As More Cold Hits the Country, Destination America Looks to Summer

With old man winter refusing to let go, you can forgive Marc Etkind for looking ahead to summer. Specifically, the Destination America general manager is party planning for Independence Day.

For the second consecutive year, Destination America is working with national weekly magazine USA Weekend to help municipalities that otherwise wouldn’t have the funds to stage Fourth of July festivities to provide food, entertainment and, naturally, pyrotechnics, in their communities.

After setting up two towns last year with celebrations to remember, the second annual “Red, White and You” contest has been expanded to award five second-prize winning towns, with fireworks paid for by Destination America. A third “Viewer’s Choice” prize invites fans to vote for one town to receive $4,000 for its local parks and recreation department.

“With budgetary cutbacks, many towns have to make difficult choices,” Etkind said. “Entertainment and events like the Fourth of July celebrations are often casualties. We’re just happy that Destination America can help out with the festivities.”

Etkind said that when the program launched last March, he expected to get a couple of hundred nominations. Instead, the network recieved more than 3,500, a total he figures will be easily surpassed this time around.

Last year, Union Beach, N.J., which was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, and Fayetteville, N.C., where the government didn’t have the funds for a fireworks bash at Fort Bragg, were the recipients of the fun. Verizon FiOS and Time Warner Cable offered promotional support and had a presence at the respective bashes.

Destination America lined up spectacular parties for both towns, headlined by Grammy-winning band The Mavericks. Union Beach was treated to eats from stars of Destination America’s hit series BBQ Pitmasters, Myron Mixon and Tuffy Stone, while in Fayetteville there was a more patriotic nod to the armed forces: the 82nd Airborne Division Chorus performed after a traditional Posting of the Colors and remarks from Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, deputy commanding general, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.

This year’s hopefuls can make their Red, White and You case at through April 13. People nationwide have the opportunity to say why, in 150 words or less, their hometown deserves an over-the-top Fourth of July celebration. A panel of judges will narrow down the finalists that will go on to the next round and then determine the two grand-prize winners the week of April 28, with USA Weekend showcasing the winners on June 29.

Viewers’ Choice voting takes place May 1-16, with the winner of the $4,000 stipend selected the week of May 19. Promos are also in rotation trumpeting the contest. Destination America plans to enlist affi liate support again, once the winners have determined.

When Destination America got to Union Beach last year, Etkind said, there were “all these vacant lots that weren’t empty the year before,” and the network had to build the infrastructure and stage for the town that had not yet extricated itself from the superstorm’s fury. “People came over and thanked us,” he said. “It was so nice to hear.”

In North Carolina, a military wife whose husband was on 36-hour call — at any time, he could be shipped out to any destination around the globe without a sense for the mission’s end — told Etkind, “It was just nice to be able to relax with our daughter and enjoy the Fourth of July together.”

While this year’s program is just getting started, Etkin already has his eye on 2015: “We’re in the very early planning stages. I’m not sure if we’ll film entire shows, but it’s our intention to help America celebrate the Fourth of July, town by town.”

Golf Channel Throws ‘Spotlight’ On Coverage and Arnold Palmer

With the PGA Tour’s Florida swing in session, Golf Channel has rolled out enhanced technology behind its “Spotlight” coverage and is also preparing to put the finishing touches on a three-part documentary shining a light on the legendary Arnold Palmer.

Golf Channel’s Spotlight provides separate and supplementary views of three signature holes on a tournament’s course — this past weekend at the Honda Classic, it was on course designer Jack Nicklaus’s famous “Bear Trap,” for example — while NBC presents action from around the rounds.

New production elements ProTracer and TrackMan inform watchers about the player on hand. ProTracer combines the broadcast camera with computer software to track the ball in flight — for example, providing an accompanying red elliptical image.

TrackMan — used by players, coaches and manufacturers to analyze swings and equipment — is based on Doppler radar, deploying technology that measures, in real time, the club head and ball speed, as well as carry distance to the course.

A vertical bar on the right side of the screen, with tour stats, is also now a permanent addition to Golf Channel’s screen.

Golf Channel also wants to make sure Palmer’s legacy in the game and American society is appropriately chronicled.

Teeing off after the network’s Live From the Masters on Sunday, April 13, at 10 p.m. (ET), the threepart Arnie will unspool in the same time slot the following two nights.

Arnie is produced by 13-time Emmy Award winner and former NBC Sports feature producer Israel De-Herrera, whose work has been seen on broadcasts of Super Bowls, Olympic Games and golf’s major championships. The documentary integrates archival footage and 100 interviews with golf’s best and brightest, as well as other celebrities. It was written by Peabody Award recipient and 18-time Emmy Award winner Aaron Cohen, associated with acclaimed sports documentaries for HBO, as well as for NBC, ESPN, NFL Network and MLB Network.

The doc follows Palmer, a Golf Channel co-founder, on the professional and personal course of a life that lifted the sport’s place in the U.S. during the 1950s and ‘60s, and gave rise to the legion of fans known as Arnie’s Army.