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Lighting up New Year's Eve

December 28, 2011 By:
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Jodie Milkman

What are you doing New Year's, New Year's Eve?

Lighting up the skies, says Jodie Milkman.
 
She does it with sparkle -- and a little help from her friends. Milkman has been arranging the New Year's Eve fireworks over Penn's Landing since 1997 -- when she became vice president of programming for the sponsoring agency, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.
Jodie Milkman
 
The annual rite this year, like last, will be twice as splashy, thanks to major funding from SugarHouse Casino.
 
"Twice the Fireworks, Twice the Fun" is set to unfurl with shows on Saturday night at 6, and, of course, at midnight, over Penn's Landing Plaza. The displays will help conclude the city's new "Philly New Year's Week" www.visitphilly.com.
 
Milkman, an Upper Dublin native, will be there as always for the rockets' red glare -- and families' smiles -- joined by her own New Year's Eve party of four: her three kids, all students at Perelman Jewish Day School; and husband, who always join her for what she thinks is the mother of all area fireworks. (Speaking of mothers: Milkman considers Meryl Levitz -- president/CEO of the cooperating Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation -- a mentor and "the fairy godmother of all fireworks over the Delaware River.")
 
The show goes on rain or snow, says Milkman, 42, who has been with DRWC and its predecessor, Penn's Landing Corp., since 1992. The Milkman cometh and returneth: She also heads up the summer's firework's display.
 
But just what does it take to rain down all that glitter? The two shows cost about $200,000. Most of the expense is picked up by the casino, she says, noting that the city does not provide any of the financing.
 
"It is a struggle economically every year," acknowledges Milkman, a board member of Beth Tikvah B'nai Jeshurun in Erdenheim. "We rely on raising funds independently."
 
The payoff is in the "wows" that greet the sparks from some 50,000 people who show up, she says. She's seen an increase in attendance in recent years, thanks in part to the early show, which attracts more families.
 
The production also adds to the city's coffers, she notes, with some visitors -- from outside the city and even locals -- booking overnight lodging and attending other events, including skating at the Blue Cross River Rink.
 
And all because of some pyrotechnics? Not just any pyrotechnics -- but those produced by Pyrotecnico, billed as "one of the largest producers of fireworks in America," and no stranger to Philly flare: They have lit up the skies for Army-Navy matchups and Temple University games, among others.
 
Milkman has her own flare, working with numerous city agencies -- and Mayor Michael Nutter -- to make sure the fireworks get fired up on time.
 
"At exactly 6 p.m. and midnight," she says with authority, tinged maybe with a hint of stress.
 
KYW simulcasts the event's soundtrack, moving in rhythm to Philadelphia Orchestra recordings, with CBS3 televising the midnight madness.
 
With all the shapes and sizes of incendiary devices at Milkman's disposal, wouldn't a Star of David display razzle-dazzle 'em to bring in 2013 -- a, ahem, Bar Mitzvah year?
 
"I'd go for that," kids Milkman.
 
"Let's see what we can do!" 

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