Ultimate Derby Experience Print E-mail

America’s Best Racing   
The Jockey Club Website  
February 11, 2013

Some things in life you don’t see coming. Just ask Bob and Valerie Peebles.

Over six decades of living, the Saint Helena, California couple had never been to a horse race. The Kentucky Derby is the only race they watch on television. World travelers, last year the Peebles checked the Derby trip off their bucket list. They also carted home winnings from four $72 trifecta tickets bet on the Derby.  DerbyExp 1

“A friend in Napa gave us a slip of paper: I’ll Have Another, Bodemeister, and Dullahan,” related Valerie Peebles. “I bet for myself and our friend then my husband made the bet twice not knowing I already did. We were absolutely stunned. We had no idea we needed to go to the IRS window to cash out. It took a while to get it sorted out, but we left with a check for $16,000. Beginner’s luck, I guess.”

Indeed.  A retired industrial real estate magnate, Bob Peebles thoroughly researched packages online and settled on “Derby Experiences.”  Looking for an ultra high-end adventure, Peebles bought the famed “Millionaire’s Row” package, the most sought-after location in the world of horse racing.  It’s where the celebrities and powerhouse couples mingle (832 seats) while enjoying fast VIP access into Churchill Downs, gourmet buffets, a premium cash bar, private wagering facilities and an expansive balcony to view the day’s races.

Seeing the Light Print E-mail

Delaware County Times
June 15, 2012

Bruce Munro is a clever man.  A British artist working in lighting design installation, some on massive scales, his magical illuminated sculptures have showcased tens of thousands of tiny globes of light pulsating across darkened landscapes.  

You will also find an ethereal quality to his work. Two years ago Munro was commissioned to create a pair of installations at the Salisbury cathedral built in the 13th century. His work has been showcased at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum as well as in the windows of the swanky Harvey Nichols department store. All drew international praise.  

Still, his most valued tool is his notebook that he’s carried in a pocket since art college days.

“I go through one about every six months and everything that touches my life goes into it,” said Munro, 53, on a recent morning at Longwood Gardens. “Light is my passion so I’ve always scribbled down thoughts or sculptural sketch ideas. It’s funny, you write down a couple of words and later it will take you back to that moment.”

Munro makes his American debut with a 23-acre exhibition at Longwood Gardens that will showcase never before seen views of the venue at night.  With the garden-wide exhibition LIGHT!, Longwood is transformed into a “Forest of Light” where guests can wander through a serene forest of 20,000 illuminated stems reminiscent of blooming flowers.

“Water Towers” has been in Munro’s notebook in one form or another since age 21.  Longwood’s meadows play host to a collection of 69 symmetric towers that create a glowing maze of light that change hues to music. In “Waterlilies in Bloom,” Munro pays homage to Longwood's iconic waterlily platters and sets his shimmering interpretations to float on the Large Lake. Nearby, the 6,000 stem installation “Field of Light” creates an enchanting glow. “Arrow Spring” artfully mixes horticultural splendor and candles to create a hillside stream. The show runs from June 9 until September 1.

“This show is very relevant to a garden like this,” Munro noted.  “It will connect with the landscape. Make it slightly different, and hopefully give people the opportunity to revisit the landscape and look at it with a different eye. They can absorb the experience through another medium.  And, finally, leave them with lovely memories.”

Where did this fascination with light arise?

“Everything starts with light, it was the beginning of creation,” Munro replied.  “It’s just such a clean, pure medium. It does have a physical presence, but we can’t grasp it.

“I remember at age five being amazed by a tinsely Christmas tree that caught the light and reflectivity,” Munro said.  “Lying under a window on a summer afternoon watching the dust motes float in the sunshine.  It’s there and it’s gone. We had torches (flashlights) as kids.  They were our magic lanterns that took us to unknown places.”

In the spring of 2010 Munro was contacted by Longwood representatives about the possibility of staging a large-scale lighting installation.  

“I read some books and looked at Longwood on the Internet but you can’t really get a true sense,” Munro remembered. “When I walked in the first day into those glass houses I thought I was coming to Buckingham Palace.  It is like being in a sweet shop, isn’t it? I spent the next few days walking around everywhere absorbing everything. It was a dream come true for me.”

In early April Munro travelled to the region with a team of eight young lighting designers that work at a studio on his farm where he lives with his wife and four children near the town of Bath in southwest England.

“Now that I’ve been here these last two months I’ve realized what a special place these gardens are,” Munro related.  “As the world progresses we get less of this natural space. These are our touchstones where we can connect with our roots. Also it’s not exclusive, anyone can come to relax and enjoy it.”

Munro started the project with sketches in his notebook which evolved into computer generated images.

 “The concept started with a very natural idea that comes from your imagination,” Munro explained.”But there are lots of logistics to make it all come together. It’s a huge business here- metal works shops, electrical shops.  It’s always a team effort.  They were 40 volunteers a day giving their free time and good spirit, plus our eight people, plus the Longwood staff who are always here. ”

Munro utilizes ordinary materials in his light installations that focus on low-energy output, and all materials will be recycled into future installations by the artist. Munro is talking with other gardens and venues about recreating the show.

“What appealed to us about Bruce’s work was his sensitivity to the landscape,” noted Paul Redman, Longwood’s director. “He shares Longwood’s commitment to sustainable practices.”

Inside the Conservatory, the Orangery is adorned with six grand “Snowball Chandeliers” suspended from the towering ceiling. Each chandelier is more than nine feet in diameter and formed by 127 perfectly uniform glass balls. “Light Shower” rains more than 1600 drops of twinkling lights over the flooded Fern Floor, creating a reflection that intensifies the shower.

The Music Room features a small collection of illuminated sculptures and models.  In “Beach Walled Sand” visitors find 24 hand-cast glass impressions of Bantham Beach (South Devon, UK), in a wood structure, and a halogen light source with a hand-painted color wheel.  

Munro says he was inspired to make “Field of Light” during a trip through the Australian red desert at age 20 in 1992. Driving along he would stop at night at roadside campsites which were often in stark contrast to the barren desert surrounding them. There he found sprinkler-fed oases of green, each one displaying a larger than life sculpture of surreal design and proportions -perhaps a giant banana, pineapple or Merino sheep. It was like an alien installation in the midst of nature.

The sculpture's fiber-optic stems were dormant until darkness fell, and then under a blazing blanket of stars they would flower with gentle rhythms of light.

“The landscape was so powerful it felt like there was electricity coming from out of the ground,” Munro recalled. “I wrote the idea down in my notebook and it kept nagging at me.”

Two decades later his first light installation donned the windows of Harvey Nichols in London in November 2003. His most celebrated installation to date was “CDSea” at Long Knoll Field in June 2010. Munro’s appeal to the general public to collect unwanted CDs led to an ocean of 600,000 glimmering discs installed in a 10 acre field in Wiltshire, England. CDSea was the first of a number of self-funded installations using discarded or recycled materials.

Like all of Munro’s work, the Longwood light installation is about creating and connecting.

“It’s all about creating something for that moment, then I’m hoping that people will have their own little moment of fun or delight,” he noted.

How would Longwood’s founder, the legendary Pierre S. du Pont view LIGHT?

“I got a bit of a shiver up the back of my neck the first day I was walking around looking at the fountains and imaging the early years of Longwood,” Munro related. “I had read about him but seeing this horticulture showplace and everything surrounding it was truly amazing. He was such an eclectic man and  visionary. Hopefully, if he’s looking down he would have a little smile upon his face.”

Under Cover Print E-mail

An invention with local ties keeps the tennis superstars dry at Wimbledon

Main Line Today

June 2010 

They are the traditions of Wimbledon: manicured lawns, all-white tennis outfits, strawberries, cream and dodging raindrops. The water   arrives in trickles and in torrents, starting and stopping. And it generally wreaked havoc at Wimbledon’s Centre Court, site of the tournament’s most high-profile matches since 1922.

For two weeks in late June, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club becomes the focal point of the sporting world. On this leafy corner north of London, spectators would squirm under umbrellas as time-challenged broadcasters and the world’s top players coped with rain delays. The epic 2008 showdown between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal started late and slogged through three such delays. Seven hours. Huge momentum swings. The tennis titans traded powerful forehands well past 9 p.m.

Shear Delight Print E-mail

The Hunt Magazine    
Winter 2012

It’s the witching hour of dusk and Blackjack has the urge to run. A dozen alpacas fall in line.

They start with a rhythmic trot then break into a sort of canter along the fence line of a former riding ring. Moving smoothly and noiselessly, the long-necked creatures make their way from one field through a chute into another, zip into a barn and race out the back non-stop. Round and round they go for twenty minutes.Alpacas 1

“Once one starts they all follow, they are so herd-oriented,” says Barbara DuVall, who has operated Briar Rose Alpacas since 1999. “That’s why you just can’t raise one alpaca.”   

On a sun-drenched morning a couple of guests are introduced to a cluster of the gentle animals: Fancy Pants, Aurora, Evening Star, Snickerdoodle, Ginger Snaps, Black Pearls and Silvery Moon. Under a spreading elm tree they mill sociably around us-- quizzical, big-eyed creatures with the luxurious fleece, those oh-so-cute faces, the big ears, the comical hairdos, and the improbably long lashes.

Wave of the Future Print E-mail

A new invention by a Villanova University professor could transform televised sports.

Main Line Today
March 29, 2010

It’s embedded in Ed Dougherty’s DNA. His maternal grandfather—an electrician on the Pennsylvania Railroad—designed and patented a cattle catcher device for trolley cars that automatically slammed on the brakes. Growing up in Overbrook, Dougherty fiddled around with motors, switch relays and vacuum tubes from 1940s radios—so much so that his parents pegged him as a blossoming engineer.

Flash forward 50 years. As a visiting assistant engineering professor at Villanova University, Dougherty offers his pearls of wisdom in a “Technology and Innovation” undergraduate course. He’s also the mad scientist behind the Wavecam, an aerial camera system built to pan, tilt and zoom, all while “flying vertically” across football fields, basketball courts and hockey rinks.

Dougherty's original goal was to take existing aerial robotic technology and make it deployable on a mass basis for use in the broadcast industry. Wavecam made its debut in 2008 with Villanova basketball and Penn State football. It was first installed at Villanova's Pavilion. Then a second system was put into the school's football stadium. Wavecam Media has supplied live HD feeds for Wildcats basketball on ESPN and for football on Comcast SportsNet and the Versus network.

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