Pa. shaping up to be the key battleground state for 2020

If there was any doubt Pennsylvania will once again play a major role in deciding the presidential election, pundits are pointing out last week’s focus on the Keystone State in the national politics is just a taste of what’s to come for 2020.

A day after President Donald Trump gave the State of the Union Address in which he personally called out Gov. Tom Wolf for his veto of House Bill 800 that awarded tax credits to businesses donating to scholarships for Pennsylvania students, Vice President Mike Pence was in Central Pennsylvania with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Feb. 5 as part of a Women for Trump event held at the Radisson Hotel in Camp Hill.

At the event, Pence emphasized promises made by Trump in the 2016 campaign, including border security, national defense and healthcare reform. With his trademark staccato cadence of “Jobs, jobs, jobs,” Pence also highlighted the Trump economy, focusing on tax cuts, deregulation and the signing of trade deals like with China and the replacement of NAFTA with the USMCA.

“This president has called for free and fair trade that puts American workers first, and the American economy is booming,” Pence said. “The man who wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ made a great deal for America with the USMCA.”

Bernadette Comfort, vice chair of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, said the timing of Pence’s visit was “fantastic” with all the events that were taking place, including the State of the Union address the night before and the final impeachment vote held just an hour before the rally.

The appearance of the vice president in Pennsylvania during a historic week is not a coincidence, showing the importance the state will play in the election. She said Pence has been in the state multiple times in the last year, and Trump himself has been a presence, including his December rally held at the Giant Center in Hershey.

“The state’s a priority, and we all know it,” Comfort said. “The road to the White House is through Pennsylvania, and I think the Trump campaign knows that.”

In 2016, Comfort said her most important issues for the presidential election were national security and the judiciary with the economy coming in third. But in 2020, she said Trump is not only able to tout issues like criminal justice reform or the creation of the Space Force, but she said in the end “it’s about the business” with historic levels of the stock market and unemployment.

“The campaign is certainly going to hit home on the economy,” Comfort said. “You’re seeing it, because it’s such a great turnaround. And it’s going to continue to grow. Unprecedented levels in the stock market; just look at your 401K. That’s all you have to do.”

From the other end of the political spectrum, Nancy Patton Mills, chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, was quick to respond to Pence’s visit, leveling criticism on DeVos who has been a lightning rod for denunciation among educators for her support of private schools.

Mills said the Trump administration’s education agenda “sells out” students in Pennsylvania to special interests.

“The Trump administration continues to hand massive tax cuts to the wealthiest and well-connected, while going after vital resources for everyday students,” Mills said in a press release. “Trump, Pence and DeVos have worked to gut public school funding, eliminate resources for low-income college students and have undermined programs that help survivors of sexual assault seek justice.”

Inside the Radisson, former CNN political commentator and Central Pennsylvania resident Jeffrey Lord sat off to the side of the podium, listening to Pence and the other speakers.

Lord, who was one of Trump’s most outspoken supporters on cable news in 2016, said the most important thing his campaign can focus on in Pennsylvania for 2020 are the job numbers, with unemployment sitting at 4.5% in the state compared to 5.2% when he took office in 2017.

Lord said another winning strategy for Trump is to highlight fracking in the state, including the existing 8,000 wells and 300,000 jobs in the industry. He said many of the Democratic candidates in 2020 are campaigning on eliminating fracking, which would devastate the Pennsylvania economy.

Having Pence come to Camp Hill signifies that Pennsylvania is once again one of the key battleground states and the campaign, Lord said, and Trump and his surrogates “will be back over and over and over again.”

“The Trump campaign focused on Pennsylvania a lot in 2016, and they carried it for the first time since George H.W. Bush,” Lord said. “So they’ve got the lesson down.”

Vendors find political gold selling Trump wear at president’s rallies

In a country of entrepreneurs, a political movement or a charismatic president has the ability spawn cottage industries.

A story surrounding Theodore Roosevelt helped led the creation of the teddy bear in the early 1900s. The fashion style of John and Jacqueline Kennedy influenced what people wore throughout the 1960s. And artist Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” and “Change” posters of Barack Obama set the imagery of his presidency.

For Donald J. Trump, the distinct red “Make America Great Again” hat has come to symbolize the chutzpa of his supporters, making a bold statement of deference for the public to see.

The MAGA movement has generated its own business highlighted by an army of merchants who follow the President around the country, selling t-shirts, hats, flags and anything else they can plaster the name Trump or his distinct image on.

Tuesday’s Trump rally at the Giant Center in Hershey featured the MAGA merchants, as vendors pulling wagons full of political gear snaked through the line of thousands of people waiting in the rain to get inside the arena to hear the President speak. Other vendors set up tarps and tables in the parking lot, lining the sidewalk as the mass of people walked to the arena.

One vendor, who wished not to be identified, bounded between parked cars, pulling out hats he was selling for $20 apiece to people who had just arrived. The man drove from Washington, D.C., Tuesday morning, ready to sell.

He relayed his story as he continued to wheel and deal, saying he was one month away from receiving a master’s degree from George Washington University when Trump announced his candidacy in 2015. He said he decided to put his education on hold and start traveling with Trump’s campaign, selling merchandise such hats and t-shirts to crowds outside Trump’s rallies across the country.

He’s been on the road ever since, turning his passion for politics into a full-time job.

“A person like this only comes along once in a generation,” he said. “I knew I had to take this opportunity.”

Perhaps the entrepreneurial spirit of assemblage of sellers was best exemplified by a large RV parked near the arena, decked out in dozens of Trump flags, flashing lights and blasting a pro-Trump hip-hop song titled “2020” by Philadelphia musician Mugg Mann. Inside the RV were Trump sweatshirts, buttons, pens, hats, Christmas ornaments, bumper stickers and a host of other items.

Owned by former New Jersey resident Rocky Granata, the Trump RV now serves as both his house and his storefront, traveling tens of thousands of miles for the last three years to rallies across the country.

“Trump has the White House. I have a mobile house,” he laughed.

Granata said he sets up the RV wherever he ends up for the day, opening its door to customers or curious onlookers.  He’s gathered a following of fans at rallies who stop by to say hello or to use the vehicle as a landmark for people to congregate.

Randal Thom of Lakefield, Minn., is one of Granata’s supporters. Thom had flown into Philadelphia on Monday and made his way to Hershey, preparing to attend his 60th Trump rally since 2015.

The two met at a rally in Montana, and Thom designed his own personal Trump flag that Granata sells from his RV.

Thom was inspired to follow Trump’s campaign and to go into business after seeing him speak at his first Iowa rally in 2015, going so far as to name his stud Alaskan Malamute “Donald J. Trump” for his dog breeding business. He also helped create “Trump’s Front Row Joes,” a group of super fans who go to most of the rallies and sit in the front row near the podium.

“It’s us people who are the boots on the ground, giving our last penny to the campaign,” Thom said. “Trump has given me a reason to live and really celebrate life.”

Disney on Ice Dare to Dream skates into Hershey this October


Mickey, Minnie, Moana and Beauty (plus the Beast) are coming to Hershey. It’s a special event for Disney lovers of all ages.

Tickets are now on sale for Disney On Ice Dare To Dream. Hosts Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse will bring audience members on an adventure across raging seas and snow covered mountains in this action-packed extravaganza when beloved characters from Disney’s Moana, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, Tangled, and Cinderella visit the Giant Center in Hershey. There will be seven performances from October 19 to 22.

In her Disney on Ice debut, Moana will go on an epic adventure with demigod, Maui, to save her island and discover her true self.

Additional ice adventures will include Belle bringing audience members along her journey as she befriends the enchanted castle staff and reveals the Beast’s gentleness and good heart; Anna’s devotion to her sister, Elsa, on her life-changing journey to stop an eternal winter, with a little help from her new friends; and Rapunzel, Flynn Ryder, Cinderella and friends from around the Disney Kingdom finding the heart and determination to overcome obstacles and make their dreams come true.

Tickets for Disney on Ice presents Dare to Dream start at $15 and are available at Giant Center Box Office, 717-534-3911, or at ticketmaster.com.

To learn more about this event or ticketing, go to DisneyOnIce.com.
Lindsay Garbacik is an intern at Central Penn Parent and attends Cedar Cliff High School in Camp Hill.

Stars on Ice Contest – Four-pack ticket giveaway!

Stars on Ice is coming to Hershey on Thursday, May 4, and you have a chance to win a four-pack of tickets!

Nathan Chen, the first man to land five quadruple jumps in one program, and Karen Chen, whose record-setting short program catapulted her to gold at the U.S. Nationals, will lead a stellar cast of medal hopefuls for the 2018 Winter Olympics, including: three-time U.S. Champion and 2016 World Silver Medalist Ashley Wagner, two-time U.S. Champion Gracie Gold, and U.S. Ice Dance Champions and two-time World Medalists Madison Chock & Evan Bates.

Read Central Penn Parent’s Q&A with Charlie White!

In addition to those with an eye on medaling next Winter, the 2017 Stars on Ice cast will also include three of the most accomplished skaters in U.S. history; reigning Olympic Ice Dance Gold Medalists Meryl Davis & Charlie White, and four-time U.S. Champion and Olympic Bronze Medalist Jeremy Abbott. Scranton, Pa-native and U.S. Champion Adam Rippon will also join the cast for the 2017 tour.

Contest rules:

  • Must be 18 years old to enter.
  • One entry per email address.
  • Deadline to enter is Friday, April 14, 2017, at noon.
  • By entering, you agree to receive Central Penn Parent’s enewsletters.
  • No purchase necessary.
  • Contest prize tickets are for the Thursday, May 4, 2017, show at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. No substitutions for show date or time.

Official contest rules here.

Thank you for entering! Winner will be announced soon!

2017 Stars on Ice: Q&A with Charlie White, Olympic ice dance gold medalist


As the world awaits next year’s Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, here in the United States the wait will not be quite as long. The 2017 Stars on Ice tour arrives at Hershey’s Giant Center on Thursday, May 4, with figure skating’s ultimate preview of Olympic hopefuls.

Returning with Stars on Ice are reigning Olympic Ice Dance Gold Medalists, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Davis and White are the first American ice dancers to win the World title, as well as the first Americans to win the Olympic ice dancing gold medal, accomplishments backed by years of training and dedication to the sport of figure skating.

A few weeks ago, Central Penn Parent caught up with Charlie White to talk about the upcoming tour, as well as glean some “youth sports wisdom” to pass along to parents raising their own Olympic hopefuls.

We also reached out to skaters from figure skating clubs in the Midstate, asking them to send us their questions for Charlie—together, the kids came up with a great interview!  (Photo Credit: Minori Yanagishima.)


Stars on Ice – new year, new show

Central Penn Parent: Show skating is much different than competitive skating, and this year two new, young skaters are joining Stars on Ice — Men’s and Women’s U.S. National Champions, Nathan Chen and Karen Chen. When you and Meryl first joined Stars on Ice, how did you make the transition to being part of a touring show?

Charlie White: I was very lucky, our first tour with Stars on Ice was after the 2010 Olympics. My girlfriend, now wife, Tanith (Belbin White), had done many tours with Stars on Ice and she was on that tour. She was really able to help guide me through the ups and downs. Stars on Ice is always such a fabulous experiences. All the skaters are so close, despite that fact that so many of us have competed against each other. We do feel like a family. And I think that translates well onto the ice.

CPP: How is this year’s Stars on Ice show different from past shows?

CW: The unfortunate passing of director Jef Billings has left a huge hole in the hearts of the Stars on Ice family. But the director’s role is being filled capably by Jeffrey Buttle, who is a World Champion Canadian skater and who will also be doing the choreography for the show. I think what he brings as a director and choreographer is a sense of how fun skating is. I’m really expecting that to be the highlight of the show. The exuberance and fun, the steps and the personality he’s able to pull from every skater is exceptional.

Youth sports, growing up on ice, and finding balance

CPP: Growing up, you figure skated, played hockey and you also played violin. What were the expectations regarding academics in your house and how did you balance school, sports and other activities?

CW: Everything was balanced tenuously. When you’re doing that many things, it’s not easy, it’s very challenging. All of the things I was so fortunate to take on, it was of my own choosing, so doing it all felt like the right thing to do.

There was no question in my parent’s heads from day one that school was the most important by far. If I was going to be missing school for hockey tournaments or for figure skating competitions, I had to be in perfect standing with my teachers, to be getting my work done. I understood the consequence and I was able to appreciate the aspects of education that I think are too often viewed as busywork. I enjoyed learning, and my school focused on building an individual, as opposed to building just an academic entity.

The balance of going to school also allowed me to better appreciate the sports and violin. And I can attest to that, because after I graduated high school, Meryl and I took a year off before we started attending the University of Michigan. We were just skating, and it was more than just a hobby. It really started to feel overwhelming because I didn’t have a good balance.  It was just skating all the time, and that can be OK. But, definitely, to give kids the best opportunity in life, balance is important.

CPP: How can parents best support kids in their sport without being “that parent”…maybe pushing kids too hard or setting goals that aren’t in line with what the child wants? How can parents be good sports parents?

CW: That‘s a great question. It’s not easy, and it’s different for every kid. But I think there are two main things that really come into play for a kid to be able to get the most out of a sport.

The first is to help kids focus on having fun. With so much in life and school, there are pressures and expectations. It’s not getting easier to be a kid. Sports are something that should be enjoyable. I’m not saying it’s always easy, but parents should try to find ways to make it fun for the kid.

That leads to my next point: That kids should always try their hardest. Always give 100 percent. And the two really go hand in hand. If you want to be able to have fun, the surest way to get the most fun out of anything is to give 100 percent. Doing so increases your skills, your appreciation for the difficulties of a sport, and it increases the rate at which you improve, which leads back to allowing you to have more fun. Mastery of skills leads kids to having a good time. It’s not a bad thing to enjoy competition, it’s not a bad thing to enjoy winning, but ultimately it’s about having fun.

So I would tell parents to focus on those two things. If your kid isn’t holding themselves accountable for effort in a sport, it’s easy to make it clear that it’s not a right to participate in an extracurricular activity, it’s a privilege. Sports are a special opportunity to learn about others, learn about yourself and to have fun. And if one sport is not for a kid, that’s OK. There are other ways to express yourself and enjoy sports.

CPP: Every athlete has a tough competition where maybe things don’t go as planned. Did you always deal well with that as a kid? And how did your post-competition self-talk change as you got older?

CW: I had many, many competitions where things went horribly awry. That’s just the nature of figure skating because it’s just so difficult, so hard. That can’t be understated. You want to perform your best and you commit so much time to it, and when things don’t go your way, it’s acceptable to be upset.

When I was a kid, I remember a specific sensation getting off the ice when I didn’t perform well and wanting to be able to turn around, go back out on the ice and give it another shot. What I recognized was that if I could prepare myself in any way possible so that I wouldn’t have to deal with that sensation, I would do the work. If you prepare as hard as you can–within reason, with the energy you have, with time allotted–you can only be disappointed to a degree. That’s something I’ve taken with me through my career, to say, “I‘ve done as much as I can, I listened to my coaches, I got enough sleep. If something doesn’t go right, I can honestly say it’s because figure skating is hard, and I can look in the mirror and know I didn’t let myself down.”

And I think that’s the case in anything in life, whether it’s sports or school.

Questions from local figure skaters. Meet them here!

 “Do you play other recreational sports that help you with figure skating?”  – Genya Schaller, 15, Hershey Figure Skating Club

Charlie White: I played soccer all through middle school, and I really enjoyed that. I did freestyle skating, dance and hockey. Those were my main three sports, I guess. I didn’t have a ton of time outside of that. In school, I made it a point to go get out and play any recreational sports that were going on at the time. But I really was a “rink rat.” I think what’s great about any sport off the ice is it brings a level of awareness to your skating that skaters are oftentimes missing because they primarily stick to the ice.  A lot of my friends who have had success at higher levels, a lot of times they are able to excel because of their comfort level doing thing that not all skaters are bodily aware of doing.

“What was your practice schedule like when you were 10 years old?” – Jonathan Plank, 10, Central Pennsylvania Figure Skating Club

Charlie White: I don’t know if I skated every day, but close. I was on the ice maybe four days a week for 45 minutes freestyle and 45 minutes dance. Hockey was two to three times a week, between practice and games.

“You and Meryl have been partners since you were young children and clearly have had a very successful partnership. What would you say has been most important in building and maintaining that collaboration?” – Lily Delle-Levine, 16, Red Rose Figure Skating Club

Charlie White: I think just general respect for one another. We started skating together when we were 8 and 9, and we had no idea what we were getting into when we started ice dancing. We had a lot of success because we both worked hard, the work ethic was there. And I think it’s important when you have a close partnership with anyone that you be on the same page as far as short term goals and eventually long term goals. It’s important just to be able to relate to one another in terms of what is hard work, what is the level of sacrifice we’re willing to put in. If you can’t agree on that, it’s difficult to move forward.  Obviously, being able to exist respectfully, that’s one of the things I’ve learned from a long-term partnership. At the end of the day, you are trying to get to the same place. Even if there are disagreements, you understand that it’s because you both care, and it’s easy to work past that and find a solution that’s beneficial to everyone.

“What was the hardest thing to give up to train exclusively?” – Cathryn McCaffrey, 12, White Rose Figure Skating Club

Charlie White: I think for me it was tough because I loved doing so many things. A lot of time, I had to miss a hockey tournament for figure skating or miss figure skating practice for a hockey game. I had a great groups of friends at the rink and at home. I didn’t have as many sleepovers or get-togethers because of my schedule, and I guess I just understood that was part of it. I never thought, “Ah, dang it.” I think I just came to terms with it. But for me, just knowing that in doing so many things, ultimately, I had to let people down at points, that was disappointing for me. As part of a hockey team, I felt bad if I had to miss a games for a competition. Or if I had to miss practice with Meryl or had to cancel on my coach—the conflict was difficult, but it allowed me to appreciate what was I doing, and drove me to continue, even with the time crunch.

How old were you when you started skating and how many medals have you won? – Nolan Smith, 6, Sikumi Figure Skating Club

Charlie White: I started figure skating and playing hockey when I was 5.

Fortunately, when you have a really long career, you have the opportunity to win lots of medals. I think I’m proudest that I’ve been able to win three Olympic medals — one in every color — two World Championships and two World silver medals. What we took away and appreciated were the moments of growth and experiences, especially being able to travel and learn about ourselves, maybe even more so than all the medals that we’ve won.

Where is your favorite place to be or things to do when you are not on the ice? – Rayann Purdy, age 8, Sikumi Figure Skating Club

Charlie White: My favorite thing to do now is enjoy being at home. So much of our skating takes us around the world—we have exhibitions in Japan, I’ve just been to Switzerland, I’ll be going to Finland to do commentary on the World Championships. I love traveling, it’s one of the perks of being an international athlete. However, I’ve been married now for two years, I have two amazing dogs, and I really love being home. We have a great little river near us and there’s a park. The peace of being at home and being with my family is probably my favorite thing.

Final question from our two hockey skaters, Jonathan and Nolan: “Who is your favorite hockey team and do you still play hockey?

Charlie White: I’m from Detroit, so the Detroit Red Wings. I still do get to play hockey, but not as often as I like. You can really play hockey for your whole life. Wherever life takes you, you can always take hockey with you.

See Charlie and Meryl and the rest of the Stars on Ice cast this May at the Giant Center in Hershey!

2017 Stars on Ice
Giant Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Tickets available online




Disney on Ice – Passport to Adventure Contest


Celebrate the most memorable Disney tales with all your favorite characters in Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure. Join Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald, Goofy and Daisy on a journey to the timeless worlds of Disney’s The Lion KingThe Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, and Disney’s Frozen.

Enter to win a family four-pack of tickets to Disney On Ice, coming to the Giant Center in Hershey, April 6-9, 2017.

(Central Penn Parent contest prize tickets are for the 7 p.m. show on Thursday, April 6, 2017. No substitutions for show date or time. )

You and your family will explore the African Pride Lands with Simba, Timon and Pumbaa, voyage deep under the sea to Ariel’s mystical underwater kingdom and tour London with Peter Pan and Wendy before flying to Neverland to meet up with Tinker Bell.  Plus, travel to Arendelle for an extraordinary adventure with sisters Anna and Elsa, rugged mountain man Kristoff and everyone’s favorite huggable snowman Olaf, as they journey to discover that true love is the most magical power of all.

Upbeat music, lovable characters and unforgettable moments make Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure an experience your family will cherish forever!


Contest rules:

  • Must be 18 years old to enter.
  • One entry per email address.
  • Deadline to enter is Monday, March 27, 2017, at noon.
  • By entering, you agree to receive Central Penn Parent’s enewsletters.
  • No purchase necessary.
  • Contest prize tickets are for the 7 p.m. show on Thursday, April 6, 2017. No substitutions for show date or time.

Official contest rules here.

This contest has ended. Winner announced on Facebook!

Stars On Ice coming to Hershey

Jumps, spins, twizzles and lifts — Stars On Ice is giving give a glimpse of the 2018 Winter Games with show at Giant Center on Thursday, May 4 at 7 p.m. Japan Open 2015 Figure Skating

This year, the Emmy Award-winning production will  preview the U.S. Figure Skating team that will compete in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Medal hopefuls, including three-time U.S. Champion and 2016 World Silver Medalist Ashley Wagner, reigning two-time U.S. Champion Gracie Gold, and 2015 U.S. Ice Dance Champions and two-time World Medalists Madison Chock & Evan Bates, will highlight a star-studded cast that will also include reigning Olympic Ice Dance Gold Medalists Meryl Davis & Charlie White, and four-time U.S. Champion and Olympic Bronze Medalist Jeremy Abbott.


Tickets for this show start at $27.85 (processing fees apply). They are available at Giant Center Box Office. They can be charged by phone at 717-534-3911 or 800-745-3000, and online at www.HersheyEntertainment.com or www.TicketMaster.com.

For more information about the Tour, visit www.starsonice.com.