Ready for another VIP reception

STEUBENVILLE – Do you like appetizers before a main course?

Then maybe you’ll not only want to hear the upcoming presentation by Capt. Richard Phillips as part of the Herald-Star, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Speaker Series on April 3, you’ll want to hang out with him beforehand, too, in a charming small-group setting.

That’s the opportunity you have if you’re game for a VIP package for Phillip’s visit to Steubenville when he gives a 7:30 p.m. speech at Steubenville High School’s auditorium as the third in a series of nationally recognized speakers coming to our area.

Phillips is the merchant mariner whose ship was captured by Somali pirates and who was held captive in a small lifeboat for several days in the spring of 2009. His book, “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs and Dangerous Days at Sea,” was the inspiration for the award-winning movie “Captain Phillips” starring Tom Hanks.

The movie earned six Academy Award nominations, by the way, but came up short at the Oscars last Sunday in categories, including best picture, best supporting actor (Barkhad Abdi) and best adapted screenplay.

A VIP package at $150 per person offers a special beginning to what promises to be a special evening.

Here’s what you get:

Admission to a private reception in the late afternoon with Phillips at the Bayberry House Bed and Breakfast located at 741 N. Fourth St., Steubenville, which is a beautiful, inviting environment in which to welcome a visitor to town.

Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a spread put out by Piergallini Catering pleasing to the eye and the palate (twist my arm to eat).

The chance to meet Phillips himself and have your picture taken with him, courtesy of Newbrough Photo for a one-of-a-kind keepsake (how cool is that?).

A signed copy of either the book “A Captain’s Duty” or a DVD of the film “Captain Phillips, (a great conversation piece for a coffee table, yes?).

Transportation to and from the reception site and Steubenville High School (very convenient).

A ticket to the presentation itself with priority seating for, you guessed it, the “main course.”

As the Herald-Star’s community editor, I’ll be at this VIP reception as one of the perks of the job, there again to take pictures, chat with attendees, loiter and laugh, and offer readers a photo perspective of the event afterward.

I was lucky enough to be at the VIP receptions for the first two speakers in this series, both of them again held in the laid-back setting of Bayberry House Bed and Breakfast, where guests could mingle inside or enjoy the outdoor porch setting. Both times the weather was g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s.

First came retired Secret Service Agent Clint Hill and author/journalist Lisa McCubbin in November 2012. Hill served on Jacqueline Kennedy’s protective detail and was in the motorcade when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, a moment in history remembered with renewed poignancy given the 50th anniversary was recently observed.

Hill collaborated with McCubbin to write the best-selling book “Mrs. Kennedy and Me” about the four years he was assigned by the Secret Service to protect the first lady.

That appearance attracted more than 900 residents from around the Tri-State Area to Steubenville High School for their presentation.

So did last April’s appearance by Antonio Mendez, the former CIA agent whose involvement in the rescue of six American hostages from the Canadian embassy in Tehran was dramatized in the Academy Award-winning film “Argo” and fared far better at the Academy Awards, incidentally, winning best picture honors among others. Mendez was accompanied by his wife, Jonna.

The bottom line is that it’s not every day that speakers of this caliber come to town. Ditto for the VIP receptions held in their honor where the common denominator is everyone’s excited to see and hear a celebrity share a compelling tale.

Everyone’s looking forward to the “main course.”

And the “appetizer” – the chance to be in a casual, comfortable setting with the guest of honor – sets the perfect tone for a perfect evening.

To get VIP tickets, contact the Herald-Star, 401 Herald Square, Steubenville, at (740) 283-4711 or the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, 630 Market St., Steubenville, at (740) 282-6226.

Reserved seat tickets for the presentation cost $20 and are available by contacting the Herald-Star or the chamber.

Joining the Herald-Star and chamber as presenting sponsors of the series are Eastern Gateway Community College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, the Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley, Trinity Health System and WTRF-TV. Special support is being provided by Bayberry House Bed and Breakfast, Piergallini Catering, Newbrough Photo, Thrifty Car Rental and Steubenville City Schools.

Phillips will be signing copies of his book at the end of the presentation, too. The book can be purchased for $12 plus tax at the Herald-Star.

So, hope to see you for “appetizers” and then the “main course.”

(Kiaski can be contacted at