Friday, January 19, 2018

PHOTOS: Cincinnati Bell Filming Commercial in Fort Thomas

Cincinnati Bell shot a "super" commercial in Fort Thomas today in historic Tower Park.

Cincinnati Bell employees are the stars of the commercial and will be shown in different iconic parts of Greater Cincinnati, in which they reside.

This is an advertisement. 

Yesterday, the company teased the commercial shot in front of Cincinnati Music Hall.

Fort Thomas Matters got a behind the scenes look at the commercial, and the star, but who that is will be kept secret until it airs live during the game.

Having witnessed the Hollywood production of the Ted Bundy biopic featuring Zac Efron, which is currently filming in Fort Thomas, there was as much production equipment in Tower Park for the commercial, if not more.

RELATED: Filming Begins Today for Efron in Fort Thomas; Here's What You Need to Know

This was a big scene and something that Fort Thomas should be proud of.

FTM file. 

Cincinnati Bell is competing with cable conglomerate, Spectrum, who entered the market after acquiring Time Warner Cable. Through their recent messaging and branding, Cincinnati Bell is making an effort to differentiate from the cable giant by showing that they are committed to Greater Cincinnati by basing their operations here.

They have 3,200 employees here and they are devoted to the communities.

The commercial should give a glimpse of that.

You're Invited: Fort Thomas Community Plan Public Meeting

This is your chance to help shape your city!

Fort Thomas is having a Ft. Thomas Community Plan public meeting on Wednesday, January 24th, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Mess Hall, and your input is needed.

There will be an update on the first phase of the plan (Awareness) from the design team and you’ll have the opportunity to provide feedback. Included in this update will be a summary of findings to-date, including all of the work by each of the six committees as well as a snapshot of what the community has been saying via our online survey.

They will be discussing all of the community plan topics such as parks, land use, transportation/connectivity, city buildings and utilities, partnerships and funding, and there will be stations set up for each committee where you can get more information, ask questions, and provide comments.

Don’t forget to complete the community survey at (if you haven’t already).

Paper copies will be available at the public meeting as well as the City Building, Carrico / Fort Thomas Branch of the Campbell County Public Library and the Campbell County YMCA. We hope to see you, your family, friends and neighbors on the 24th!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Zac Efron Called to Fort Thomas Set at 12:30 Wednesday

Hollywood is in Fort Thomas as we speak.

Earlier we wrote about how First Baptist Church is playing a part in the Ted Bundy biopic starring Zac Efron and Lily Collins.

Fort Thomas Matters obtained the call list that depicts who, where and when actors will be in the city today.

Are you all in? Get in on the Barre3 Fort Thomas "all-in" challenge. 
Yes, Zac Efron will be on set in the 100 block of Woodside today at 12:30 p.m. Lily Collins has been on set since noon.

The first scene has Liz (Collins) waking up in a panic to an empty bed and crib. She gets up and finds Ted (Efron) making breakfast. In all, there will be about 20 scenes shot between the private residence in Fort Thomas and the First Baptist Church.

If you're driving around in Fort Thomas right now, you'll likely see 1970's period-style cars. Many are parked at the weight loss clinic building on Memorial Parkway.

Filming Begins Today: Here's What You Need To Know

A trailer is now parked on N. Fort Thomas Ave. in preparation for film shooting, which is expected to begin tomorrow. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Shannon.

Shooting in Fort Thomas for the upcoming feature film "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile," a biopic about serial killer Ted Bundy, begins today. Students involved with Highlands High School's Filmmaking and Broadcasting Department are thrilled. And First Baptist Church, close to HHS on N. Fort Thomas Ave., will be at the heart of it all.

The film, which will be told from the viewpoint of Bundy's then-girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, will feature Zac Efron and Lily Collins.

"No parking" signs are now up on one side of N. Fort Thomas Ave. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Shannon.

"No parking by police order" signs have been hung up on one side of N. Fort Thomas Ave., indicating no parking all day from January 18 through the 23. In addition, the film crew will be using First Baptist Church's parking lot during this time.

"We have tried really hard and we really want to be good neighbors," says Jeremy Shannon, First Baptist Church's new pastor. "We think the benefits of what is happening is good enough for the community and it's just a couple days inconvenience."

Located at Newport Pavilion. 
According to Shannon, the production crew will be parking trailers, vans, etc., on just one side of N. Fort Thomas Ave. Given the proximity to HHS, Shannon says he wants to be sure students and parents are aware of this short-term change in terms of school-related parking, drop-offs and pick-ups. In addition, there will be security guards present at the church's lot. While students aren't permitted to park in the church's lot (this is to leave space available for funerals, etc.), Shannon noted that some do, and alternative parking will need to be found. (Matthew Haskamp, HHS assistant principal and athletic director, also made an announcement regarding the parking restrictions.)

Film crews will be using the parking lot, fellowship hall and kitchen at First Baptist Church in Fort Thomas. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Shannon. 

In addition to using the church's lot, the film crew will be using the fellowship hall in First Baptist Church to serve meals to the crew. A caterer will be present, as well as a food truck. The church's lot and surrounding space on N. Fort Thomas Ave. will also be used to shuttle actors, actresses and crew to Woodside Place, a street in which parking is already at a premium. There they will be filming scenes in a house that looks like it's straight out of the 1970s. (According to Shannon, a younger couple purchased the house because of its 1970s style and they're thrilled it's going to be used in the movie.) In addition to flyers being sent out residents on Woodside Place were invited to town-hall-like meeting to discuss logistics.

18 N. Fort Thomas Ave, in The Hiland Building. 
First Baptist Church will also have a starring role in the film. According to Shannon, when crew came to scout out the church's lot in terms of having space to set up trailers and the like, they realized that the exterior of the church adjacent to the parking lot looks very much like one of the buildings they wanted to film. "One night they're going to do a scene at our church," Shannon says. "I don't know the full story of Ted Bundy but apparently he escaped an administrative building, a small-town little jail – not a maximum-security jail – with a jailor's house next to it. The back of our church looks like the building, which I thought was funny. They'll be digitally altering it because the film is set in Colorado. But if you live in the community, you might recognize the church."

Shannon says the crew has been kind in terms of sharing information and inviting folks who are affected to participate. Shannon says location managers, in particular, typically are local and want to build good community relationships.

Students who participate in the HHS Film and Broadcasting Department are especially keen to take advantage of the filming taking place in Fort Thomas. "We've been reaching out to various people involved in the production over the past few weeks in an attempt to get interviews with any of the production staff and cast – especially Zac Efron," says HHS student Sam Lohner who, along with HHS student Kat Finseth, started a small Twitter campaign to get Efron's attention.

A recent Tweet says "We heard you're going to be in the neighborhood for 'Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Vile and Evil.' We'd love to have you visit @FTSchools in Ft. Thomas, KY. We are high school filmmakers and broadcasters who would love to have you stop by and talk to us! @ZacEfron." 

While they hope to set up additional interviews, students in the HHS Film and Broadcasting Department will be going to lunch with some of the staff. "We are very excited for this opportunity to explore the production elements of a film, and get some insights from people working in the field," Lohner says.

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Shannon.

Filming is slated to start today, and will continue Friday and Saturday, pushing through until early morning Sunday. Churchgoers will be permitted to park in the church's lot for Sunday services. The crew will take two days off and then will film for a day or two more before departing.

Shannon and his wife, Jenni, are both Kentucky natives but most recently lived in Memphis. They received a call about the First Baptist Church pastor position in the first week of December, and moved to Fort Thomas right before Christmas. They have an almost-2-year-old daughter (named Crosley – they are huge Reds fans) and twin boys on the way. Shannon says that although the film crews will be present at First Baptist Church, he'll still be at the church daily, and that anyone who needs to get in contact with him or First Baptist Church still can. "We're still open for business," he says.

For Shannon, he says that while the filming may be inconvenient for a short time, he believes the long-term impact will be good. "The way we look at it is that it's a way to embrace the people coming into our property," he says. "They're going to be in the church for a couple days. So we're going to welcome them and try to look at this as an opportunity. I believe it's not a coincidence and that good can come from it."

Lohner and Finseth agree.

"This is an amazing opportunity, for the whole town and especially for our program," Lohner says. "The film, drama and arts programs at HHS could greatly benefit from interviews with the crew and cast, which is why we have been working so hard on this project." 
Call Ashley Barlow for all your legal needs. 859-781-5777. This is an advertisement. 

Have a spare moment? Head over to @broadcastinghhs and share their tweet. Because while not everyone is happy with the "no parking signs," there are quite a few residents who are thrilled to have Hollywood in town, and quite a few students who are hoping for some educational insight on the filmmaking process, direct from the source.

Highlands Bowlers Prepare for Region

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Senior Hunter Kolb has helped the Highlands Bluebirds bowling team to another solid season.
It's been another good season for the Highlands Bluebirds bowling teams.

Following 7-0 wins over Lloyd Memorial at LaRu Lanes in Highland Heights one week ago, Highland faces Cooper on Thursday back at LaRu. Then the Region 5 Tournament takes place at SuperBowl Erlanger on Jan. 22 and 24. The only loss by either team was the girls game against Campbell County.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Good King: Arian Armstrong's Magical World

Arian Armstrong in Paris, France (photo: provided)


"I Wish I Could Cure Cancer. But I'm an Artist. So I Draw."

Fort Thomas resident Arian Armstrong is a visual artist - an illustrator, set designer, mom and visionary. Her experiences abroad, her strong Christian faith and the day to day moments she creates with her family inform her ongoing art project, The Good King.

Children (and adults!) sign up to join The Good King "tribe" (it's completely free) and are sent weekly secret coloring missions that spread goodness far and wide. Arian illustrates a new coloring sheet each week especially for a nominated individual, family or group experiencing illness or some kind of struggle. Each coloring sheet has a blank speech bubble where encouraging messages can be written. After Arian receives photos of participants holding up their finished coloring sheets she has the photos printed in a hardbound book and gives to the recipient.

The Good King Mission #33 
The Good King project acknowledges the suffering of an individual or group and connects them in a safe way to a community of support that is primarily, though not exclusively, children. Children actively participate in bringing something positive into the world. They offer their time and abilities on a weekly basis - over time the habit of love and encouragement is established.

Arian was recently awarded a Globe Grant through The People's Liberty. In March 2018 she will transform a storefront in Findlay Market into a "magical space where kids can come color The Good King missions in person."

Fort Thomas Matters spoke with Arian about The Good King recently at Fort Thomas Coffee - her favorite local spot and where she had her first solo art show.


Fort Thomas Matters (FTM): How did The Good King come about? How has it evolved since you started?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Fort Thomas Jewelers: Master Jewelers, Superb Service & World Class Diamonds

Fort Thomas Jewelers Owners Vince & Renai Keairns on buying trip in Antwerp

Our most valuable jewelry - rings, pendants, watches and medals are often conduits of memory and beautiful treasures that embody some of our most cherished moments. With loving, hopeful hearts we give and receive small objects made with rare and precious materials which ultimately outlive us and carry something of ourselves into the next generation. Stone, metal and glass transformed in the deft hands of a Master Jeweler carry myriad promises - love, hope, friendship, strength, devotion and time.  

14k white gold vintage inspired mounting with GIA certified 1.09 carat diamond center with hand engraving on shank


For over 20 years Fort Thomas Jewelers has built a solid reputation as a trusted hometown business. They are the area's only IJO (Independent Jewelers Organization) certified retailer and have been entrusted to design, engrave, appraise and repair jewelry from residents of Fort Thomas, Highland Heights and the surrounding communities and cities. Owners Vince and Renai Keairns and the entire staff at Fort Thomas Jewelers are passionate about jewelry and scrupulous in their product selection and services. They offer the finest diamonds (ethically sourced) and gemstones, engraving services and perform on-site repairs. 

Originally located in Fort Thomas they have been at their new location for over five years fitted with state of the art technology in Highland Heights. Fort Thomas Jewelers is located at 2780 Alexandria Way, Highland Heights, KY in the Highland Pointe Plaza near Northern Kentucky University.  

Custom traditional style 14k white gold and 1.20 ct center

From FTJ's Facebook: Cast in 14k white gold and set in prong settings are, in order: a 1 carat round, 2.21 carat pear, 2 carat round followed by anouther 1 carat round diamond! Yeah! We added a fitted diamond channel band just to make sure this guy had the maximum amount of sparkle allowed on a finger and boom! 7.21 carat total weight and one for the records! 


  • Family Owned & Operated 
  • Repairs While You Wait
  • Jewelers by Trade with Over 20 Years of Service
  • Hand Selected Diamonds
  • On-Site Engraving
  • On-Site Create Bar
  • Engagement Ring Specialists
  • Master Setters
  • Master Goldsmiths
  • Master Finishers
  • Certified IJO (Independent Jewelers Organization)
  • Conflict Free Diamonds 
  • GIA Certified (Gemology Institute of America)
  • GIA Gemologist on site
  • Affordable Pricing
  • Appraisals

Repairs While You Wait - Most of us are unwilling and uncomfortable leaving our most valuable, irreplaceable and sentimental possessions in unknown hands. Fort Thomas Jewelers offers a "repairs while you wait" service. Because there are always specialists on site your jewelry doesn't have to leave your sight, much less the building. 

Master Jewelers - Collectively, the staff has over 100 years of expertise in jewelry design, setting, repairs, gem grading and finishing. There is always a GIA (Gemology Institute of America) Certified Gemologist on site. 

On-Site Create Bar - Fort Thomas Jewelers is an innovative, state of the art facility staffed by industry professionals that includes an on-site Create Bar where customers can be fully involved in the design process. 

Create Bar at Fort Thomas Jewelers

From Fort Thomas Jewelers website: 

How it works: You tell us what you had in mind, and we'll create a 3-D photo-realistic version. We'll tweak and play until it's perfect, and then our expert craftsmen will get to work. Come back in a few days and pick up your custom, one-of-a-kind ring. The rest is up to you! Mix and match from each category to build the ring that's exactly what you want. Or sketch out an idea and we'll turn it into the real thing! Stop into our store for a no commitment trial demo and more details!

See how it works: Create Bar Demo Video

  • All new inventory - after holiday restock! 
  • Bring in your jewelry to have it cleaned and checked - FREE
  • Check out the on-site Create Bar
  • Birthstone: Garnet

January is the time for new inventory at Fort Thomas Jewelers. Browse new items even if you're not ready to buy. While you're there get your rings and jewelry cleaned and checked - sweaters and gloves can wreak havoc on jewelry. Have your precious items cleaned and checked every six months to keep them in tip-top shape - it's FREE!

  • Valentine's Day inventory priced to sell
  • 24k gold dipped roses $99
  • Diamond engagement ring specials with interest free financing options!
  • Birthstone: Amethyst

All new inventory will be priced to sell just in time for Valentine's Day. From 24k gold dipped roses (only $99) to diamond engagement ring specials (including interest free financing options).

24k Gold Dipped Rose

  • Getting ready for bi-annual trip to the diamond cutting capital of the world: Antwerp, Belgium!
  • Pre-sales for Antwerp diamonds
  • Birthstone: Aquamarine

  • Bi-annual trip to the diamond cutting capital of the world: Antwerp, Belgium!
  • Once in a lifetime chance to get first picks on incredible diamond selection 
  • Birthstone: Diamond

In April, owners Vince and Renai Keairns will be making their bi-annual trip to the diamond cutting capital of the world: Antwerp, Belgium. No budget is too small to preorder your very own "handpicked" diamond. Call or stop in to discuss this amazing opportunity.

Diamond from pervious Antwerp trip

From round, brilliant cuts to oval and pear shapes the trip is an opportunity to hand select diamonds that have never been seen before. Official leave date to be determined, pre-sales to begin in March. If you're planning a spring engagement an Antwerp diamond could be your best bet!

For updates follow Fort Thomas Jewelers on Facebook 
Address: 2780 Alexandria Way, Highland Heights, KY 
Phone: (859) 442-0506

More Than a Cleaning Service: American Maid of Fort Thomas

Nora Schomaker and her family at Christmas


In June of 2016 Nora Schomaker turned one of life's challenges into the perfect opportunity. As a mortgage underwriter of 15 years she'd experienced the volatility of the housing market and knew it was time to change directions when the bank she was working for closed.

Based on experiences with both large and small cleaning services Nora was continually met with issues of follow through and availability. After researching cleaning services and not being able to find one that met her expectations she decided to start her own company that was reliable, thorough, worth the money and ultimately delivered on its promises. Nora, encouraged by her husband and children, took her severance and expertise and started her own business venture. American Maid of Fort Thomas was born.

Nora's husband Joe Schomaker is a long time resident of Fort Thomas and it wasn't long after moving here that she fell in love with the cozy hometown atmosphere and believes the success of her business is in part owed to the excellent reviews and word of mouth recommendations from her Fort Thomas clients. Reflecting on the past six months, Nora said: "American Maid has grown more than I could have imagined". 

American Maid of Fort Thomas has a list of glowing five star reviews on their Facebook page including this one by resident and Mint Yoga Studio Director, Nicole Carter-Schilling:

These ladies are the real deal! I'm in awe of how clean my house is right now. They went above and beyond my expectations. It's just what I needed, someone to come clean and anticipate my needs, beyond what I thought I needed. Thank you!


As temperatures grew colder earlier this winter Schomaker was inspired by a story she saw on Facebook about someone who knitted scarves and made them available to those who needed them. Wanting to give back in her own way she took the idea and started a scarf collection drive. 

Scarf drive in Washington Park (photo: provided)

Her clients were generous in their donations and soon she had over 100 scarves that she and her daughter handed out to the homeless at Washington Park. Nora called the whole experience extremely heartwarming and plans on doing something on a larger scale next year and perhaps more often. 
This is an advertisement. 


In addition to cleaning services, American Maid has recently added handyman services - Handyman of Fort Thomas. Nora's son Travis Meyer and husband, Joe tackle "honey-do" jobs including all types of painting, hanging doors, ceiling fans and mounting televisions. Travis has been working on restoration projects for the past five years and has a background in painting.

Nora and her daughter Sara Dean run a thriving cleaning service based in Fort Thomas whose mission is to improve their client's quality of life. Less time cleaning means more time doing what you love - being with family, enjoying hobbies or just relaxing. Nora believes no two houses are the same and each cleaning addresses the unique needs of her clients. She charges by the job and offers a variety of services beyond cleaning.

Visit American Maid of Fort Thomas' Facebook page
Call: (859)568-2100

Woodfill Elementary Students Inspired by New Science Program

Woodfill students present on their new Inspire Science curriculum.
--> Do you know what is the best mix of carbon dioxide, water and light for plants to grow? Or what processes information we take in using our senses — our brain, our nervous system or our senses themselves?

Students at Fort Thomas elementary schools are finding answers to these questions and more using a new interactive science curriculum, aptly named Inspire Science. The new program has excited students and teachers alike.

Students from Samuel Woodfill Elementary shared what they’ve learned and demonstrated how the program works at the January meeting of the Fort Thomas Independent School Board.

They presented a video that showed some of the hands-on experiments and experiences they’ve been having in class.

How Inspire Science works

Fifth-grader Sophie U. explained how the program works: "We use the five 'Es' to learn about our science content. The five Es are engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate. Each lesson starts with something that gets us to engage in the learning target for the lesson, then we get to explore with an investigation or with a simulation on the iPad."

After the hands-on portion of the lesson, the students explain what they’ve learned using a series of critical questions, she explained.

Fourth grader Lily presented the video showing some of the things classes have done with the program this year. She said she liked a recent lesson in which students explored ways to separate out elements in a mixture. The students started with a mix of iron filings, sand. salt and water and used magnets and other methods to separate each item.

Hands-on and engaging

Intermediate science teachers Kelly Smith and John Gesenhues chose Inspire Science by McGraw Hill Education after intense exploration last year.

"Each lesson has an engage portion, a hands-on activity … and incorporates a simulation, math or graphing exercise to go along with it," explained Gesenhues.

The teachers also liked the convenience of all-inclusive modules and supporting materials.

"It’s great. My favorite part is that all the materials come with the program. Makes it so easy to do these lessons. No more running to Krogers to get the salt, the sand, figure out where to get sodium chloride. It’s all in the tub…And there are lots of hands-on activities," said Smith.

The program also makes use of computer simulation when it is not possible to do an experiment in the time or space available. Lily demonstrated an interactive exploration of how light, water and carbon dioxide could affect the growth of a plant. She tried different scenarios using the simulator to see how each amount affected a plant.

After the simulation or hands-on activity, students are asked questions about what worked, what didn’t and why, she explained. They are also given scenarios with possible answers and are required to pick the correct answer and explain the science behind their choice.

Woodfill Principal Keith Faust gave the teachers much credit for their careful work in choosing the program. "Last year they spent almost the whole year investigating different textbook companies, different programs. And we sat together in this room and decided this would be the best one for our students…so far very pleased with the results of it."

Monday, January 15, 2018

Fort Thomas Independent Schools District Named Best in the State

Fort Thomas Independent Schools have been named the best school district in Kentucky for 2018, according to

According to the site, the ranking is based on rigorous analysis of key statistics and millions of reviews from students and parents using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Ranking factors include state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality, public school district ratings, and more. A full explanation of the calculation is listed below.

With over 3,000 students and five schools, the district has long been known as an academic leader throughout the state but that's not stopping district administrators who want their students to be known as global leaders.

In fact, they have adopted a hashtag for the school year that personifies that goal: #FTISGlobalLeaders. 

Niche gave Fort Thomas Independent Schools an A+ for "Academics", an A+ for "Teachers" and an A for "Health & Safety".

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Jeff Kidwell, Former Campbell County Sheriff and Republican Chair, Dies at 53

Former Campbell County Sheriff and Campbell Country Republican Party Chairman, Jeff Kidwell, died Friday of a heart attack.

He was 53.

Kidwell became the county’s first Republican sheriff in at least 40 years when he won the November 2012 special election to replace John Dunn, who retired after 26 years in office.

In 1993, he opened Star Computers in the Newport Shopping Plaza and first ran for office a year later for Campbell County Constable District 3.

During Kidwell's tenure as Chairman, county republicans saw unprecedented growth. In 2008, when he was elected as Chairman of the Campbell County Republican Party, county republicans lagged democrats in registration by over 3,000 voters. By 2014, republicans outnumbered democrats by 1,000 voters for the first time in Campbell County history. Republicans now outnumber democrats by nearly 4,000 in Campbell County.

A reorganization of the county party saw Kidwell's nine-year run as Chairman end in 2017. He was succeeded by Chairwoman, Sarah Cameron, who helped Kidwell organize the Presidential Caucus in March of 2016.

RELATED: Campbell County Reorganization To Shape County for Next Four Years 

"I am terribly saddened to hear of Jeff’s passing," said Cameron. "It is an unfortunate reminder of how fleeting life can be.  This time two years ago, Jeff was planning the Campbell County Presidential Caucus.  He spent many hours volunteering for the party.  We express our sincerest condolences to his family."