wellington, 12700 W. Forest Hill Blvd.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: For more information on the tour or the Wellington Garden Club, emailinfo@wellingtongardenclub.org.


Meet Wellington’s own paperback writer

October 31, 2015 on 4:19 pm | In As Seen In..., Palms West Monthly | No Comments

The visitor was escorted through Florida State Prison’s first set of thick steel bars. One by one, the heavy metal doors swung open and then clanged loudly shut behind him.

He finally was deposited inside a small interrogation room with one small window. There he waited to meet the convicted serial killer.

Silence soon gave way to the sound of chains being dragged along the floor and some rustling with the door handle. The killer peered through the window to capture a glimpse of the waiting visitor.

In entered Gerard John Schaefer Jr., imprisoned in 1973 for murders he committed as a Martin County Sheriff’s deputy.patrick_kendrick-660x330

“The door opened and Schaefer shuffled in and extended his cuffed hands to greet me,” says author and Wellington resident Patrick Kendrick. “I took his hands in mine – they were pale and cold and I couldn’t help but imagine the many lives they’d taken. I had to push the thoughts away to continue with my task.”

Kendrick’s task was writing a book about Schaefer’s case, finally finishing the 700-plus page manuscript after years of research. As it turned out, Schaefer didn’t take very kindly to the finished product and sued Kendrick from prison until he was murdered.

“As a result, I promised my wife I wouldn’t write non-fiction anymore,” recalls Kendrick. “However, I took out that manuscript the other day and I’m thinking about breaking that promise.”

Schaefer would, however, turn up years later in another work of Kendrick’s, closely resembling the main character from his second novel, “Extended Family.”

With nearly 30 years working as a firefighter in South Florida, Kendrick has seen his own share of real-life horror, being called out on everything from accidents to crime scenes.

“There were fires, shootings, stabbings, assaults and vehicles mangled in 10-car pileups,” says Kendrick. “I started writing about those experiences as a catharsis. Newspapers loved them so I began doing freelance writing on my days off from the fire department. I was published in the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentineland Miami Herald. Then I branched out into national magazines like Reader’s Digest and fire service magazines, and finally to writing fiction.”

To date, Kendrick – who along with his wife Lisa have two teenage sons, Cooper and Jackson – has published four books, all thrillers. His first, “Papa’s Problem,” which put famed author Ernest Hemingway right in the middle of a murder investigation, was a Bronze Medal winner in the genre fiction category of the Florida Book Awards in 2008.

Kendrick followed that up with “Extended Family” in 2012 and “Acoustic Shadows” in 2015.

One common thread running through Kendrick’s first three novels is graphic violence. That changed with the publication of Kendrick’s fourth novel last month, “The Savants,” his first Young Adult book.

“After winning the Florida Book Award for ‘Papa’s Problem,’ I promised my two boys, who were just six and 12 at the time, that I would write something that they could read,” says Kendrick.

“While there’s violence in ‘The Savants,’ there is also a very positive message about accepting and believing in people who are different from you,” says Kendrick.

How does Kendrick come up with his story lines? Kendrick’s gut-o-meter tells him that he’s onto something when he absolutely has to write it down, as illustrated with the genesis of “Extended Family.”

“I was reading Schaefer’s diary and I was also watching “60 Minutes” about a doctor who, when he was in college, went to several sperm donation clinics,” says Kendrick. “He was exactly what they wanted: smart, Ivy League guy, good family medical history, affluent, good looks. So he donated his sperm to all these clinics and ended up having dozens of children.

“Some of these offspring started contacting him years later and a lot of them had become doctors, like 70 out of 100. So, I started thinking if behavior can be passed on, what if he wasn’t a doctor? What if he was a serial killer? I couldn’t get that idea out of my head.”

“Acoustic Shadows,” Kendrick’s third book, was inspired by the Sandy Hook shootings. “I thought, what if one of the teachers had a gun? What if these shootings weren’t random acts of violence?” says Kendrick.

Kendrick’s fourth book, “The Savants,” came from watching a documentary about these special people who have extraordinary gifts of genius but they often have difficulty fitting into society.

“I thought what if they could get past their challenges and work as a team? They wouldn’t be burdened with conventional thinking and that was exciting to me,” he says.

Kendrick’s fifth book will be the result of subcontracting work he’s performed with the Department of Defense, training soldiers in special rescue operations. One of those missions took him to a special training ground in Muskatatuck, Indiana.

The facility happens to be the home to one of America’s most haunted places, the now defunct Muscatatuck State Mental Hospital.

“It will be my first attempt at a ghost story,” says Kendrick. “I worked there training the army a couple summers ago and I can assure you it is haunted.”

Kendrick continues, “Truly one of the creepiest places you could ever go. It’s a place where I believe I actually saw a ghost and I don’t usually follow paranormal ideas.”

And what will his next book be titled?

“I don’t have a title yet but the main character will be a chief warrant officer assigned to watch for terrorist activity during a training exercise and he finds the real terror is there in the mental hospital,” says Kendrick.

One can only imagine the fun Kendrick will have scarring up those ideas.

To learn more about Kendrick, go online to talesofpatrickkendrick.com.

Summertime is family time in Palm Beach County

June 8, 2015 on 9:02 am | In As Seen In..., Palms West Monthly | No Comments

Summertime: the living is easy and the days are longer, giving us all a little extra time. The breakneck pace that accompanies our usual mornings now slows down, the kids are out of school, there are no lunches to pack or buses to catch.summertime2015

With time now on our side we have the luxury of choosing how to spend it.

But what to do?

Palms West Monthly has unearthed some true local treasures – including some hidden gems. We hope readers find some truly fun summertime activities to spend precious family time together without putting a huge dent in the wallet.

Disc golf catching on in Palm Beach County

May 8, 2015 on 1:50 pm | In As Seen In..., Palms West Monthly | No Comments

You may live near a disc golf course and not know it.

While many of the nearly 5,000 courses in the United States boast grand vistas, glorious flora and some fauna, others are tucked along steep terrain and small creeks, providing a use for parkland not suitable for much else.

Local disc golf enthusiast and course designer Dan Rigg, of Wellington, sinks a “putt” on hole 9 – also known as the signature hole – at Okeeheelee Park’s 18-hole disc golf course in West Palm Beach. Photo by Robert Harris/Palms West Monthly

Local disc golf enthusiast and course designer Dan Rigg, of Wellington, sinks a “putt” on hole 9 – also known as the signature hole – at Okeeheelee Park’s 18-hole disc golf course in West Palm Beach. Photo by Robert Harris/Palms West Monthly

“Disc golf courses can be built on land that is sometimes deemed ‘unusable’ by other potential park amenities,” says Scott Keasey, general manager of the Watsonville, California-based Disc Golf Association Inc., a manufacturer of disc golf equipment. “We like trees and we like hills. All of that is used in our course development.”

Disc golf equipment often is inconspicuous on the course: The metal baskets for catching discs and the concrete or rubber pads for teeing off camouflage easily among the trees, boulders and tall grasses that provide obstacles.

Ed Headrick, who designed and patented the Frisbee for Wham-O Toys in 1966, later invented the disc-catching, metal-chain baskets that helped turn Frisbee tossing into the disc-golf sport. He established DGA in 1976 and also the Professional Disc Golf Association, based in Appling, Georgia, as the governing body for both professional and recreational disc golf. Headrick, listed as player No. 1 in the PDGA, died in 2002.

In disc golf, players tee off at each of nine to 18 holes (or more), trying to land their discs in a Disc Pole Hole (the basket) in as few throws as possible. Discs whip around trees and might even roll or bounce along the ground. The player with the lowest cumulative score wins.

And there are no golf carts.

Most of the courses are on public land; playing usually is free.

“Compared to traditional golf, it’s an infant,” says Keasey, who’s been playing the sport for 20 years. “But disc golf has some legs.”

The sport is growing fast, says Brian Graham, PDGA executive director; membership in the PDGA grew by 18 percent to 25,000 members last year.

Closer to home, Palm Beach County boasts three disc golf courses – and the number’s growing.

Currently, there is a 9-hole course at PGA National Park in Palm Beach Gardens and 18-hole courses at both Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach and Commons Park in Royal Palm Beach. Another course will open at West Delray Regional Park in Delray Beach in May.

All have been designed or redesigned by 56 year-old Dan Rigg of Wellington.

Rigg has been an avid disc golfer for 12 years and went pro six years ago.

In 2005, his disc golf league played on the outskirts of Okeeheelee Park where they put up temporary baskets and marked trees with yellow tape. In 2009, Rigg decided enough was enough, they needed a real course.

“I decided to go down to Parks and Rec and find out why we can’t have a course,” says Rigg. “I said, ‘I’m going to stay here until they say yes.’ Within six months all the issues were worked out.”

Rigg says parks are the perfect places for disc golf courses.

“You can put one in for about $20,000 and have a championship-style course with very little maintenance,” he says.

In October of 2010, the disc golf course at Okeeheelee Park opened.

You could say Rigg is the Pete Dye or Alister Mackenzie of Palm Beach County disc golf.

“The best thing to have to design a course is to be a good to above-average golfer. You design holes to do two things – make it easy enough for the beginner to play and yet hard enough for an experienced player to go there and be challenged.”

Rigg’s build-it-and-they-will-come approach appears to be working with Okeeheelee and PGA, as each averages about 300 disc golfers a week. About 100 players a week throw the discs around at Commons Park.

Rigg said the best thing about disc golf is that it’s for everyone.

“First, it’s free. You pay $20-$25 on a couple of Frisbees, but to play a round of disc golf you won’t spend a dime,” says Rigg. “It’s also great exercise. You’ll walk four to five miles and you don’t realize it because you’re out there having a good time.”

However, the range of folks these courses have attracted were surprising even to Rigg.

“After the first month I’d see mom, dad, grandma and grandpa with their grandkids,” says Rigg. “That a family can be outdoors playing together and they don’t have to spend money on it is great. ”

Ernie Wilkinson, 62, of Royal Palm Beach, is a relative new-comer to the sport. He’s been playing about a year and a half.

“I used to play Frisbee back in the early days with a regular Frisbee,” says Wilkinson.

After being introduced to disc golf while in Hawaii, Wilkinson was hooked.

“I heard we had a course at Okeeheelee and I went out there and ran into Dan and others. They gave me a couple of discs and a few tips on how to throw them and I’ve been playing ever since,” he says.

On days that aren’t sweltering, Wilkinson’s wife Celeste will join him on his course of choice – Commons Park.

“I don’t throw quite as far as the younger guys,” says Wilkinson. “If you can’t throw over the water, you can go around it, it’s laid out really nice. You don’t have to have a really strong arm.”

As for the future of disc golf, the sport continues to grow here in Palm Beach County.

According to Rigg, both Okeeheelee and Commons are slated to each put in another 18-hole course within the next two to three years.

With this expansion, the county will have five 18-hole courses which will allow them to host a Professional Disc Golf Association World Championship, which can typically have 500-800 players.

“We do a big tournament every October where we usually get a few world champions to play,” says Rigg. “Most tournaments cap out at 95 players.”

Paley Institute restores hope on a daily basis

April 1, 2015 on 12:05 pm | In As Seen In..., Palms West Monthly | No Comments

WEST PALM BEACH — Palm Beach County is known for its magnificent weather, beautiful beaches and high-end shopping. Now, it can add world-class medical care to that list.

While some cities lay claim to medical meccas such as Rochester’s famed Mayo Clinic and Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital, six years ago the Paley Advanced Limb Lengthening Institute took up residence at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach.paley

Patients travel from all over the world for treatment at the Paley Institute because they’re saving limbs, thereby changing lives.

Pioneering Doctor

Meet Dr. Dror Paley, world-renowned pediatric orthopedic surgeon who – on a daily basis – corrects the mistakes of Mother Nature herself.

Bar none, Paley is recognized as the most experienced limb-lengthening and deformity-correction surgeon on the planet. He has developed more than 100 innovative surgical procedures that can either save limbs from certain amputation or reconstruct limb deficiencies in patients with congenital, developmental and post-traumatic limb disorders.

It’s a pretty safe bet that if a patient makes it to Paley, he or she has already been advised by other doctors to undergo an amputation.

“With amputation, function is very good, but the difference is most people would rather you save their leg,” says Paley. “It’s not that amputation is the wrong option, but a patient should be given the option.”

Because most doctors don’t have the skills to save the limb, they offer patients what they do know – amputation.

“Everyone knows how to do an amputation,” says Paley. “To do what I do takes a lot of skill. A lot of know-how. A lot more effort and a lot of training.

“Many of the things I treat are rare diseases. Many doctors cannot get the kind of training needed to do what we do and so they’re offering what they know how to do.”

Paley has developed a limb lengthening device – a fixator – that attaches to the bone. Each day the patient turns a screw a prescribed number of times. Turned daily, it lengthens and straightens, essentially regenerating the limb along with the soft tissue, bone, muscle, arteries and skin.

Rapidly Growing Field

After 28 years of practicing, he’s just getting started.

“The whole field is growing, changing. We’re really at the infancy,” says Paley.

One example is the fixator, which until now has exclusively been worn externally. In some cases, it’s now being managed internally.

“Now we put the device inside and use a remote to control lengthening,” says Paley. “It eliminates a lot of the old problems,” such as infections from open wounds patients live with while wearing the device.

In addition to the patients he sees in West Palm Beach, Paley spends one week a month globetrotting. To date, he’s treated patients in 75 countries. His ability to speak six different languages helps him in his mission.

Part of that mission is educating doctors to make treatment more widely available in other countries.

“Teaching is a big part of our mission,” says Paley. “A lot of our revenue goes toward that. If I train an army of doctors, I can treat patients into future generations and around the world.”

In 2010, the Paley Foundation was established to help fund the mission. The foundation helps qualifying families ease the burden of not only expensive medical care, but the cost of travel, food and lodging. The foundation covers the costs to train physicians and supports trips to under-served countries like Nicaragua and Haiti.

Seeing Lives Change

Paley often treats patients from infancy well into their teenage years. It’s not only the bones he gets to see grow. And he often gets to know members of the patient’s extended family.

His inbox is often filled with wedding invitations from patients’ families as well as videos of kids standing on two straight limbs playing sports.

“That’s the best feeling,” says Paley. “That’s the real payoff, seeing how you’ve changed these kids’ lives. They have no idea what the alternative would have been. That’s the most rewarding.”

A Boy Named Valentin

With great reward often comes great challenge. Even doctors aren’t immune.

One of the more challenging cases has been 6-year-old Valentin Brand. His mother, Martina Brand, was seven months pregnant with Valentin when she was told that her baby had Proximal Focal Femoral Deficiency.

Basically, one of his femurs stopped growing. By the time Valentin was born the femur was more than 50 percent shorter than the other.

Brand was referred to a specialist in Germany who was about to retire.

“He told me about Dr. Paley,” says Brand.

Brand was basically given two choices: stay in Germany and have Valentin lose his leg to an amputation, which would leave him dependent on a prosthetic limb for the rest of his life, or travel to America to have Dr. Paley save the hip and limb.

For Brand, a single parent, there was no choice.

“I had hope that one day he would stand on his own two legs without ending up with a broken back in a wheelchair sitting in a lot of pain,” says Brand.

Valentin had his first surgery – which lasted 10 hours – when he was three-and-a-half-years old. The surgery, known as the Superhip 2, completely reconstructed his hip.

At the same time, an external fixator was attached.

“He’s the first child to have hip reconstruction and lengthening together,” says Brand.

So far, Valentin has had one lengthening procedure. However, each lengthening requires two operations – one to put the fixator on and one to take it off.

Brand says that only a doctor with the expertise of Paley can pull it off. Critical decisions of the bone’s strength are made on the operating table. If Paley thinks the bone isn’t strong enough, he needs to decide there and then if it needs to be reinforced with a plate, rod or screw.

“He’s like Mozart,” says Brand. “Plenty of people can play Mozart, but can’t compose like Mozart.”

Valentin will face at least eight more surgeries before his 15th birthday. He will also require a heavy dose of daily physical therapy along the road.

“He’s a very happy child,” says Brand. “He takes it as it comes. In the beginning it was really hard, it’s painful to watch. I’m proud of my son. I love him.”

More surgeries mean more medical bills. And to make matters worse, Brand is unable to work while she and Valentin live here in the United States awaiting his next upcoming surgery.

“We’re both trying to deal with this difficult situation.”

It Takes A Village

They say it takes a village to raise a child, so while Brand keeps her son motivated, a group of angels helps to keep Brand strong.

Through a twist of fate, Brand came in contact with the American German Club of the Palm Beaches during the holiday season while the club was hosting a toy drive to raise funds for the Paley Foundation.

That’s when the club decided to take up Valentin’s cause.

The American German Club already supports about 16 charities annually, with a special interest in children’s charities.

According to American German Club president Kurt Freiter, the members of the club are doing as much as they can to help with Valentin’s medical bills and other expenses through donations and in-kind services, as well as trying to get the word out to others in the community in a position to help.

On May 16, the club will host a kickoff fund-raiser for Valentin at the American German Club of the Palm Beaches, 5111 Lantana Rd. in Lake Worth.

“We’re inviting the entire community to come join us for a family-fun day of ‘Brews and Barbecues’ in honor of Valentin,” says Freiter. “Hopefully, this will just be the beginning of getting the community behind the cause of this beautiful little boy.”

How You Can Help

THE PALEY FOUNDATION: To learn more about the Paley Foundation or to make a donation to the foundation, go online to thepaleyfoundation.org or email the foundation’s director, Caroline Eaton, at ceaton@thepaleyfoundation.org.

VALENTIN BRAND: If you’d like to make a donation toward Valentin’s medical bills, call the American German Club of the Palm Beaches at (561) 967-6464. Also, consider attending the club’s fund-raising event, “Brews and Barbecues,” to be held May 16 on the club’s grounds at 5111 Lantana Rd. in Lake Worth.

MORE INFO: For questions or to learn more about The Paley Advanced Limb Lengthening Institute, call (561) 844-5255 or go online to paleyinstitute.org.

Broadcast Journalism class launched at The King’s Academy

February 25, 2015 on 8:12 am | In As Seen In..., Palms West Monthly | No Comments

WEST PALM BEACH — It’s lights, camera and plenty of action for students at The King’s Academy since the private school launched its Media Studies and Broadcast Journalism class with a state-of-the-art, in-house studio known simply as Studio 70.

This brand new class will give students in grades 9 through 12 the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of media production from every angle, from what goes on behind the scenes – camera operation, lighting, sound, editing and writing to perfecting their close ups in front of the camera.tka

Students also will earn how to read a teleprompter and master the skillful art of doing it all while looking natural.

Eleven students make up the school’s first class of media mavens, including four freshmen, three sophomores, one junior and three seniors.

“Building a broadcast studio has been a dream of our administration’s for several years,” says Jennifer Winters, one of two teachers who lead the class. “Students now can find another medium to learn from and find new talents they had not been exposed to before.”

Studio 70 – named after the inaugural year of The King’s Academy in 1970 – began construction in October and finished on time for the first class on Jan. 5.

“The Studio is still going through tweaks and refinements,” says Winters. “It currently has three 4K (ultra high definition) studio cameras, an anchor desk with flat-screen TV, teleprompters, studio lights, and Chroma-key green on three walls. The control room is fitted with a video switcher, character generator and audio board, all recorded to solid state disks. Students in class currently learn how to do all of the above.”

The control room features four workstations each equipped with Adobe software for editing and creating graphics, something that 18 year-old senior Kirk Faris, of West Palm Beach has a knack for.

“I have played many roles in class, including director, technical director, cameraman and anchor,” says Faris. “My favorite would definitely have to be technical director. While the director is more in charge, he is not as much hands on as the technical director. Being the technical director allows me to be in charge of everyone working in the control room, and still allows me to use the state-of-the-art equipment that’s available.”

To date, students have produced a four-minute package that introduces the launch of Studio 70 that can be viewed on Youtube.

“I never knew how much work goes into producing just a simple five-minute segment,” says Faris. “I can’t imagine the work it takes to put on an entire news broadcast.”

The students are currently working on packages about the addition of the school’s new aquatic center and its upcoming theatrical production of “Titanic: The Musical.”

And the students aren’t just limited to the studio. The class has two HD field camera packages, so students can take the cameras around campus, allowing them to capture students in their natural habitat, engaged in studying, sports and extracurricular activities.

For now, the class meets once a day during first period and is taught by two teachers, each sharing their unique talents.

Winters takes center stage, teaching students how to act in front of the camera. She is also the acting coach at TKA with a full slate of six productions this year.

Winters also teaches two acting classes, a junior musical theater class and a musical performance class in addition to the media broadcast class.

“I have over 20 years of stage and television experience and also was a news anchor and reporter for (CBS affiliate) WTKR in Norfolk/Virginia Beach,” says Winters. “I recently got married and God lead me to teaching. My husband and I recently relocated to West Palm Beach and King’s was the perfect fit.”

Taking the helm behind the camera and in front of all the buttons and dials is teacher studio Technical Director Michael Schwartz, who has worked in the television production industry for 28 years.

Schwartz’s understanding of the major impact that media has on our culture – especially on children – was one of the factors that led him to teaching.

“Media is the number one influence on our society,” says Schwartz. “The question is not if media will influence you, but how media will influence you. That’s what drives me to work so hard and now I’m thrilled to have the chance to train the next generation of content creators.”

His goal: creating creatives.

“My hope is that we can launch out future movie producers, TV executives, actors and technicians all shining a bright light in a very dark world. That is why I do what I do,” says Schwartz.

While the teachers divide the class into front and back of the house production, giving students the opportunity to try it all, they’ve learned a few things, too.

“We have been very surprised,” says Winters. “Some students who said they did not want to be on camera at the anchor desk reading cannot wait until it’s their turn again.”

The ultimate goal for the class would be to produce a weekly five-minute news show.

“The reality is that given time constraints, we may end up producing a news show twice a month,” says Schwartz.

The news show would feature stories and inspirational segments.

“In addition, we will also produce videos for the school, both promotional and educational,” adds Schwartz.

Fifteen year-old freshman Adrian Morano is glad he got in on the ground floor and hopes to take the class through all four years of high school.

“I hope to be able to learn how to make my own videos and maybe make my own videos for YouTube,” says Morano. “We have something unique. A class where you can learn how to make videos and learn how to write newscasts.”

Live from New York, it’s the Metropolitan Opera!

January 4, 2015 on 4:49 pm | In As Seen In..., Palms West Monthly | No Comments

Oh, those lucky New Yorkers.

In one day they can skip over to the Museum of Modern Art and see priceless, fabulous, historic works of art, then waltz down Broadway and take in a live show, and later that evening be moved to tears by a stunning opera performance at the magical Metropolitan Opera, affectionately known as the Met.turandot-660x330

Yes, those New Yorkers certainly have the life.

But that envy ends here and now.

The Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach aims to level the playing field by showing live performances broadcast in high definition straight from The Metropolitan Opera. The broadcasts will transport theatergoers to a live performance up close and personal – minus the air travel, traffic, snow, cold and the high price of admission.

You won’t even have to hail a cab and best of all, you’ll have a front row seat.

“We have great live productions of opera here in South Florida, but a lot of things being done at the Met are very appealing to our audience, so we began offering it,” says Katie Edwards, director of Marketing and Development for the Society of the Four Arts.

“The reception has been amazing,” says Edwards. “At first, people were a little concerned. What would it be like watching on the screen? Would it lose some magic? We’ve found that it’s even more engaging because you can see more detail with the high definition broadcast.”

Adding to the experience is a peek behind the curtain.

“They offer live interviews with the cast and crew as well as behind-the-scenes footage during intermissions,” says Edwards.

There’s also no need to worry about not understanding Italian, French or German since the big screen allows for all performances to be subtitled.

Even veteran opera goers enjoy the experience.

“Even if you’re familiar with the opera, the Met keeps it fresh and exciting so that even a seasoned theatergoer will experience something different when they come to see it,” says Edwards.

In 2016, the Met will celebrate its 10th anniversary of simulcasting live theater to more than 2,000 theaters in 70 countries across six continents around the globe.

Seasoned opera enthusiast Joe Flanagan is a trustee and chairman of the Music Committee for the Four Arts Society and has been going to the opera his whole life.

Flanagan, who grew up attending performances at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, experienced the very first telecast 10 years ago at the Regal Theater in Royal Palm Beach – Mozart’s “Magic Flute” in English.

“I was struck by how terrific it was,” says the 77-year-old Palm Beach resident. “The sight, the sound, the excitement, the camera work – the whole package. It was stunning.”

Flanagan was so impressed that he brought it straight to the attention of the Four Arts Society. The rest is history.

“In about five minutes they said, ‘Let’s run with it.’ It’s been a success ever since we started,” says Flanagan.

The Four Arts has been bringing high-definition opera to audiences for eight seasons now. Upcoming performances include Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut,” “Madama Butterfly” and Stauss’ “Elektra.”

“We have a fantastic lineup of opera performances this season,” says Edwards. “‘Manon Lescaut’ looks to be a gorgeous production and done in a film noir style, which I’m a big fan of. ‘Madama Butterfly’ is one of the first operas I went to when I was younger, and the story is just as poignant and powerful every time.”

Live opera performances are not the only thing on the menu at The Society of the Four Arts. Live productions of the Bolshoi Ballet are also scheduled, as are performances from the National Theatre of London, just not live due to the time difference.

The Four Arts also hosts Exhibition on Screen, which are virtual tours of famed art galleries via high-definition broadcast from all over the world.

“This season we will be showing a behind-the-scenes tour of ‘Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs,’ which was a blockbuster exhibit that was on display at the Met and Tate Modern in London,” says Edwards. “We are also going to be showing a tour of Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum that will provide up-close looks of some of the most significant works of Van Gogh.”

The supplemental information that goes along with the on-screen tours is a bonus.

“It’s like touring a museum with a group of the most knowledgeable people in the world of art. It helps audiences to really fully appreciate the nuances, history and significance of these collections,” says Edwards.

All performances take place in the Walter S. Gubelmann Auditorium, a 700-seat theater, however only 500 seats are for sale for HD performances as the balcony seating is closed to accommodate the screen.

Cost for The Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD is $27, and just $15 for students. Cost for National Theatre Live is $25, or $15 for students.

For The Bolshoi Ballet, tickets are $20, or $15 for students. Tickets for Exhibition on Screen are $15.

To purchase tickets or for more information about the Four Arts, call (561) 655-7226 or go online tofourarts.org.

The Society of the Four Arts is at 2 Four Arts Plaza in Palm Beach, just past the Royal Park Bridge.

Pictured above: Some of the world’s greatest operas – such as Puccini’s “Turandot,” shown above – from The Metropolitan Opera and the National Theatre of London can now be enjoyed live and in high definition locally, all in the comfort of The Society of The Four Arts’ 700-seat theater. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera

American German Club hosts 41st annual Oktoberfest

October 8, 2014 on 10:43 am | In As Seen In..., Palms West Monthly | No Comments

It’s time to break out the lederhosen and dirndl dresses and get ready to do the Chicken Dance once again. The American German Club of the Palm Beaches is set to host its 41st annual Oktoberfest.oktoberfest2014

The event spans two weekends, Oct. 10-12 and 17-19, and will be held on its 10-acre campus in Lake Worth.

“The festival is one of the largest in the country,” said Kurt Freiter, President of the American German Club.

More than 30,000 festival-goers are expected to turn out to steep in German culture, sample authentic German food and, of course, partake in lots of beer. More than 800 kegs will be tapped, all of which has been imported straight from Munich – Hofbräu Oktoberfest, Hofbräu Dunkel, & Hofbräu Original and Hofbräu Weizen.

The event kicks off with the Parade of Flags & Opening Ceremony at the club’s pavilion, located at 5111 Lantana Rd. in Lake Worth. Areas of Germany will be represented by their flag and people will march in traditional costume.

Headlining the entertainment and back by popular demand is the Heldenstiner Band – their sixth appearance. Making their first Oktoberfest appearance locally are the Bavarian Tops. Other entertainment includes Masskrugstemmen, a beer stein holding contest; Palm Beach Pipes & Drums; Volkstanzgruppe, an American German Club Folk dance group; and the Auerhahn Schuhplattler, a Bavarian adult dance group.

Though beer will be flowing, The American German Club Oktoberfest bills itself as a family-friendly event. There will be plenty to keep the kids happy including a midway with carnival rides and games.

On hand for the festivities will be newly-crowned Ms. Oktoberfest 2014, Lindsay Bierman of West Palm Beach. Bierman was crowned this past August and serves as a goodwill ambassador for the club. Also at this year’s festivities and representing HofBrau will be Ms. HB Bridget Beer, who was the People’s Choice candidate.

Not to be missed this year is the traditional beer keg tapping ceremony that takes place right after the opening parade Saturday, Oct. 10.

At the opening of the original Oktoberfest in Munich on Sept., 21, it took four swings before Munich’s mayor Dieter Reiter heard the famous shouts, “O’zapft is,” – which signifies the keg is tapped.

When the keg is tapped the party begins, and although Oktoberfest and beer go together much like pretzels and beer or schnitzel and beer, Freiter said that the event has changed its image over the years.

“When the drinking age was 18, Oktoberfest became known as Palm Beach County’s annual ‘drunkfest’ – that was not true then as it is not true now,” said Freiter. “Oktoberfest has always been intended to be a family cultural event that drives the income stream of the club. It’s our only fund-raiser to sustain ourselves and the many community outreach programs that we undertake throughout the year.”

The American German Club of the Palm Beaches supports about 16 charities annually including Quantum House, the Salvation Army, Hospice of Palm Beach County and Toys for Tots.

Nowadays, the club is a hub for hosting multi-cultural festivals and has formed friendships with neighboring cultural organizations. Colombian, Peruvian, Jamaican and Mexican cultural groups who don’t have a place to house their own events have found a home here.

Jennifer McDaniel Hutchinson, director of the American German Club, has been attending the club’s Oktoberfest since she was eight years old. She has been bringing her teenage girls Juliet, 17, and Jolie, 12, since they were in diapers. Today both are members and volunteers.

“It attracts people from so many different cultures, said McDaniel Hutchinson. “Everybody acts a little German for a day. They come and have a good time – there’s a lot of smiling, a lot of laughing. A feel of camaraderie across the entire festival.”

But her favorite thing to watch is the Chicken Dance.

“To see how much fun the kids are having when they do the Chicken Dance – the kids and the older folks dancing together – it’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.”

But she advises to steer clear of the kitchen – a whirlwind of activity as club volunteers and professional chefs alike cook up a storm of traditional fare.

“The traditional menu for Oktoberfest is half a rotisserie chicken, schnitzel or bratwurst. Those three items are the cornerstone to Munich and to us,” said Freiter. “We’re probably as close to the Munich Oktoberfest authenticity as any I’ve ever been to over time. It’s why we’re recognized as one of the top ten Oktoberfest events in the U.S.”

Of course, there will be sauerkraut, potato pancakes, potato salad, red cabbage, Leberkäse (Bavarian meatloaf), kassler or smoked pork chops, sausage platters and curry wurst. For any picky eaters, there will be hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken fingers. And save room for dessert, Black Forest cake and apple strudel top the list.

McDaniel Hutchinson is afraid to say how much she loves the goulash out of fear that they may run out.

“It’s amazing – although I’m not sure if it’s beef or veal,” she laughs. “The sauce simmers all day with those noodles. I shouldn’t tell anyone. I don’t want them to run out – it’s that good.”

For a list of events, schedules and food prices go online to americangermanclub.org.

General admission is $8. Children accompanied by a paying adult are admitted free.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the festival’s on-site box office.

For more information, call the American German Club at (561) 967-6464 or click here.

Ice bucket challenges going strong in Palm Beach County

August 28, 2014 on 2:44 pm | In General, Palms West Monthly | No Comments

The idea is simple: Take a bucket of ice water, dump it over your head, record it and post the video on social media.

It’s cold, it’s fun and it’s contagious. But these ice bucket challenges and similar social media-powered stunts also are raising awareness and money for causes such as Lou Gehrig’s disease and breast cancer.pbzoo_ice_bucket

Martha Stewart has been doused. So has Matt Lauer. And pro golfer Greg Norman.

The fund-raising phenomenon asks those willing to douse themselves to challenge others to do the same within 24 hours. If they don’t, they must make a donation to a certain charity. Each person who participates nominates more friends, who nominate more friends, who nominate still more friends, which explains why the trend has exploded.

Locally, temperatures were above 90 degrees at the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society on Aug. 13, when Brian Luongo, director of Facilities and Design, stepped up to take the challenge that was given to him from his friend Beverly Davis.

“You would think that with the sweat dripping from my forehead, I would have welcomed a cool down,” said Luongo.

The sun and heat didn’t quite take the sting out of the gushing flow of ice water as three willing staff members, each armed with a large bucket, took their positions. One stood on a chair above Luongo to dump one over his head, the other two flanking his sides waiting for him to call out the five names of the people he’s challenging.

“Let’s just say it was shocking how cold that felt,” said Luongo.

Why three buckets?

“When accepting the challenge I thought it would be fun to use it as a bit of a team building exercise. After all, who doesn’t enjoy soaking their boss without reprimand,” said Luongo.

His boss, Palm Beach Zoo CEO and president Andrew Aiken, was the last name on Luongo’s hit list.

The next day at 5 p.m., Aiken took a seat with Luongo holding the bucket.

In his YouTube video Aiken makes a statement about the disabling disease before the water flows.

“So the quality of life … you have with Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS is terribly debilitating,” said Aiken. “You’re not able to enjoy life the way we all do here at the zoo, run around, have a great time all day doing work that we love. A lot of that has to do with being mobile, being agile and being able to do the things that you want to do. So, it’s very important for us to contribute wherever we can to help with research to beat this disease back, and so that’s what we’re doing today at the zoo.”

Aiken then proceeds to dare more zoo personnel to keep the challenge alive before Luongo dumps the bucket over his boss’ head.

The very public dares have challengers answering the call in droves, if not dumping water over their heads, they’re pulling money out of their wallets – or both.

Recently, Ethel Kennedy took the bath but not before calling out President Obama who will stay dry and make a donation. Oprah dumped a bucket on her head but first called out director Steven Spielberg and actress Dame Helen Mirren. Local WPTV anchor Roxanne Stein also got drenched on live TV.

Matt Lauer got soaked with ice water last month after Greg Norman challenged him and ended up kicking in some cash for Hospice of Palm Beach County.

For those who work to raise awareness of ALS, the ice bucket challenge has been a windfall.

“It’s blowing us away, said Lisa Bublinec, office manager for the Florida Chapter of the ALS Association headquartered in Tampa. “It’s just incredible and everyone wants to do it. Our focus is really to let people know what the disease is about and hope people will give a little verbiage before they actually dump the ice water over their heads. It’s been a fantastic awareness project, we’re very happy.”

Donations in South Florida have increased significantly, said Bublinec. In Florida, $52,826 was raised between July 22 and August 12, compared to $21,368 for the same period last year.

“It’s increased because of the ice bucket challenge (by) $31,458,” said Bublinec. “It’s huge.”

The ALS Association’s national president, Barbara Newhouse, said donations to the national office have also surged. As of Aug. 21, the ALS Association has received $41.8 million in donations since July 29, compared to $2.1 million during the same time period a year ago.

“It’s just been wonderful visibility for the ALS community,” Newhouse said. “It is absolutely awesome. It’s crazy, but it’s awesome, and it’s working.” ν

Denise Lavoie contributed to this story.

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