Thursday, December 11, 2014

Historic Trolley Dedicated; Full Service Begins December 18

Beginning in 1903, old Number One ran the one mile trolley track between the southern Indiana resort towns of French Lick and West Baden... linking the two grand hotels.
With the advent of the automobile, the trolley went away in 1919. A restored version of Old Number One officially returned to the tracks today at French Lick Resort and once again is making the run between the magnificent West Baden and French Lick Hotels.
Today was the culmination of a seven year historic preservation project funded by the Cook Group, owners of French Lick Resort. The trolley will become fully operational for public use by December 18. The complimentary service will run from 6am-10pm every day of the year.
Number One gets christened
Motormen Marvin Pinnick poses near the trolley

Number One Motormen
From Left to right: Darrell King; Jan Tellstrom, Sam Ray,
Sheryl Yeadon, Oral Carnes Junior; Larry Kidwell,
Sharon Pinnick; Marvin Pinnick and Steve Hall


The iconic West Baden Springs Hotel arches flank the trolley

The trolleypulls into the West Baden Springs Hotel

Master Carpenter Dan Ping; Project Manager Alan Beck
and Mechanic Andy Schwenk on the big day


Friday, November 21, 2014

50 Days of Lights; a French Lick Resort Tradition

French Lick Resort is getting ready for the 2014 holiday season with an array of activities that will suit guests both young and old. From November 21-January 10, the resort celebrates 50 Days of Lights  there’s an activity that each member of the family can enjoy – live music, story time with Mrs. Claus, holiday movie favorites and, of course, plenty of opportunities to tell Santa what you’d like for Christmas. It all begins with Santa and Mrs. Claus kicking off the holiday season with the resort’s annual tree-lighting ceremonies.  

Every year, people come from far and wide to see the turn-of-the-century hotels and their grounds aglow with holiday magic of their own using over half a million twinkling lights inside and out. Planning the layout for all the decorations begins months in advance and doesn’t stop until every light strand and ornament has found its rightful place. By November, more than 30 Christmas trees, countless wreaths of all sizes, miles of garland, dozens of poinsettias and plenty of bows will be on display throughout the resort.

A holiday favorite, the gingerbread house has grown a foot from last year’s and gained three new additions. A front porch made of pretzel rods and Fruit Roll-Ups, a doghouse with Hershey’s chocolate bar siding and an adorable puppy named Lulu made of rice crispy treats and toasted coconut shavings add to this year’s Gingerbread Land. This year’s design features gingerbread and granola bar siding, poured sugar windows with gingerbread window boxes, spiral lollipop and fruit slices flowers, Oreo cookie crumb dirt and Airhead shutters. The edible candy creation is located in the Gingerbread Land display in the Events Center at French Lick Springs Hotel, or you can see how this year’s house was made with our web series Inside the Gingerbread House.

With a range of holiday activities offered and the elaborately decorated hotels, French Lick Resort makes a great family holiday destination. Guests can visit between November 21 and January 11 to experience how French Lick Resort celebrates Christmas with our 50 Days of Lights celebration. A complete schedule is listed below.

Tree Lighting Weekend
November 21 - 23
7pm – 7:45pm • Springs Valley Elementary Choir
French Lick Springs Hotel • Front Lawn
7pm -7:45pm • Tree Lighting Ceremony
French Lick Springs Hotel • Front Lawn
8pm – 9pm • Meet & Greet with Santa & Mrs. Claus
Event Center • 2nd Level
8pm – 10pm • Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair
Event Center • Windsor Ballroom

11am – 8pm • Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair
Event Center • Windsor Ballroom
5:30pm – 6pm • Sing-a-Long with Sarah Stivers
West Baden Springs Hotel • Atrium
6pm – 7pm • Sisters of St. Benedict
West Baden Springs Hotel • Atrium
7pm • Tree Lighting Ceremony
West Baden Springs Hotel • Atrium
7pm – 9pm • Brass Quintet
West Baden Springs Hotel • Atrium

10am – 2pm • Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair
Event Center • Windsor Ballroom

Thanksgiving Weekend
November 27-29

10:30am – 2pm • Thanksgiving Brunch
$55 Adults • $24.95 Children 5 – 10 • FREE 4 and younger
French Lick Springs Hotel • 1875: The Steakhouse
Reservations Required 812-936-9300
11am – 5pm • Thanksgiving Buffet
$35 Adults • $16 Children 5 – 12 • FREE 4 and younger
French Lick Springs Hotel • Windsor Ballroom
Reservations Required 812-936-9300
12pm – 5pm • Thanksgiving Activities
Event Center • Clifton Ballroom
Holiday movies, puzzles, books, table football,
ping pong, putt-putt, bocce ball, football, basketball,
trivia, Name that Song, scavenger hunt and Pop Noggins

1pm – 4pm • Family Photos
Event Center • Clifton Foyer

1pm – 7pm • Thanksgiving Dinner
$58 Adults, $16 Children 5 - 12 • FREE 4 and younger
West Baden Springs Hotel • Atrium
Reservations Required 812-936-5579

12pm – 9pm • Great Family Time
Event Center • Windsor Ballroom
Bounce houses, Pop Noggins, movies, ping pong and trivia

12pm • Guided Hike
French Lick Springs Hotel • Meet at KidsFest Lodge

2pm • Geocache
French Lick Springs Hotel • Meet on Veranda

4pm – 4:30pm • Pet Parade
French Lick Springs Hotel • Lobby
Bring your four-legged family member and march through the hotel and Event Center

5pm – 6pm • Holiday Sing-A-Long
French Lick Springs Hotel • Lobby

9am – 9pm • Great Family Time
Event Center • Windsor Ballroom
Bounce houses, Pop Noggins, movies, ping pong and trivia

4pm – 5pm • Kickball for All
French Lick Springs Hotel Front Lawn

Holiday Activities
November 22 – December 21


7:30pm – 7:45pm • Mrs. Claus Meet and Greet
French Lick Springs Hotel • Lobby

8pm – 9pm • Story Time & Cookie Decorating with Mrs. Claus
Event Center • Habig Room
Location on December 5 is the Murdock Room

9pm – 11pm • Holiday Movie
Event Center • Habig Room
Location on December 5 is the Murdock Room
November 21 • Frozen
December 5 • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
December 12 • Polar Express
December 19 • I’ll Be Home for Christmas

11am – 12pm • Holiday Choir
West Baden Springs Hotel • Atrium (Not available December 13)

1:30pm – 2:30pm • Holiday Choir
French Lick Springs Hotel • Lobby
November 22 • Orleans Jr./Sr. High School Choir

November 29 • Springs Valley Jr./Sr. High School Choir

December 6 • Orange County Players

December 13 • Kentucky Youth Chorale
11am – 12pm and 1:30pm – 2:30pm • French Lick Springs Hotel

December 20 • Washington High School Choir

Special Performance • December 20
1pm – 2pm • Sandy Flick & Rex Hinkle

West Baden Springs Hotel • Atrium
3pm – 4pm • Sandy Flick & Rex Hinkle
French Lick Springs Hotel • Lobby

2pm – 5pm • Dickens’ Carolers
West Baden Springs Hotel • Atrium
*Not available December 13

2pm – 5pm • Photos with Santa
$5 per photo • Event Center • 2nd Level

8pm – 9pm • Story Time & Cookie Decorating with Mrs. Claus
Event Center • Habig Room

9pm – 11pm • Holiday Movie
Event Center • Habig Room
November 22 • The Santa Clause
November 29 • Elf
December 6 • Frozen
December 13 • Christmas with the Kranks
December 20 • The Santa Clause

8am – 11am • Hot Chocolate with Santa
French Lick Springs Hotel • Grand Colonnade Restaurant
Christmas Dinners
6pm - 9pm • December 19 - 26
West Baden Springs Hotel • Sinclair’s
$75 • Reservations Required 812-936-5579

6pm – 9pm • December 24 - 26
French Lick Springs Hotel • 1875: The Steakhouse
Seasonal Menu • Reservations Required 812-936-9300

Family WinterFest

December 26 – December 31
Valley Links & Golf Learning Center

Friday • 10am – 9pm
Saturday • 10am – 9pm
Sunday • 10am – 7pm
Monday • 10am – 7pm
Tuesday • 10am – 7pm
Wednesday • 10am – 5pm

New Year’s Eve
December 31
6pm – 1am • Time for a Change New Year’s Eve Celebration
Packages starting at $489
French Lick Springs Hotel • Event Center
Reservations Required 888-936-9360
6pm – 1am • New Year’s Eve Party for Kids
$25 per child (ages 6-12 years old)
Valley Links & Golf Learning Center
Resort guests only • Reservations Required 888-936-9360
Holiday games, crafts, movies, pizza and bounce houses
7:30pm – 1am • All That Jazz New Year’s Eve Gala
Packages starting at $599
West Baden Springs Hotel • Atrium
Reservations Required 888-936-9360

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Inside the French Lick Resort Gingerbread House

The French Lick Resort gingerbread house is a star attraction when Santa is in town.
How it comes together is fascinating... and this year we're going to take you inside the process as it evolves.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Singer is In

When Sarah Stivers says, “Hey do you know this one? Sing it with me,” she often gets an all-out chorus going. Mustang Sally and other songs of the 50s and 60s beg for audience participation. Fun groups move the furniture and make room for dancing – encouraged by the tall attractive brunette with the microphone.  Stivers engages a packed house every weekend in the Power Plant Bar & Grill.

Sarah and the guys will play a jazz standard such as How High the Moon followed by Little Big Town’s Pontoon. She definitely knows how to work the room and keep the crowd entertained with her clean, clear, sexy sound. Her smooth delivery transcends genres.

“You cats ready to get started?” she asks the musicians and they launch into Teach Me Tonight. To the audience, “Where y’all from?” she says letting her Louisville dialect ooze. Sarah makes the spotlight look easy, but in reality she puts a lot of effort into laying out charts, selecting musicians, energizing the crowd and orchestrating (pardon the pun) every detail.

Occasional shows became a standing gig that grew into her own booking agency. But her dream of going to medical school called. In 2010, she enrolled and the prerequisite classes for non-traditional students did not keep her attention. In the evenings, she was booking gigs instead of hitting the books. The week before the next term began she knew what her decision had to be. She contacted the school and said “give my spot to someone else.” Sarah could have easily been working on her bedside manner instead of her stage presence. 

Beyond performing in the West Baden Springs Hotel atrium in the afternoons and the Power Plant at night, she schedules all resort entertainment from jazz in the library to a 1920s trio on the veranda. It’s her unwavering professionalism, attention to detail and organization that would have served her equally well as a physician, but we’re happy her office is here.



 Kristie Smith

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why I'm Excited About The Four Tops Coming to French Lick Resort this Saturday Night

I worked my way through school spinning the hits on the radio. That’s when I fell in love with the Motown sound.  The Four Tops ARE the Motown sound. The Temptations put on a great Motown show here in 2012. And now we have the Four Tops! Life is good.

Consider this:

  1. Four Tops founding member Duke Fakir is marking 60 years in show biz and still going strong.  He’s a piece of living history and we get to see him perform.
  2. Current Top Lawrence Payton Jr. is the son of a founding member.  The original Tops were together for 44 years.  It’s in Jr’s genes.
  3. This is the 50th anniversary of the Four Tops first hit:  “Baby I Need Your Loving.”  The next year they hit #1 for the first time with “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch.”  Talk about timeless.
  4. The Four Tops have 23 Top 10 hits.  That’s right, 23!!! 
  5. The Four Tops are in Rock & Roll Hall of Fame… as they should be. 
  6. The Four Tops are Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winners.  No question about that, either.
  7. And how about this:  The Four Tops did a song with one of my other favorite all-time bands doing the background work.  The Moody Blues.  “A Simple Game” made it to #3 on the UK charts in 1972.  Here’s a link: 

I'll scratch another one off my "must see" band bucket list when The Four Tops play French Lick Resort this Saturday.

Steve Rondinaro


Friday, September 26, 2014

First Timers’ Guide to Concours d’Elegance at French Lick Resort

Cars line up for the 2013 event
 What’s a Concours d’Elegance?Concours d'Elegance refers to the gathering of prestigious cars and dates back to 17th century French aristocracy. They paraded horse-drawn carriages in the parks of Paris during summer weekends and holidays. Over time, carriages became horseless and the gatherings became a competition among the owners on the appearance of their automobiles.

Judges check out a 2013 entry
When will the cars be on display?Although there are auxiliary events all weekend, the cars will be judged on Sunday, October 5. Head over to the Valley Links Course on the French Lick Springs Hotel property. If you enter through the hotel’s main drive (at the intersection of Hwy 56 and Hwy 145) you can follow the signs for public parking.
Richard Hamilton polishes up his
1929 Willy's Knight 66 B
The show opens to the public at 10am and judging is complete by 11:30am. Be sure to stay around for the awards ceremony at 3 pm. You will get a chance to see the winners in each class, specialty award winners and the coveted “Best in Show.”

What kind of cars can I expect?This is not your average car show! These cars are from private collections and are rarely seen on display. They are the cream of the crop in their respected class and have been personally invited to participate in the event. You will be treated to some amazing eye candy valued at over 100 million dollars.
Hunt Palmer Ball's 1967 Shelby GT-350

This year we are featuring cars from Shelby American and have three classes dedicated to the American icon. You will see many original owner cars, definitely some 1 of 1s and prime examples of Shelby’s greatest work.

On the flip side, you will also see some amazing handcrafted luxury pieces as we also celebrate Indiana’s Automotive Heritage.  Duesenbergs, Cords, Stutz…Indiana’s finest will be on display in two full classes dedicated to the Hoosier State.

Peppered in between will be classes for Corvettes, Super Cars, Motorcycles, Trucks and a category all its own, called Survivors, for unrestored originals.

We have also invited area car clubs to display their cars adjacent to the competition field. Here you will see beauties from Rolls Royce, Bentley, Jaguar, Porsche and more.

What do the judges look for in a winner?Renowned judges (and we have some of the best in the country) examine the vehicle thoroughly and in its entirety. They rate each and every component. They look for correct components of the car as well as proper installation and finish in areas such as engine compartment detail, upholstery and chassis finish.

Only those vehicles that are judged perfect (or very nearly so) in every way are considered eligible for trophy classes.

You too can be a judge! Be sure to pick up one of the “People’s Choice” ballots and vote for your favorite.

Do I have to have a ticket before the event?Sure it’s great to have tickets in advance (and save $5, plus fees) but you can also purchase tickets the day of the show. Just look for the Coca-Cola trailer near the Valley Links Sports Center to purchase tickets. They are $20 the day of the show. Kids 12 and under are free and do not require a ticket.
Kids 12 and under are admitted free

Can I take pictures?Certainly! But please respect the cars as works of art. Please do not get too close to the cars and absolutely do not touch them.

Where does the money go?The Concours d’Elegance at French Lick Resort is a proud supporter of Kosair Children’s Hospital.

Are there still rooms available?Hotel rooms at both French Lick Springs Hotel and its sister property, West Baden Springs Hotel sell out every year for this event. There may be a few rooms still available; call now 888-936-9360. *There is a two night minimum for Saturday night reservations.

What are the other events that weekend?There is a Driving Tour on Saturday morning (October 4) to Clem & Joey Lange’s car collections in nearby Huntingburg. Unfortunately, this event is sold out for 2014.
The Driving Tour is sold out for 2014

The Mad VIN Gala is set for Saturday evening. The “Mad Men” style soiree will be a fabulous party underneath the world-famous West Baden Springs Hotel dome. Tickets are still available for $175 per person and can be purchased online or by calling the resort directly, 888-936-9360.

Indiana Automotive Heritage Day will also be held on Saturday. This free event features lecturers who each have their own perspective on Indiana’s automotive history. The line-up will include author Dennis Horvath, documentarian Hans Kellogg, IMS historian Donald Davidson and well-known journalist William Jeanes. Tickets are not required,  but you must RSVP.

For more information about all of these events, please visit the Concours d’Elegance at French Lick website.

How do I get to the resort?Map and directions on the French Lick Resort website

From Louisville
70 Miles • 1 1/2 Hours
Take I-65 N toward /Indianapolis, take exit 6B onto I-265 W, Take exit 0 onto I-64 W toward St Louis – Merge onto IN-37 NORTH EXIT 79 – MERGE RIGHT onto IN-64/IN-145 NORTH.

From Indianapolis
108 Miles • 2 1/2 Hours
Take I-465 South to IN-37 South Harding Street EXIT 4 – Merge onto IN-37 South toward Martinsville/IN-37 South to Bloomington – Enter roundabout in Paoli, to US-150/IN-56 West – Slight LEFT onto IN-56.

From Cincinnati
163 Miles • 3 Hours
I-71 South to Louisville EXIT 173 – Take I-64 West EXIT 1A toward St. Louis – Merge onto IN-37 NORTH EXIT 79 – MERGE RIGHT onto IN-64/IN-145 NORTH.

From Evansville
94 Miles • 2 Hours
I-164 North to I-64 – Merge on to I-164 N toward 1-64 – Merge onto I-64 EXIT 21A toward Louisville - East to IN 37 South EXIT 79 toward Tell City – Turn LEFT onto IN-37 - Continue straight toward IN-64 – Turn RIGHT on IN-145 North to French Lick – Turn LEFT onto IN-56/Indiana Street.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Trolley Service Returning to French Lick Resort

The Cook family lives by the philosophy that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
They didn’t see dilapidated buildings; they saw opportunities.

West Baden Springs Hotel prior to the restoration

They didn’t see an outdated electrical panel; they saw a focal point for a new dining venue.

The Power Plant Bar & Grill was named for an old electric panel
found in one of the outbuildings

 They didn’t see a rusted old trolley car; they saw a portal to the resort’s past
and a way to transport guests today.
The sidelined trolley sits in the rail yard after retirement

Like a lot of the French Lick Resort treasures, the trolley’s history spans many decades, starting in 1903. This fall a new chapter will begin when trolley service returns almost a 100 years after it was first launched in French Lick and West Baden.
In 1903, the roads were dirt and horse-drawn carriages were the norm. Imagine the delight when electric trolley service began. Guests could catch the streetcar at the steps of West Baden Springs Hotel and go all the way (a whole mile) into downtown French Lick.
The trolley was a raging success, and in 1916 it set a record for carrying 250,000 people in a single year. At a nickel a ride, that’s over $300,000 in revenue in today’s world. Not bad for what was billed as the“world’s shortest trolley line.”
According to Railway Historian Alan Barnett, the electric cable car offered “ping-pong” service because it was not designed to make turns. When the car reached French Lick, the conductor would physically move the overhead power line around the back, allowing for the return trip to the depot at West Baden.
The advent of the automobile put the brakes on the trolley service in 1919. That is until Alan Barnett and the folks at the Indiana Railway Museum (IRM) resurrected the idea in 1987. They were able to find Trolley Car #313 from Portugal, the closest thing they could find to the original 1903 car.

Trolley circa 2000
Junior Carnes, an 89-year-old bellman at French Lick Springs Hotel, remembers his shifts as a volunteer conductor during its first year in operation. “People just loved the novelty of it. The West Baden hotel was closed at the time so people would just ride over and come back.” The daily service ran for 15 years but ceased in 2002 when the trolley coasted quietly into the junk yard.

Now the train (trolley) will be pulling back into the station, literally, thanks to a partnership between the resort and the Indiana Railway Museum. IRM General Manager Rick Olsen worked with the Indiana Department of Transportation to draw up plans to redo the original track and secured a $200,000 grant.

Simultaneously, craftsman Dan Ping took on the daunting task of restoring the old trolley car and put in a total of 2,600 hours completing the project. The decay was extensive and the years had not been kind to #313. He saved as much of the original material as possible, including the interior components, and built a brand new cupola. The end result is nothing short of a work of art.
Project Manager Alan Beck went about finding someone to work on the undercarriage and add some “juice”  to the former electric engine. Help would come by way of Andy Schwenk, who owns an ag-repair business in nearby Jasper, IN. Only stipulation was that the engine had to be green since Schwenk only works on John Deere machinery. The undercarriage is now powered by diesel and contolled by hydrostatic transmission.  
The trolley car was placed on the newly-laid track ths week in anticipation of the loading platforms being built near the casino on the French Lick property and adjacent to the garden at West Baden Springs Hotel. Check out this time lapse video of the event.

The new service is set to debut after Thanksgiving. The trolley will run seven days a week from 6am -10pm. Save your nickels, there is no charge for the service.