Highlights-Filled Weekend

I had the good luck to be invited to the annual Highlights Illustrator’s Party this year. Yup – a whole weekend o’ fun, JUST for the illustrators who work on the magazines or on Boyds Mills books. Hot dog!

But first, we had to get to Pennsylvania. Now, I have been to Hong Kong, Taiwan, a dozen places in Europe, and all over Canada, but I have never been to Pennsylvania. Go figure. Well, we ALMOST got there before a tragicomic array of events occured to keep us from arriving at a reasonable time. I won’t go into details, but we arrived too late to properly figure out where we were supposed to be, and ended up sleeping six refreshing hours in the car.

The good news is, bright and early the next morning we figured it out and were back on track for a great weekend! Here’s where we got to stay:

SOOOO much better than the car!

The whole weekend was really well thought out and arranged. While the spouses and children went to a farm to do fun farm things, we illustrators got to have a mini-conference type of thing with a speaker and portfolio shuffle.


In wandering amongst the portfolios and meeting everyone, I was struck by the fact that many of the people there were familiar to me from one place or another. I am pretty sure that all illustrators have maybe ONE degree of separation between each other (unlike Kevin Bacon’s six).

Here are a few perfect examples:

This is me with Joe Kulka, and we are one fourth of the same writer’s critique group. That’s a direct link.

OK, Now here’s Joe with Barry Gott– Barry illustrated Anne Bowen’s book called What Do Teachers Do After You leave School. Anne is in the same writer’s critique group with Joe and I. That’s one degree!

Here’s Suzanne Bloom, who is a splendid friend indeed of Barb’s,who is in the same writer’s critique group as Joe and I. One degree. Karen, also here, is a toy designer girl ,too, like me. I would guess that with little effort we could find a link thru the toy kingdom pretty quickly.

And so it went all weekend. I’ll mention the weirdest connection a bit later!

After lunch it was time to hit the Happy H Ranch, also known as the Highlights offices in Honesdale, all decked out with Western flair. And I mean ALL DECKED OUT. Like ALL the staff, every room, etc. They really know how to take a theme and run with it! Especially fun was the employee scavenger hunt for the kids, where the kids had to find the different dressed-up characters through the building. The kids loved that- it was like a living Hidden Pictures game!


You’d never know that these people only had six hours of sleep in a car, wouldja??

janetskull.jpgNice theme interpretation, Janet!




Yes, even the Timbertoes were dolled up!

That’s a CowBuoy, and Annie OakLeaf, I believe. The puns were flowing freely that day!
The dark-haired cowgirl is Kelley “Calamity Jane” Cunningham, AD of High Five. I am pretty sure Kelley successfully averts calamities most of the time!

My favorite costumes: Gold nugget girls! Please note the bags of “carrots”, and the Wether’s gold candies. They even had gold teeth- clearly, this vision was too shiny for my camera to handle!

There’s the first issue of High Five in a lovely commemorative frame…yay, Roz!

OK, here’s the weirdest connection: Susanne, shown here with her awesome family, used to work at Russ Berrie and Co. The only reason I know this was because I was the one who replaced her (in 1989!) when she left the job. I literally went right into the same desk she had, so we had the same friends and working experience, without ever actually working together. WEIRD! I feel like I’ve known her for years already!

That’s a mail-order bride!

Here’s staffer Judy with Valeri Gorbachev. He’s one of my favorite artists, so it was very cool to meet him.

The reception was followed by a great dinner and YES! Real square dancing!

The next morning was at the Highlights founder’s home:



Yes, Virginia- there really is a Boyds Mills! This is right by the house, in a sweet, rolling rural area.

We had a great time, assisted by excellent weather. The kids were sad to leave the friends they had made, but we hope to see them all again next year!
On the way back home, we saw this:

Can anyone explain it??

Here’s Hawley, another nearby town that had a nice flavor to it:

The weather was so nice and the ride so blessedly uneventful that we were able to take a little side trip on the way home.
This is Gillette Castle:
William Gillette was an actor and playwright who is responsible for bringing Sherlock Holmes to life on the stage. He was the one who gave Sherlock the hat, the magnifying glass, etc. and created the “typical” Sherlock Holmes character. And what did he do with his riches upon becoming very successful?

Why, he built this crazy pseudo-medieval “castle” to his exact specifications. He payed no attention to achitectural principals, and invented tons of details (like all the woodwork mechanisms inside).


It’s elementary, dear!

William Gillette loved cats and frogs, and had the BEST RUG EVER! Cats and pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween, you know.

You have to hand it to the guy- he had a vision and made it happen. Love that!

Now were back home- back to work, but creatively stoked. And tired.

15 comments on “Highlights-Filled Weekend

  • on Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 8:30 am, karen Lee said:

    Whaa. We couldn’t go this year!
    Barb is in my online group
    so is Joe.
    Barry Gott is from the Cleveland area – like me
    Karen has the same name as me!

  • on Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 8:36 am, Paige Keiser said:

    Wow, great report! Thanks so much for posting this–I was invited too but couldn’t make this year. 🙂 Looked like a lot of fun.

  • on Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 8:41 am, Liz said:

    Karen- yeah! See what I mean?? We’re all “related”!
    I hope to see some more of you guys there next year!

  • on Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 9:38 am, paula said:

    Great blow-by-blow of the event, Liz! I couldnt’ go this year either but now I almost feel like I was there! As for the house on top of the building, my guess is that the company manufactors homes of some sort and that’s a display model. I noticed there were a lot of places like that in PA (though none had a model home on top of a building like that!).

  • on Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 10:00 am, roz said:

    Oh wow, what a blast it looks like you had. I love how well thought out it was and how they find activities for family members.
    You all looked so cute in your western wear.
    I have to admit that I thought Valeri was a female all of this time!
    THANK YOU so much for taking a picture of the framed cover.
    What a thrill to see!

  • on Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 11:00 am, chickengirl said:

    hey! Wow! You took alot of pictures! You know its funny because I saw your portfolio and it was amazing- especially the toy design sketches. I even took one of your postcards! Now how i ended up not meeting you is quite a mystery. Oh well, until next year! 🙂

  • on Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 1:04 pm, Barbara Johansen Newman said:

    Oh, Liz, what a hoot that was! I long to have been there; you know me–anything cowboy!!

    great pictures. It made me feel like I was there!

  • on Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 3:18 pm, Paula said:

    That lower case paula who is not me has already commented I see…

    Thanks for the fun report Liz. I didn’t go either, obviously. Looks like it was a fun time. Those gold nugget girls are very…um…I can’t find the word I want. Creative! That’s it.

  • on Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 7:30 pm, Mary Beth said:

    I love the Dubois family in costume!! Great pics!!

  • on Friday, October 5, 2007 at 10:59 pm, Sandra Alonzo said:

    Liz: What amazing fun you guys had! I am envious of your eastern charisma back there. Art seems like a field where so many people know each other type of thing. And what better place to meet old and new friends than The Happy H. Oh, and I can identify with the sleepin’ in the car thing. Horrible! This was after we slept in the sand on the beach since there were NO hotel vacancies(with my two preteen stepsons, the DOG, & my daughter as a wee baby) and then it started to rain. We ended up in the little Mazda wagon together. What a night! Sandy

  • on Monday, October 8, 2007 at 1:48 pm, jane said:

    Hey, I KNOW those “Ohio” cowboys! Great to see your pictures Liz!
    It was fun!

  • on Tuesday, October 9, 2007 at 8:41 am, Becky said:

    Wow! That is some event, Liz. Now i understand why you and Joe kept talking about going there. I was wondering what the big deal was…now I get it. That is very impressive and fun! I loved all your pictures. Now for the story about getting there…?

  • on Tuesday, October 9, 2007 at 5:50 pm, Max Haynes said:

    hey, I’m stuck in the Baltimore airport of all places, it was fun to have a break and see someone else’s travels!

  • on Tuesday, October 16, 2007 at 2:16 pm, John Nez said:

    Looks fun… but that’s not at all how I’ve imagined Hightlights to look like. I pictured mostly red brick buildings, with a campus of ancient oaks and elms… with the founder’s home being an ornate victorian mansion in the midst of it all.

    Maybe someday I’ll get to fly out… but since it’s a 2,000 mile trip just to get there, I kinda doubt that day will ever arrive.

  • on Monday, October 22, 2007 at 8:59 am, Another Paula said:

    My friend Pat O’Brien and his family go every year but they never take pictures, and I’ve been so curious! Thanks for these!

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