“Astounding” – MMP Entertainment Brings the Fiesta to Costa Rica for Melanie’s Masquerade Bat Mitzvah

When I was 16 and providing the entertainment for my first special event, a wedding at The Brownstone-the thought of someday being flown out of the country with my team to perform and help a family celebrate life never crossed my mind. This whole experience reminds me of that saying from the lottery ads… “Hey, you never know.”

After one of the most logistically challenging events in the company’s history, second only to the Allen & Company Media Summit in Sun Valley, Idaho, I’m delighted to report that MMP’s first international event in Central America was a great success.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Neil and Yasmin Kahn for over 10 years.   After meeting them on my first surfing excursion to Costa Rica, their family has become my family.  Neil’s mom and dad, Norma and Ken,  always invited me over on Friday nights for Shabbat and made me feel like I was home- even though I was 2500 miles away from Jersey. The funny thing is, from doing so many Bar and Bat Mitzvahs here in the states throughout  the past decade, I learned the prayers and was finally able participate in the blessings instead of just standing there quietly.

The joke is that I am an honorary Jew. Or, a Jew by occupation. Whatever you call it, one thing is for sure.  I’ve noticed that Jewish and Italian families are very similar.   Hospitality and friendship are made readily available to everyone they consider a fellow mensch or pisan.  When you combine the best of both these nationalities and put them together in a paradise locale like Costa Rica… Fuggettaboutit.   Mazel Tov & Pura Vida!  -Life is good.

After watching the kids grow up over the years, it was an honor to return to my second home and help produce Melanie’s Bat Mitzvah.  If you’ve seen some of the other events in our Bar/Bat Mitzvah portfolio, you know that we are extremely fortunate to work with some very talented and super-cool guests of honor.  Melanie kept the streak alive and then some.   Not only is she a gifted athlete, dancer and singer… she read her Torah portion in perfect English, Spanish and Hebrew!!! And as you can see from the photos, Melanie is also a beautiful young lady.

The celebration was billed as Melanie’s Masquerade.  It’s an excellent choice for a theme if you are looking to do something fun and different. We incorporated personalized  visuals on the big screen and  colorful masks for all of the guests to wear.  This really seemed to put everyone in  a festive mood when they walked through the doors.  *A mask can do wonders for a guest who has dance floor inhibitions.

One of the highlights came during the candlelighting ceremony.   We knew ahead of time that one of Melanie’s favorite cousins, Bailey, would not be able to make the trip out for the celebration.  No problem.   With the help of some pre-production and modern technology, Bailey made a surprise guest appearance via video after candle #12 when Melanie just finished saying how much she wished Bailey could be there. It was definitely a tweet-worthy moment that WOW’d Melanie and her guests.

When Melanie had time to reflect on her Bat Mitzvah the next day, she shared a comment that was a good indication that we did our job… My friends were blown away...  they all want to be Jewish now.”  I’ll take that.  🙂      -mp

On behalf of the entire crew, I want to thank Neil and Yasmin for setting up an awesome Kayak Snorkeling trip, a Canopy tour, and sunset drinks at the world famous Villa Caletas the day after the celebration.

Special thanks to Melanie’s aunt, Julie Kahn, for capturing and editing some of her personal video highlights and post-event testimonials for us.   What a nice gesture! …  Typical of the Kahn family.  Julie has been nominated twice for a National Emmy Award for her work on the children’s TV show, Zoom.  She’s also worked on PBS documentaries, independent projects and music videos for the Indigo Girls. (who happen to sing one of my favorite songs of all time, Closer to Fine).   Julie can reached at Julie.Kahn@me.com

I also want to recognize Steven Sandi and the staff from the Hotel Amapola.   They were instrumental in organizing all of the on-site logistics in the weeks leading up to the event and provided us with necessary assistance the day of to help facilitate a seamless production.

Encore Gallery:

NJSBA Hosts 2000 Guests in the Palace at Somerset Park: Another Signature Event Collaboration from Jason Jani and Marcello Pedalino

The Palace At Somerset Park

Last month I teamed up again with my good friend and Signature Event partner, Jason Jani, for another exceptional portfolio piece.  Our client, Pomptonian Food Service, was celebrating 50 years of excellence in conjunction with the New Jersey School Board Association’s 2010 Convention and Member Appreciation Gala.

Throughout the day, upwards of 2000 attendees were shuttled back and forth from The Palace at Somerset Park to attend educational seminars and informational symposiums.  Topics included; social media, energy efficiency plans, public relations, health benefits and the effects of nutrition and wellness for students.  Speaking of nutrition, the Pomptonian currently provides staffing, high quality lunches, and innovative culinary concepts to over 70 school districts in NJ.

Guests enjoy the festivities at the V.I.P Lounge

After a long day of taking notes and networking, the Pomptonian and the NJSBA wanted the remaining attendees to return to the Palace to relax, enjoy a nice dinner and have some well deserved fun!

In addition to several other performance and specialty interactives that were taking place simultaneously throughout the colossal Palace, Jason and I were given 1/2 of the West Ballroom to create the Pomptionian V.I.P Lounge. Since most attendees registered in groups of 3 to 5 people, we were told we’d be catering to intimate crowds of 10 to 30 guests at a time who would stop by and leave as they wished, have a drink or two, grab a bite to eat, and maybe even bust out a few of their favorite dance moves. No problem!  🙂

Jason Jani, Marcello Pedalino and the Signature Event Team

Jason’s vision for the production layout was on point as always.  From the luminescent projection of Pomptonian’s signature logo on the cathedral ceiling, to the L.E.D decor lightscaping to the surround coverage of 4 plasma screens displaying custom visuals, retro music videos and guest candids, word spread quickly throughout the Palace that this was a cool place to stop by and enjoy life for awhile.   Of course Jason, as one of the top DJ/Remix artists in the country, manned the DJ booth all night and dropped a masterfully-blended soundtrack of lounge, pop, classic funk and current musical audience pleasers.     I handled the on-site logistics, client relations, hospitality and interactive Emcee hosting.

Marcello entertains the guests with an interactive game from Minute To Win It

Over the course of the four hour reception, we had several occasions where a select group of guests were either enjoying the evening’s soundtrack with a nice glass of chardonnay, dancing to their requests with colleagues or competing in an impromptu challenge from our Minute to Win It repertoire.  We were very pleased with the feedback from the NJSBA, The Palace and the happy guests.

Special thanks to the Palace team; Stacie DeMicco, Senior Conference Planning Manager, Kristie Pappas, Senior Corporate Sales Manager, Anthony Panchery, Banquet Manager and Richard McConney, Director of Banquets as well as Erik Endress, Director of Association and Meeting Development and Marcia Lavingne, County Activities Coordinator from the NJSBA for their professionalism and coordination assistance.

If your company is planning a convention, team building workshop or a holiday gala and you’d like to take it to the Signature Event level, contact us to schedule an on-site consultation and design session. Our client portfolio includes The Allen & Co. Media Summit in Sun Valley Idaho, Macy’s, The Borgata, Samsung Electronics, Bank of America, Pathmark, LG Electronics, David Tutera, Synchronoss Technologies and AnnTaylor.    -mp

“We Are Good. Life Is Good. It’s That Simple.”

Mike brought this article below by Graelyn Brashear to my attention.  As an avid surfer and Jersey resident, I’ve always been a big fan of Manasquan.  As a big fan of the saying “Life is good,” I couldn’t help but feel even more love for the town itself and its high school athletic trainer, Kevin Hyland.

My company starting providing the entertainment for the annual Allen & Company Summer Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho back in 2000, that’s where I first saw the “Life Is Good” expression on a t-shirt and immediately transferred the positive energy into my lifestyle.


Manasquan High School students celebrate "Life Is Good" event. Staff Photo by: Thomas Costello

MANASQUAN — For two weeks, three small, hand-painted signs have hung on the wall in the Manasquan High School gym. Together, they read: “Every little thing you do comes back to you, so set the goodness in motion.”

In the hour before the final bell ended the school week Friday, that philosophy roared to life as the 1,000-plus-member student body joined teachers, administrators, alumni and others from the community in the gym for a surprise assembly built around a single theme: “Life is good.”

The event was conceived by school athletic trainer Kevin Hyland in the aftermath of the death of senior Matthew Caughey on Oct. 23.

Caughey, 17, of Spring Lake Heights, was the third Manasquan High student to be killed by a train since 2008, and the fourth student to die since last year.

The deaths rocked this borough and the small towns that make up Manasquan High’s sending districts. But as Hyland and many others see it, the tragedies don’t define the school or the people who learn and work there.

"Life Is Good." logo

"Life Is Good." logo

Hyland, who also teaches at the school, said Friday’s event was an opportunity for students.  “We wanted to give them a chance to be positive,” Hyland said.

At Caughey’s funeral, Hyland saw a Jeep touting the logo of a popular T-shirt company, “Life is good.” He couldn’t get the words out of his head.

They also resonated with David Schenke, 15, whose brother Tim was struck by a train and killed in April 2008. One late October afternoon, he and Hyland were talking about the boys who had died.

“We decided we wanted to do something good instead of just saying we miss them and stuff,” Schenke said.

Hyland and Schenke started a quiet campaign to raise funds for a feel-good party for the whole school. Matt Caughey’s sister Megan and other students and recent graduates who had lost siblings and friends joined the effort.

One of Mke's favorite "Life Is Good" T-Shirts.

One of Mke's favorite "Life Is Good" T-Shirts.

After one call from Hyland, the Life is Good clothing company, whose logo had inspired the plan, offered $13,000 worth of T-shirts and other gear to give away. In just 72 hours, Hyland and the students raised $12,000 from generous families to buy more shirts, and they started planning the pep rally to end all pep rallies.

Just after 1 p.m. Friday, students poured into the gymnasium by the dozens as three of their classmates pounded out rock tunes on a drum set and two guitars. Shirts and frisbees were launched into the eager crowd by teachers wearing matching “Life is good” sweat shirts.

By the time Hyland took the microphone, the bleachers were buzzing with anticipation. Curiousity turned to wild enthusiasm as the popular trainer and teacher drove home his point: Nobody needs to feel sorry for Manasquan High.

“Today, we want to let everybody outside these red brick walls know that we’re all right,” he said. “We go to Manasquan, and we are proud.”

Hyland had to raise his voice above the cheers to finish his speech.

“This day is about the things . . . that inspire us the most,” he cried. “We are good. Life is good. It’s that simple.”

Photo By: Andrew Mills      Surf's Up in Manasquan, February 2008

Surf's Up in Manasquan, February 2008 Photo by: Andrew Mills

Manasquan Mayor George R. Dempsey Jr., himself a graduate of the high school, read a proclamation declaring Dec. 11 “Life Is Good Day” in the borough.

Students applauded as nine classmates were given prizes for inspirational essays they’d written in the weeks before the event. The pieces recalled a host of happy things, from hometown pride to the simple pleasure of warm sand on a summer day.

Before the students donned their own “Life is good” T-shirts and walked shoulder-to-shoulder out of the gym toward waiting buses and cars, overall essay winner Inga Sinneck read her words aloud.

She had a lot to be thankful for, Sinneck said, and she explained why. Abandoned at a bus stop in Lithuania with her younger sister at age 4, Sinneck today is part of a loving, adoptive family.

“Life in itself is good, and is a gift to be treasured,” she said.

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