Monthly Archives: June 2012

What makes these fireworks fabulous?

Author’s note: This article was originally published in the June 28 issue of the Lititz Record-Express. For more information, visit

Lititz has many cherished Independence Day traditions, from queens on stage to babies on parade, but nothing holds a candle to the grand finale — the fireworks.

Each year, shortly after a queen is crowned, thousands flock to the field behind Lititz Springs Park to witness the beautiful bombs bursting in air, illuminating the night sky for miles around. It’s a continuing legacy that encompasses both power and beauty, in honor of the birth of America.

Organizers for the 195th annual Lititz Springs Park Fourth of July celebration have been busy preparing its show-stopper for next Wednesday night.

“Things are progressing very nicely. We are in the home stretch,” said Ron Reedy, president and historian of the Lititz Springs Park Board. “Our fireworks are the best on the East Coast right now.”

This is the fourth year that Lititz-based audio company Clair Global and Celebration Fireworks Inc. from Allentown have worked together to provide the 30-minute pyromusical display to this year’s theme, “Our American Heroes.”

“Lititz is really fortunate to have an organization like that (Clair Global) because they provide all of the audio throughout the day and the lighting and staging,” Reedy said.

Many of the songs will be focused on honoring the veterans, but there will be wide variety of genres to entertain the crowd, including country, dub-step and classic rock.

Without giving too many details away, Celebration lead designer Chris Hopkins and Clair Global operations manager Matt Clair say the audience is, once again, in for a treat this year.

“There are a couple of segments within the show that are hugely tied into the theme, and there will be very special moments in the show,” Hopkins said.

Between 10,000 to 13,000 spectators are expected to filter into the private park, which is owned by the Lititz Moravian Congregation. Though the park board is responsible for providing the facility, insurance and other logistics for the event, Reedy said its members are also in for a surprise.

“It’s a very sophisticated, high-tech presentation. The board is informed to a certain point,” he said. “We leave it up to their discretion. They know what we want.”

Plans for the fireworks display began in January, and plenty of discussion was held to make sure the audio and visual coordination is a success. A Lititz Springs Park committee member, Clair has worked closely with Hopkins in selecting and setting up the songs.

“Anytime there’s a question about one of the songs, I make sure I approve it with them (the park board). I bring it up in the meetings,” Clair said. “There are times it has to be OK with the committee to make sure we’re all on the same page. Planning has never been a problem.”

Everything is done digitally to create the fireworks display. Songs play an important role in getting the right audio editing down. Clair uses a software called Pro Tools to line up the songs’ time codes with the left-right audio track. Generally, the songs are either three to four minutes long.

“We usually take a verse out of a song. That way we can keep it tight and each song should have its own character, its own story, and its own look,” Hopkins said.

Working with a couple of different softwares, Hopkins begins the tedious design process of simulating the songs, meaning he puts the music in the computer and creates the display. Sometimes, simulation can take hours depending on the song’s beat and tempo.

“(The simulation) shows me visually what it’s going to happen. So it’s a place where I can test out concepts and theories and see what it looks like before I go loading tubes and firing things off,” he said. “It’s very helpful.”

Afterwards, Hopkins uses a computer database/media player program called ScriptMaker 2000 to program a set of instructions or coding to determine the certain points and time to fire.

“Not only does it play the music, but it shows me the different wave (lengths) so I can place at a very specific time, see how the waves form and can hear it,” Hopkins said. “I point and click at that time, then I indicate which fireworks I want to go off at this particular time from this particular place.”

Celebration Fireworks has an inventory of about 1,100 different firework effects. Hopkins digitally picks which types will be loaded up. Once they are entered into the computer, the machine uploads into different firing systems, which then supplies the electricity in various firing positions.

“Each firework is hooked up to a particular point,” Hopkins said. “When the computer tells that particular point to fire, enough electricity goes through a wire, which ignites an electric match, which lights the fuse and sends the firework up in the sky.”

But like any event, there’s always a possibility that something can go wrong, and there are tedious steps that need to be followed to prevent it from happening.

“I have to get it and insert it right into the program, and then the person pulling the inventory has to make sure that he pulls the right shell. Then the person writing (the proper indicators) on the shell makes sure it gets the proper cue like when it’s going and where it’s going to be connected,” Hopkins said. “Then the guy in the field has to take that shell and put it in the correct tube and hook it up to the correct port on the rail. It’s six or so places where if anything can go wrong, it’s wrong.”

The beauty of digitally planning fireworks is the ability to pre-program the length of time for them to fire and then explode.

“Let’s say a 3-inch shell takes 3.8 seconds to go from the firing up to 300 feet in the sky before it explodes. So it calculates, it knows that I want that shell to explode at 17 minutes and 37 seconds in the show, so it’s going to fire that shell 3.8 seconds earlier than that,” Hopkins said. “It has time to get up in the air and blow in the exact beat of music in order to explode. That’s really cool.”

Multiple test runs are done to see if the digital display is in-sync. Hopkins, Clair and their crew will arrive in Lititz on the morning of July 3 to set up their equipment at the park. They sometimes work through the night in order to get everything ready.

Clair Global will provide about 20 speakers and 12 low-end cabinet speakers for the bass, which will be located at the fence down by the baseball field.

Clair said people with sensitive ears should be cautious to where they sit at the park.

“For people who have never been there, the laws of physics says the lower the decibel level you want to hear, the farther you should sit from where the actual speakers are located,” he said. “The fireworks are definitely the loudest part of the event. If you sit next to the speakers, it’ll be loud. If you sit far away, they won’t be as loud. I know it sounds stupid, but a lot of people don’t understand that.”

Safety is taken very seriously when it comes to firing off fireworks at a public event like in Lititz. Celebrations Fireworks does comply in the standards set up by the National Fire Prevention Association. Hopkins and his crew have taken courses in safety training and follow specific guidelines.

“The things we worry about are the safety zones, how much space there is around us. Depending on how much of a safety zone there is, we can only fire a certain number of caliber shells – 3-inch, 4-inch, 5-inch, 8-inch,” Hopkins said. “The bigger the shell, the larger the safety zone. We have to be very careful knowing where our fireworks are, where the audience is, and where the roads are, buildings and what not. One of the ways to make it most safe for us is to use computers to fire. That way, we are nowhere near the product when it lights up.”

With the exception of smoke obscuring the field, Hopkins has never encountered a major safety problem while in Lititz.

“There’s not much you can do about that. It depends on the direction and how much wind there is,” he said. “Lititz has always been great with smoke. I never had a problem with smoke clearing. I think the wind’s been pretty much blowing from behind the audience, and it always goes away from the audience. That’s always been good.”

Lititz is the second oldest continuous 4th of July celebration in the country. The oldest event is in Bristol, Rhode Island. In the past, folks from California and up and down the Eastern seaboard and those who were born and raised in the area have returned to see Lititz’s signature event.

“People are just in awe of what is usually shown,” Reedy said. “Each year the choreography, music, and types of fireworks display gets better and better and better.”

As a designer, Hopkins said it’s important that people are enjoying themselves.

“There’s a lot of electricity in the air, and that’s how we try to lead the show,” he said. “Matt takes the temperature around the town and gets the impression from the organizing crew. He said at last year’s show he received the most positive feedback that he’s ever received. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

Clair compares seeing the fireworks in Lititz is like going to a concert at the Giant Center in Hershey because both can give spectators the thrill of a lifetime.

“Everyone is cheering between each song, and the vibe is really cool down on the field,” he said.

Organizers are always looking to add new features to top the previous year’s event. Since spectators won’t have the luxury of having the long 4th of July weekend, Reedy hopes they take advantage on what this small town has to offer.

“Lititz is a real nice community. No question about it,” he said.

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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Published articles


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Heather Tom: the new darling of daytime television

I’ve watched soap operas since I was a little girl. It seems like yesterday I was sitting on the sofa watching “All My Children” with my late aunt or watching “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful” with my late grandmother. You can’t help but live vicariously through the cast of characters on television. A drop of voyeurism lurks in as you watch a couple have an intimate moment or a villain bitchslaps her enemy across the face. 

With programs in constant change mode, you can count the number of soap operas on network television in one hand. It’s hard being an actress in Hollywood, especially if you’re on a soap opera. But Saturday night was soap operas’ moment to shine at the 39th annual Daytime Emmy Awards, and one actress glowingly shined above all the rest.

Heather Tom, who plays Katie Logan Spencer on “The Bold and the Beautiful”, is my favorite soap opera actress. I was so excited when she won her Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama series. Her first nomination in that category, Tom was in the company of other brilliantly talented veterans (i.e.: Erika Slezak from “One Life to Live” and Debbi Morgan from “All My Children” to name a few).

This is Tom’s fourth Emmy, and what makes this win so significant was that she made history by becoming the first actress to win a Daytime Emmy in all three actress categories during her 22-year career. In 1993 and 1999, she won two Emmys, respectively, for outstanding younger lead actress for her portrayal of Victoria Newman in “The Young and the Restless”. She won an Emmy last year for outstanding supporting actress for her work in her current portrayal. Not only did Tom earn a Soap Opera Digest Award in 1997, but she currently holds the record for having the most Daytime Emmy nominations by an actress under the age of 30. That is fricken impressive, if you ask me!

Tom has done various work in theater and has guest-starred in many hit primetime shows. But it’s daytime where Tom truly shines. She’s immensely talented who brings her character out with flawless, unique energy. She digs her claws deep into her character’s soul and makes the viewers understand and feel the emotion she’s feeling at that particular scene. She utters strong words that make sit at the edge of your couch.

Her Emmy reel was probably the best that she’s ever submitted. Tom gave a strong, emotional yet effective performance. She portrays a woman who just found out that her husband slept with and is physically attracted to another woman. It’s an issue so relatable in adulterated circumstances. Unlike other soap opera actresses, Tom doesn’t over-exaggerates the emotions of her character. The camera stays on her for more than a minute. She’s angry one minute, and then she easily morphs into vulnerability the next. She spouts out strong words that keeps viewers at the edge of your seat.  Ladies, how would you feel if you were in her shoes? Probably the same way, I imagine.

In her role as Katie Logan Spencer, she’s a fragile heart but still holds her own. What I love most about Heather Tom is that she molds a character into her own no matter what show she’s on. Few actresses can do that. No matter what happens to the soap opera industry, I can see a bright future ahead for Heather Tom. I can see many more nominations and other good things coming her way.

She’s young. She’s bold, and she’s beautiful. We haven’t seen the last of her.

Congratulations, Heather! 🙂

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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Pop Culture


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A blogging award? For me? Score!

I am very honored to be nominated for a Versatile Blogger award. Big thank you to my friend bookmaven623 for nominating me. I have to be honest here and say that I’ve never heard of this award. It sounded kinda fluky, but after reading the information on the website, I said to myself, ” Embrace it! It’s an award nevertheless!”

So I accept this honor with open arms! Here are the rules so that you can accept this award as well.

The rules: Tell 7 random things about yourself. Nominate 15 talented blogs. And finally thank the person that nominated you and include the Versatile Blog Image in your acceptance blog! You can follow this link to get the button to put on your blog: It’s that simple!

Random facts about myself:

1. In my senior year of high school, I dressed up as a Lucky Charms Leprechaun as part of a school activity.

2. I own more than 20 books about Jackie Kennedy.

3. I hate, despise, and loathe the existence, the taste, and the texture of peas.

4. One of my best friends and I used to stop whatever we were doing just to watch pro wrestling together every Monday night when we were roommates in college.

5. My name means white rose.

6. I LOVE Bradley Cooper, and I’m determined to meet him one day!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

7. I believe in the tooth fairy!! 🙂

My nominees for the Versatile Blogger Award:
















I enjoy reading these blogs immensely! Check them out and you will too! 🙂


Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Random Thoughts


In light of the viral video of the 68-year-old grandmother being bullied by middle school kids on the bus, my friend bookmaven623 has posted this entry in response. Bullying is wrong and unjust. No one deserves to be bullied, and for those who have bullied other people or are bullying: shame on you!!

The Book Maven

To the Bullies:

You stand proud amongst your friends as you sling slurs.  Slurs that berate someone for their appearance or for things that have happened to them.

You stand with your wall of ignorance and intolerance to support you as you tear down someone before the eyes of those cheering you on for more.

You stand looking down on those who are different.  Different in your mind, but to those who you’re looking down upon don’t find themselves very different.

You stand leaning on those chanting for you to keep going.  To go farther with the unbearable and the unthinkable.

While you stand, we sit and rise above your low blows and your low curses.

We rise to a level that you will never be able to achieve.  A level that is unattainable to you because all you can do is tear down and hurt.

We rise with our…

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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Random Thoughts



Book Review: “Mrs. Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir”

“I want to live my life, not record it.” ~ Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis

I have to unleash a big secret. I adore Jackie Kennedy.

I love reading about her. In fact, I’ve probably read over 20 books about the former First Lady and each time I finish reading her biographies, I keep yearning for more. Metaphorically speaking, it’s like opening a box within a box and so forth until I find that golden ticket on the intimate accounts of her life.

I guess that’s why I’m nosey, but I give credit to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis because she taught us to never be afraid to have a hunger for knowledge. Thanks to former Secret Service agent Clint Hill, I’ve found the golden ticket in his book “Mrs Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir.”

Co-written by Lisa McCubbin, the book is a beautifully written account of Hill’s time as Mrs. Kennedy’s Secret Service agent and a wonderful tribute to Jackie. From the time when he first met her in Hyannisport in 1960 to when she moved out of the White House and began a new life chapter in 1964, Clint Hill was more than just Jackie’s protector. They shared a beautiful, fairy-tale friendship.

Jackie desperately craved for privacy after having been thrown in the international spotlight, thanks to her husband’s presidency. Hill understood her mantra. He allowed her to have as much privacy as possible when the paparazzi and her White House duties took her away from that.

His accounts of the weeks leading up to and after President Kennedy’s assassination and his interaction with Jackie are candid and heartbreaking. Hill was the agent who climbed on the back of the motorcade and urged Jackie to stay in her seat.

This is truly one of my favorite books about Jackie Kennedy because it’s honest, poignant, and refreshing. Page by page, it is evident that Hill’s purpose of writing the book was not to expose Jackie in a dim light but to honor her life and legacy that continues to brightly shine.


Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Book Reviews


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A beach wedding to remember — Jamerican style

Author’s Note: This article was originally published in the January 2012 edition of Businesswoman’s Magazine‘s Bride2B supplement. For more information, visit . The article starts on page 10.

By Rosalba Ugliuzza

Destination weddings at exotic places have been the flavor of the season for a long time.

Who can forget the wedding of Hollywood starlets Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in November 2006? They spared no expense when they tied the knot in a lavish, star-studded ceremony in the same city where they publicly declared their love a year before in Rome, Italy. Most girls could dream of having an elaborate wedding like the Cruises, but others like Lancaster County bride Christine Culp Keyser prefer a small, relaxing, yet intimate ceremony.

“Personally, I never thought I would be getting a destination wedding,” she said. “Jamaica allowed our families to travel together for the first time.”

The blue, clear sky served as a beautiful backdrop for Keyser and her husband, Brent, when they married June 9, 2011 on the private beach at the Couple Negril Resort in Negril, Jamaica.

Brent, an officer for the Columbia Borough Police Department, said he had hoped Mother Nature wouldn’t spoil their special day.

“Honestly, I [thought], I hope it doesn’t rain. The clouds were rolling in right at 11:00, and Chrissy was still in the room getting ready, and it had rained every day so far until that point,” he said.

With 38 close family and friends and some hotel guests in attendance, Keyser walked down the aisle in a mermaid gown and no veil to the Jamaican steel drum version of Pachelbel Canon D. The couple exchanged vows in a 15-minute ceremony.

“It was very simple. We didn’t want to make a big production out of it,” said Keyser.

After the ceremony, which ended around lunchtime, guests were treated to cake and champagne poolside and on the beach. According to Keyser, the resort staff did all the wedding decorations as well as take pictures of the ceremony.

When the couple returned home, a beach-themed reception was held for approximately 200 people at the Susquehanna Fire and Rescue Company in Columbia. Keyser wore her wedding dress and Silver Spring Restaurant catered the event.

“It was a fun party. We had a DJ,” she said.

It was exactly two years prior to their wedding date that the couple attended a mutual friend’s wedding at the same resort. Keyser said that Brent loved the resort so much that he suggested that they get married at the same place.

With the help of her two closest friends, Keyser’s goal was to have a simple wedding.

“I’m not the type of girl that likes a big production. The whole wedding (planning) made me feel narcissistic,” she said. “The theme throughout the process was about us celebrating our marriage. It was about spending time with family and enjoying each other’s company.”

The “down-to-earth” couple met right before Thanksgiving in 2005 at a local pub, where they were celebrating a mutual friend’s birthday.

“We started talking and he told me he was going hunting. He called me every day when he went hunting,” Keyser said. “Ever since then, we’ve been connected at the hip.”

Keyser received an early Christmas present in 2009, when Brent presented her with a diamond ring that he designed. Brent said he didn’t feel any jitters before proposing.

“My mom had a dream that we got engaged,” Keyser said. “We told people of the engagement through text message.”

Today, the couple lives in Elizabethtown. They enjoy spending time with their families, having bonfires with friends, going up to their cabin near Penn State University, and traveling. In fact, the couple is planning another group trip to Jamaica in 2013.

“Ideally, my husband and I would love to go every year,” she said. “We consider ourselves Jamerican.”

In addition to having a peaceful, healthy and happy lifestyle, Keyser said she hopes that she and Brent have a lot of stamps on their passports 50 years from now.

In the meantime, Keyser recommends future married couples to have their destination wedding in Jamaica.

“It’s a peaceful place. It’s a gorgeous place.”

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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Published articles


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True love trumps long-distance relationship

Author’s Note: This article was originally published in the January 2012 edition of Businesswoman’s Magazine‘s Bride2B supplement. For more information, visit . The article starts on page 6.

By Rosalba Ugliuzza

Every bride wants to feel like a princess on her wedding day.

Take England’s own Kate Middleton, for instance. The young commoner took our breath away in a stunning  Alexander McQueen gown when she married her Prince Charming in April 2011. Yet, she mastered her presence in front of millions of people from around the world with style, dignity, and grace.

But whether it’s a small affair or a grand spectacle, the new Duchess learned one important lesson on her wedding day: Love always reigns.

Jill Swenson has learned the same lesson. Indeed, Jill said she did feel like a “princess” on May 21, 2011, when she married her fiance of two years, Dustin Swenson, a former Marine. The couple had an outdoor wedding. The groom wore a tuxedo, while the bride walked down the aisle in a strapless, beaded, metallic-embroidered gown with a satin pickup skirt and sash from the Oleg Cassini Collection.

“As my wife was walking down the aisle, I was thinking, ‘Wow, she really looks beautiful, and I hope I don’t pass out,'” said Dustin. “I was nervous.”

With a bridal party consisting of 18 people, the couple invited 125 of their close family members and friends to share in their celebration. Even the couple’s two children, Laine Jaxon, 4, and Briana Marie, 2, took part in their parents’ wedding as ring bearer and flower girl, respectively.

“It was awesome to have them in the wedding, and they did fabulous walking together,” said Jill. “Both of their outfits matched ours.”

During the wedding ceremony, the couple honored their deceased grandparents. The song “Amazing Grace” was played instrumentally in bagpipes when the mother of the bride and groom lit their candles leading up to the processional. A vase of roses was displayed on the unity candle table, which represented each of their deceased grandparents.

“After the lighting of the unity candle, those seven roses were personally handed out by Dustin and I along with a hug and a kiss to the next oldest living relative seated at the ceremony,” Jill said.

The poignant ceremony ended with an upbeat note as the newlyweds went up the aisle to Unk’s dance song “Walk It Out.”

All the guests then headed for the reception held at the Revere Tavern in Paradise. The memories of their deceased grandparents were still felt as a picture of each one and a lit candle were placed at the reception entrance.

One of Dustin’s favorite parts about the wedding was driving his bride to the reception in a 1968 Ford Mustang CS/GT, which he borrowed from his brother-in-law.

The reception was filled with tons of music as Swenson’s stepmother, Sheri Sweeney, sang “This Love” by LeAnn Rimes. Jill said the big surprise of the night was when the Woodland, PA String Band arrived to perform for a half hour.

“The string band was to throw in a little bit of my roots and to allow Dustin’s family out west to experience some of what I come from. This was a total hit and both of our families enjoyed it together,” she said.

Their entire wedding festivities came around a full circle for Jill and her new husband as they met five years ago at a mutual friend’s wedding, where Dustin served as the best man.

“Dustin and I each had come with our own dates to this wedding, but when I caught the bouquet and Dustin caught the garter in which he had to then put on my leg, we started talking later that evening and then not again until a month later when we planned our first date in late March,” Jill said.

Since Dustin was a member of the United States Marine Corp, the couple maintained a long distance relationship until he was honorably discharged for completing his service in July 2005. At that point, he moved to Pennsylvania to be with Jill. The couple became engaged at their home in February 2009 after Dustin knelt down on one knee and presented Jill with a heart-shaped diamond ring.

Dustin said he bought the ring a month prior to popping the question. He kept the ring with him at all times because he said he was worried that Jill would find it.

“My family was ecstatic (when finding out about the proposal) because they love Jill,” said Dustin, a Colorado native. “I realized that Jill was the one because even during the good, bad, and ugly, she always came back with understanding and stood by me no matter what.”

The couple has yet to go on a honeymoon, however they have thought about going on a cruise. In the meantime, the Swensons have lots of opportunities to spend time together. In their spare time, they enjoy motorcycle riding, boating, snowboarding, camping, going to a shooting range, hosting barbecues with family & friends or spending with their kids.

In 50 years, they’d like to have family gatherings with their children and their future families and watch their grandchildren grow.


Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Published articles


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