In the Loop

Local Dance Instructor and Choreographer Wins National Humanitarian of the Year Award

Above: Humanitarian of the Year award-winner Erin Novak-Lustig.
Below: The Seamless Dance Theatre performs.

Erin Novak-Lustig, artistic director of the Seamless Dance Theatre, has been honored by the Federation of Dance Competitions as its 2013 Humanitarian of the Year for her creation of Seamless, a dance company dedicated to raising awareness of dance to underserved individuals throughout Kansas City.

Lustig, a Johnson County native and graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, created Seamless in 2004 as a non-profit professional dance company. The 13-member company performs two shows per year that fund four ongoing community initiatives focusing on dance exposure and education.

“Looking back at my childhood, I saw how much dance had given me – self-discipline, passion, leadership and creativity,” Lustig says. “I wanted to find a way to ensure more children would have the opportunity to make dance and the arts a part of their lives, as well.”

Lustig’s commitment goes far beyond choreography, as she personally designs and pays for most of the costumes in her productions, and also recruits and houses professional dancers from New York, Los Angeles and other cities to perform in her shows – all without taking a salary. In addition, she uses her incredible baking skills to cater weddings, birthday parties and other events, donating all proceeds to Seamless.

“Seamless is an important part of our community, as we work to reach new audiences and children who would not have the opportunity to experience something like dance in their lives,” Lustig says.

“The arts are an integral part of our society and I want to help ensure that our children’s generation carries on the future of the arts.”

The Federation of Dance Competitions selected Lustig for the national award after a student’s mother wrote an essay that answered questions about her contributions to the community, her outstanding achievements and awards, and other distinguishing characteristics that made her deserving of the recognition.

In addition to her work with Seamless, Lustig is also the executive director of Starstruck Performing Arts Center in Lenexa — one of the most successful competitive dance studios in the Kansas City area. She has won numerous awards for her choreography and is a sought-after competition judge. Lustig is committed not only to teaching her students the art of dance, but also to being a positive influence in their lives.

For more information about Seamless Dance Theatre or to purchase tickets, visit


Snow Creek Anticipates Busy Year

While snow in the streets may have a hard time sticking around in recent years, the white stuff can get to at least a foot deep on the slopes in Weston, Mo.
On Dec. 14, temperature and humidity permitting, the Snow Creek ski area will open for its 28th consecutive season of winter sports, including snow tubing, snow skiing and snowboarding.

The past two years have seen fickle winter weather, and in fact, two years ago — due to unseasonably warm weather — the resort was forced to close very early.

Last year, snow was scarce early on, causing the resort to limit the trails that were open on a given day. However, thanks to two major late-winter storms, the resort was able to remain open for business longer than any previous season, ending in late March.

The ski resort on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Platte County, just north of the city, has a lift elevation of 1,100 feet and a vertical drop of 300 feet. There are three chair lifts, three surface lifts, and 11 trails including one rated “advanced” and two designated as “easy.” The tube park is 700 feet long.

There are more than 60 snowmaking machines to keep the ground covered throughout winter even though the area is on the fringe of snow country. In other words, as long as the temperatures cooperate, the snow will fly.

Because this region is not mountainous, Snow Creek is an ideal spot for beginners to experiment before they brave the Colorado slopes.

No snow yet? No problem.

This year, Chief Meteorologist Todd Crawford of Weather Services International (WSI), a division of The Weather Channel Company, forecasts colder-than-normal temperatures throughout the Midwest into December ... which means plenty of downhill fun to come.



Kathy Wakile, star of the reality TV show “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” will be at L’Ecole Culinaire on the Country Club Plaza Dec. 2.  The event, to be held from 6 to 8 p.m., also will feature a cannoli demonstration.

Throughout the event, guests will have the opportunity to sample cannoli, homemade chocolates and other delicious treats in the beautiful kitchen of the new L’Ecole Culinaire, a culinary training center for the career-minded chef. Wakile’s Cannoli Kit will also be available for purchase throughout the event.

Wakile’s dessert line “Dolci della Dea” — Goddess Sweets — launched its debut product, the Cannoli Kit, on QVC and is aspiring to branch out to retail venues nationwide. The line features gourmet quality desserts at their peak freshness in individually-sized portions.

For more information visit


Google Fiber for Overland Park stalls out Indefinitely

Overland Park residents will have to wait for delivery of Google Fiber’s much-anticipated 1-gigabit-per-second Internet.

At least for now.

According to Sean Reilly of the City of Overland Park, Google Fiber came before the council with a proposed plan Monday, Sept. 16. The council raised some concerns over the proposal and both agreed to revisit it again in 30 days.

Reilly said, “On Oct. 14th, the council met again and made it abundantly clear they were ready to sign the very same agreement signed by the City of Lenexa on Sept. 17th,” Reilly says. “The City was/is eager to move forward, but Google has put it on hold for now.”

“It’s a timing thing,” said Jenna Wandres, spokeswoman for Google Fiber.

According to Wandres, “By the time Google Fiber revisited the proposal with the Overland Park City Council in October, other key factors had to be considered by Google Fiber, and the same terms of the original proposed agreement presented to the council in September were no longer workable as the company needs to focus on other communities for now.”

Wandres stated that Google Fiber was very interested in establishing the network in Overland Park and had in fact spent nearly nine months working toward a workable plan with the council.

Wandres said, “It’s a complicated situation establishing a network of fiber. There is a lot of engineering and coordination with the other local cities to be worked out. When construction is underway in those other ‘local’ areas, they will return to Overland Park; though because there are so many variables in play, there is no way to identify that date at this time.”


Helzberg Penguin Plaza

The Kansas City Zoo welcomed 50 new residents of the feathered persuasion.

The Helzberg Penguin Plaza opened in late October. The exhibit features a 100,000-gallon indoor “cold-water” exhibit laced with snow, as well as a 25,000-gallon warmer wet area with sand for warm water penguins. Each exhibit provides extraordinary close-up views showcasing the black and white birds in a recreated Southern Ocean environment.

The exhibit opened with 50 birds and has a capacity for up to 100.

For more information visit


“Christmas Castle” takes visitors to another place  and time

For people seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of shopping, baking and hanging ornaments, the Vaile Mansion in Independence, Mo., invites families and friends to step back in time to a gentler and more elegant way of celebrating the holidays.

The 1881 French Empire red brick landmark was built by Colonel and Mrs. Harvey Vaile and includes nine marble fireplaces, spectacularly-painted ceilings, hundreds of period antiques, shimmery ribbons and wreaths, 75 trees of all sizes, and thousands of sparkling lights.

Local volunteer decorators spend approximately one thousand hours during November transforming the mansion into what USA Today described as “A Christmas Castle.”

Vaile Mansion is open through Dec. 30. (Closed Dec. 23-25.) Tours are offered Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

This Kansas City treasure has been featured on A&E’s America’s Castles, National Geographic’s Guide to America’s Great Houses and in several nationally published books.

For more information call (816) 229-8293 or visit 
A gallery of Christmas photos can be viewed online. Guided tours are $6 for adults and $3 for children 6-16. Location:  Vaile Mansion, 1500 N. Liberty, Independence, Mo.