Sparta resident celebrates birthday on nationwide television show

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    When Lake Mohawk resident Keith Smith returned home from a weekend Manhattan museum jaunt with his brother visiting from out of town, he expected to find that his wife Ginny and daughters Talia (10 years old) and Chloe (8 years old) had surprised him with a newly painted and decorated bedroom. Instead, he found a television crew, 75 friends and relatives, and a Polynesian village installed in his back yard! "I thought they were just painting a room!" exclaimed a very red-faced Keith when faced with the realization that he was the guest of honor at his surprise 53rd birthday party, to be featured on the Discovery Channel's "The Party Planner With David Tutera" television show. It all started back in January when Keith was the victim of a serious auto accident, after which he spent several months in physical therapy. His wife, Ginny, started to plan a party to celebrate Keith's upcoming spring birthday and his full recovery. At the same time she began tuning into the "Party Planner" show with airs daily at 11 a.m. The premise of the show is that once given a theme and budget, the television crew comes in and creates everything from the decor and ambiance to the food. When the program runs at a later date, the viewers are shown how the crew made it all happen. "Being in the business," says Smith, who owns Rainbow Press, an invitation and stationery business in Sparta, "I was hooked!" Because the show receives thousands of party requests, those hoping to be chosen need a compelling reason and theme for the producers to give the go-ahead. Smith contacted the producer proposing her "Island Luau" concept. Her husband had lived in Hawaii as a boy and hoped to return for a visit. And the Smith family lives on an island on Lake Mohawk. "They loved the plan," says Smith. "But the clincher was that our daughters emptied their piggy banks containing exactly $154 and put the money into a gift box presented us as the ‘Official Smith Family Vacation to Hawaii Fund' for Christmas. Since we could not get to Hawaii anytime soon, we decided to bring Hawaii to Keith!" The planning and secrecy were tension-filled at times! Next door neighbors Ginny and Bill Truran stored the party supplies in their garage, and hosted hiding guests before the party. Relatives from all over the country made secret arrangements to fly in and attend the event. Crew members had to continually visit the site for planning. And for much of the pre-party activities, Keith was underfoot at home. "At a certain point, I almost caved in," declares Smith. "One day I had sent him out on a dozen errands and all he wanted to do was come home to dinner. But the crew was still here so I was continually fibbing to keep him out of the house. The pressure was overwhelming!" But it was all worth it, according to the Smith family. Says the birthday boy, "I thought I was going to have to pretend to be surprised and pleased with a newly painted room! Instead I was at the receiving end of a once-in-a lifetime event filled with the love of my family and best friends!" The Smiths are planning to relive the event by hosting a "TV Viewing Party" when the show airs in June.