Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bill Cook to be Inducted into DCI Hall of Fame

It’s my privilege to announce Bill Cook’s election to the Drum Corps International (DCI) Hall of Fame in the Class of 2014.

The Cook family’s contribution to the drum & bugle corps and pageantry activity is huge. Carl first got Bill interested; then Bill jumped in with both feet. With an eye towards helping channel young people in a positive direction, Bill and Gayle are best known for starting the Star of Indiana corps in Bloomington in the mid-80’s. Star went on to become DCI World Champions in the early 90’s, with Bill often driving a corps bus. Star eventually morphed into the stage show “Blast,” which won a prestigious Tony award on Broadway. It has also given those young performers a chance to do what they love professionally as Blast still tours today. And a Star alumni group continues to perform as well.

Bill and the Cook company also financially supported Drum Corps International and our championship telecast/cinecast that I’ve hosted for 35 consecutive years.  The telecast would have gone away in the 90’s without that support.  Bill also helped individual corps who were Star’s competitors when those groups had financial troubles.

Thousands of young people’s lives were positively impacted by the Cook contribution to the drum & bugle corps activity… and for that, Bill Cook is most deservedly going into the DCI Hall of Fame at the DCI World Championships in Indianapolis this August.

Steve Rondinaro

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mom & Me Tea; a West Baden Lifestyle Offering

Dyan Duncan

Tammi Hodge (left) enjoys tea with
daughter Bonnie and granddaughters
Emma and Norah
Tammi Hodges of Bloomfield, IN, has been having tea parties with her granddaughters Norah &Emma since they were old enough to hold the toy tea cup. Tea at Grandma's was always a proper affair with real china cups and sugar cubes (I didn’t even know they made those anymore!) Grandpa Hodges says the girls had been training for years for their afternoon date last Wednesday.

This time, the tea party moved into the world-famous dome at West Baden Springs Hotel. Tammi brought the girls, their mom, and friend Michelle with her daughter Ella for the new West Baden Lifestyle offering “Mom & Me Tea.” The weekly offering (now through April 19) offers girls, and boys, a chance to experience proper English Tea.

Ella's Mom helps Norah try 
the different teas
Chef Ethan Smith, a proud father of a five year old princess, knew that the salmon, cucumber and chicken salad finger sandwiches on the standard tea menu would not be something his daughter would eat, so he revamped the menu to accommodate the younger palates. PB&J it is, with “ants on a log” followed up by cake pops, sugar cookies and a brownie.  The big people can still have that fancy food…"what is clotted cream, anyway?" But the kids will feel right at home with their fun finger foods. Five different teas, served in custom West Baden teapots, are brought to the table to introduce the kids to different flavor combinations.

Ella remarked that the whole experience made her feel like she was in the castle on “Downtown Abbey,” as she called it. They sure dressed the part; the trio of pint-sized fashionistas pre-planned their outfits to match the occasion.  

The Belcher family planned to attend the
Mom & Me Tea during their Spring Break visit
Just a table over was the Belcher family from Valparaiso down for Spring Break. This “girls trip” included mom Katie, her sister Erin and Grandma Chris. I have to say the most stylish at the table were four year- old Morgan and eight year-old Kallie. Their fascinators were the ideal accessory for such an affair. Daughter Kallie said she loved the experience. Dressing up was her favorite part. They sipped, swirled and sashayed the afternoon away making memories that will last a lifetime.
Little girls dressed to the nines, a remarkable setting often called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and proper afternoon tea - what more could you ask for?

Mom & Me Tea is available on Wednesdays
Isn't that fascinator fabulous?


Thursday, March 20, 2014

They still ask for him by name; the Sam Townsley story

Dyan Duncan

Sam Townsley
50 Year Employee
French Lick Springs Hotel
There is no way to know exactly how many guests Bell Captain Sam Townsley greeted in his 50 years with French Lick Springs Hotel. Conservatively, we are guessing somewhere in the ballpark of 61,000. Director of Golf Dave Harner thinks my estimate is way too conservative... "That wouldn't even touch it...thats only 1,200 a year...more like 6 million....in Sheraton days they had 80% occupacy. That's 320 rooms x 1.5 per room about 400 a day and if he worked 300 days in a year, thats 120,000." That's a lot of people!

So, of course, we agreed to help the Stone Bridge Health Campus in nearby Bedford to fulfill Sam's wish to visit one last time and see the hotel he called home, literally.  He lived on the hotel's second floor so that he could be on call 24 hours a day. That's just the kind of man he is.

Bellmen Uton and Carcel reminisce with
their mentor.
It's interesting to note that Sam started shortly after the infamous Derby weekend raid on illegal gambling in 1949, and retired the year before the new gaming license was awarded in 2005. So he was not around to see the completion of the $560 million dollar restoration of both French Lick Springs and West Baden Springs Hotels that has been dubbed "The Save of the Century." He still remembers the domed pool, the luggage conveyor and the Hoosier Room.

The "star of the show" getting interviewed
by Marketing Manager Steve Rondinaro.
Wheeled into the room with over 50 people awaiting his arrival, Sam was notably touched and immediately recognized a familiar face in the crowd. Pointing to 89 year-old Junior Carnes (who started at the resort when he was just 12 years old), he held up two fingers and said "We were like that" signaling their close bond. Junior remembers spending time with Sam between transportation runs. "That was back before we had radios and cell phones, so I had to come back to the hotel after each run. We spent a lot of time together."

Other memories came back as if they happened yesterday. Sam made everyone chuckle when he talked about boxer Joe Louis. Sam often trained right alongside Louis. That's not what he remembers most about the World Heavyweight Champion though. "I'd run up and down those hills training with him, but I never did beat him at pool!"

Long-time employees James Matthews (left), Bob Stiger
and Marilyn Kessler enjoyed catching up.
One of my favorite stories was shared by long-term employee Marilyn Kessler, who spent 32 years working in the bowling alley and then bartending later at Hagen's Club House Restaurant on the Donald Ross Course.  She talked about a couple from Jeffersonville who still comes every year. She said Mrs. Raymer would not accept the fact that the hotel would be closed for the restoration in  2005. "She wanted to bring a cot and sleep in the rubble," said Kessler. "They came anyway and invited my husband and myself, Sam, Stiger, Carissa and Derrick Miller and a few others to dinner in the Beechwood Mansion." Just down the road from the hotel, the mansion, which had been the personal residence of Ed Ballard, one-time owner of West Baden Springs Hotel, featured one of the −if not the− nicest restaurants in town.  

Children came up several times in the conversation, and each time you could see Sam's eyes light up with joy. He loved kids and really heeded the advice he got early on: take care of the kids and they will return with their kids. That is exactly what happened with families like the Ramers from Jeffersonville, Indiana, who continue to send Sam a Christmas card every year. "Return guests still ask for him by name," said Bob Stiger, who is celebrating his 52nd year with the resort. That fact is not taken lightly by Sam, "You'd be surprised that they don't forget ya."

Who could forget someone who gave his heart and soul to making sure each guest felt like they were his only guest? Certainly not us!


Friday, March 14, 2014

What I learned at French Lick Resort's Taste of Scotland Event

Various brands of scotch
Guest Blogger Kristie L Smith

Being non-scientifically convinced that I am at least a wee bit Scottish, I was all about the Taste of Scotland event. The kick-off included a little back ground on the resort provided by Sandi Woodward of the Indiana Landmarks Foundation. Fred Minnick, Wall Street Journal best-selling author and photographer gave the keynote address and several breakout sessions were held with representatives from Southern Wine & Spirits and Bourbon Blogger, Tom Fischer.

Living so close to Louisville, Kentucky, I’ve been growing fond of bourbon and figured if scotch and bourbon were anything alike I would find some brand that I enjoyed. I had never really tasted scotch before and went into the day a little afraid I would betray my alleged Scottish roots and not even like scotch. I learned a lot in the small groups, but at the tasting, ta-da! I found several brands of scotch quite palatable and know for my personal taste, the less smoky flavor the better.

Here’s what else I learned:

Great group of friends who met for the weekend
 in a central location!
1.     Drink what you like – self-explanatory.

2.     Like those with whom you drink – makes sense.
3.     With scotch, adding water is not diluting, but rather dousing the  burn to  detect notes, flavors and finishes.

4.     Scotch isn’t just for drinking. Chef Paul created a stunning menu that utilized scotch as a key ingredient in everything from the salad dressing to the dessert.

Chef Paul presents the haggis
5.    Haggis isn’t as bad as it sounds – especially with an Oban chaser. Since the import and sale of sheep’s lungs was banned in the U.S. – sheep’s heart, liver and tongue are used instead. The original ban was instated to protect the U.S. from scrapie a close relative of bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease. The traditional haggis recipe calls for sheep’s liver, heart and lungs, to be spiced, stuffed and cooked. Cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper enhance the flavor of the ground oatmeal and organ meat. All ingredients are placed in an inside-out sheep’s stomach and boiled, served still in the stomach. Like I said, it doesn’t sound like the most appetizing, but it is tasty – especially with a chaser of scotch.
6.     Women are the past, present and future of the industry. From the invention of the distilling process to the current state of affairs in the scotch industry, women have been highly involved. It is widely believed that women began distilling fermented beverages. Later during prohibition in the United States, women made the best bootleggers. It was inappropriate for a male police officer to frisk or pat-down a woman – so they could easily hide weapons or booze under their skirts. Scotland saw their first female master blender, Rachel Barrie in 1995, though women had been working all along in the industry. From the beginning, they operated bottling lines, worked marketing and occasionally crashed through the glass ceiling to some of the other more male dominated roles. Sailing forth into the 21st century, women run two major whiskey companies and are comfortable at every level. They no longer are perceived as novelties because they are involved in so many aspects of the distilling process.
7.      Bag pipes rock. They just do.

8.       Finally, kilts are sexy. Yup, I must be Scottish after all.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Top 5 Indulgences at West Baden Springs Hotel

Guest Blogger Kristie L Smith

What does Valentine’s Day mean to you? Is it appreciating the love of your life or pining for the one who got away? The reality of this “holiday” celebrated from the first year of school to the last day on the job is that Valentines come in all forms, shapes and sizes. They can be your mom, nephews or your best friend since fifth grade. Your Valentine can even be YOU!  February 14 is merely a yearly reminder to be good to yourself and others you care about.

That being said, here are the top five decadent ways to treat your Valentine – whoever that may be – at West Baden Springs Hotel:

Spa at West Baden
Relish a brief escape with a spa service or two. Lush velvet drapes pool onto the inlaid marble floors and soft light cascades from hand-blown glass sconces – before you even reach the treatment room. Choose from services like aromatherapy massages, facials, wraps and more. According to the readers of Condé Nast Traveler, it’s one of the Top 50 Hotel Spas in the United States.

At Sinclair’s, comfortable wood carved chairs with leather padded seats, intimate booths and stunning etched glass details warm the space between the marble columns and intricately carved mahogany bar. The menu is as inviting as the ambiance with succulent center of the plate cuts of beef, lamb, fish and chicken as well as entrées starring seafood, bison and vegetarian options. You have not fully indulged until tasting the signature chocolate dome dessert!

Extraordinary hors d’oeuvres and scandalously delicious desserts take center plate at our wine tastings and wine and dessert soirées. During these events, the sommelier and chef guide guests on a tour of the palate, introducing wine and savory or wine and sweet pairings in the heady ambiance of the Atrium.
Recalling a pastime of royalty, tea really hits the “spot.”
Appreciate your favorite steeped leaves whether sweet, bitter,
fruited, or herbed, along with classic finger foods, in the Atrium.

In the Atrium, lounge in the green velvet chaise built for two. Gaze dreamily at the center medallion dangling high above and sip a cocktail, daydream or get lost in a good book, like The Great Gatsby. You can see Fitzgerald’s larger than life characters attending a black tie function in the Atrium.

Contact us at 888-936-9360 or frenchlick.com to book your indulgence at West Baden Springs Hotel, awarded a 2013 Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Official Statement from French Lick Resort

French Lick Resort would like to announce that the casino is now fully operational.

Earlier today, the area experienced what we believe to be a power surge and caused our building systems to go offline.

Out of an abundance of caution, we did a thorough review and tested our systems to make sure everything was operating properly.

We are thankful to our guests and appreciate their patience during this interruption.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Minus the Pipes

Guest Blogger Kristie L Smith

The year was 1985 – fall of my junior year in high school. Mrs. Brinkley – a short, stout woman with a stern disposition and hair as black as a raven’s feathers – introduced us. His name was Robbie Burns. We hung out for a while. He was far more pleasant than that Beowulf guy she introduced earlier.

Much celebrated Scottish poet Robert Burns

Robbie’s words were magical. A girl could really fall for him - hard. I remember what he said like it was yesterday O my Luve's like a red, red rose That's newly sprung in June; O my Luve's like the melodie That's sweetly play'd in tune… He was so sophisticated and worldly compared to the boys in my class. Sure, he was older, that probably had something to do with it. He had a certain flair. But red, red roses die, and eventually so did our love.

In college I met Walt Whitman – but for some reason that relationship went nowhere. I didn’t think of Robbie for many years. I married a Ukrainian/Russian biology professor. His colleagues at Grand Valley State University were a good-time bunch. More fun than you might think given one watched birds mate and called it research, one scooped up road kill and called it work and others pretty much fished on Lake Michigan and called it a living. On a frigid west Michigan January night, with snow measured by the foot, my husband and I went to a birthday party thrown by one of his fellow faculty members. It all came flooding back to me. …As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, So deep in luve am I: And I will luve thee still, my dear, Till a' the seas gang dry: This party was for Robbie!
Robert Burns' Tribute Dinner at French Lick Resort

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear, And the rocks melt wi' the sun: I will luve thee still, my dear, While the sands o' life shall run. This shindig was a Burns Day celebration! I didn’t realize it at the time, but a Burns’ Day Dinner really is a “thing.” Many of the traditional earmarks were there – minus the pipes. Bagpipes really are an acquired taste or genetic predisposition.  In a traditional Robert Burns Dinner there is a nine-step ritual that is followed either closely or loosely depending on the host’s level of commitment to the evening.

As I was researching the details of this Scottish tradition, it occurred to me that what I attended was more of a Burns’ “kegger” than an actual Burns’ Day event. Some celebrations to honor Robert Burns are quite formal from dress to venue and everything in between. The gathering we went to, included some speeches, poetry, toasts, scotch and beer. I vaguely remember the haggis, but we only said “‘s’ up” to it instead of the full-on proper address that is required in an actual marking of the anniversary of Burns’ birth. I think the tatties and neeps (potatoes and turnips) were served but I do not recall a dessert. Coffee was absent. At the time coffee seemed to be counter intuitive while drinking scotch and beer.

First celebrated in memoriam in the 18th century by actual friends of Burns, there would be a litany of speeches starting with one to honor the immortal memory of Robbie, himself. Then there would be a toast to the lassies, a reply toast to the laddies – often the lad and lass of distinction would collaborate on this exchange.  Individual guests would read poems by Burns or if from some other country they are encouraged to trot out something from their homeland. I believe my husband read some Pushkin for the party but it was in Russian so who really knows what he said? The speeches and the toasting and the drinking and the singing at a traditional Burns Dinner go on well into the night. That part I remember vividly-ish, along with the poem that tumbled from my lips when it was my turn to honor my old flame, Robbie… And fare thee well, my only Luve And fare thee well, a while! And I will come again, my Luve, Tho' it were ten thousand mile. As practiced for centuries, at the end of the festivities, the host leads all in the singing of Auld Lang Syne, or as we know it in this country, “that song from New Year’s Eve.”

So enamored am I of Robert Burns, the Scottish Bard that I remember him lo these many years later as do millions the world over – both Scottish and non-Scots alike. I invite you to attend a traditional Burns’ Dinner and make memories, like mine, that will last a lifetime.  Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And auld lang syne!