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.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Riley Hospital for Children Patient Finds New Passion and Hope Through the Game of Golf

Braden Tamosaitis gets a few tips
from defending champion Lorie Kane.  
Braden Tamosaitis got to roll some putts on the Pete Dye Course on Saturday and also meet many of the players competing in the second round of the LPGA Legends Championship at French Lick Resort.

Braden, age 9, enjoyed the experience thoroughly and the players he touched most certainly did, as well.

“He’s a special little kid,’’ summed up Dave Harner, director of golf at French Lick.

Braden was born with spina bifida, hydrocephalus and Arnold Chiari II malformation. He underwent surgery the day after he was born and again on the second day of his life. Altogether he’s had 17 surgeries, but they haven’t dimmed his spirit for life. He was delighted to report that a couple of putts on the practice green even found the hole.

“He’s a very happy kid, and a better interview than I am,’’ said his father, Kevin, who drove his family over two hours (from Camby, Ind., near Indianapolis) on Friday night so that they could participate in Saturday’s Walk for Riley while the Legends tournament was in progress.

Riley Children’s Foundation is the new charity partner with the Legends Championship. Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health will received a check for $100,000 following Sunday’s final round to continue its work with families dealing with severe health problems.

“French Lick really stepped up,’’ said Kevin Tamosaitis. “We’ve been welcomed with open arms and treated like VIPs.’’

Emcee Steve Rondinaro announces
Sherri Steinhauer at the first tee.  
Harner said Riley Children’s Foundation’s involvement developed because `we wanted something everyone in Indiana could identify with and be a part of.’’ 

Harner knew of Braden and the Riley Hospital programs because his own son was involved in the Riley Dance Marathon at Indiana University.

“Riley affects all 92 counties in the state of Indiana plus Kentucky, Illinois and Ohio,’’ said Joe Vezzoso, vice president of hotel operations for French Lick Resort. “This is a win-win for everyone.’’

The Tamosaitis family isn’t new to the special events tied into Riley Hospital. Braden was named Indiana’s 2013 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion, and that enabled him to represent the state in a celebratory event in Orlando, Fla., and then take a flight to Washington, D.C., where – among other things -- he met with President Obama.

Braden’s battle with spina bifida, though, continues. He watched Saturday’s event from a wheelchair near the No. 8 tee where he was presented by the French Lick Resort golf staff with his first two golf clubs, cut down allowing him to hit shots and putt.

More surgeries at Riley Hospital wouldn’t be unexpected.

“He looks forward to them,’’ said his father, “because he gets room service and his friends are there, both patients and doctors.  He’s very comfortable there. It’s not like a home-away-from-home; it’s like our other home.’’

Five families from Riley Hospital participated in Saturday’s Walk. They were scattered around the course, and those participating in the Walk got to interact with the Riley families. That made the Walk all the more special for over 75 youngsters who came from all parts of the area.

“The First Tee of Louisville brought 35 kids,’’ said Harner. “We had them from three years old through high school.’’

Walk participants and the Riley Hospital families participated together in an introductory event on the Dye Course putting green, with two of the LPGA competitors – Lorie Kane and Ann-Marie Palli – offered instruction.  Then the families went to checkpoints along the course and the Walk for Riley participants took off on a tour of the spectacular, hilly course. They received stickers at each checkpoint and those who covered the full 18 holes received a small gift upon completion of the hike.

Story provided by Len Ziehm  - Chicago based freelance golf writer

Media can access photos and video highlights of Braden on the FTP site below:



Friday, August 15, 2014

She mentors me; she mentors me not


Guest Blogger Kristie L Smith

An ordinary photo-op on a frigid day in not quite mid-March introduced two women who might otherwise never have met. Rosie Jones, professional golfer and Ashtyn Brown, University of Indianapolis women’s golf team member and two-time cancer survivor met during the media event held at Riley Hospital for Children. The occasion was to announce the collaboration of Riley, The Legends of women’s golf and French Lick Resort, but another relationship was formed and the linksters became fast friends. According to Ashtyn, the eight-time Solheim Cup participant with 13 LPGA tour wins is “warm, welcoming easy to talk to and chat with.”  

Big check photo op with Old National Bank, Resort Charities, Inc. & Riley Children's Hospital

Welcome to their mutual admiration society. Struck by Ashtyn’s resilience Rosie says, “She’s seen more than most kids her age. She speaks from the heart and she speaks the truth. I really respect that.” Ashtyn is an excellent spokesperson. She believes in Riley and what they have done for her and others. She has a “calm strength about her.” But their friendship isn’t just about golf.

Rosie admits she has learned a lot from Ashtyn. “She has a strength and ability to look forward and beyond her challenges. She will win the battle [whatever that clash may be] that’s fun to see in her.” Rosie believes that golf has been a “healing grace” for Ashtyn. She thinks the opportunity to bond with others through competition, while building supportive friendships and creating memories outside of a treatment center, has helped Ashtyn “become strong in mind and body.” After hearing Ashtyn’s story, Rosie was touched. It’s personal for her because her partner is facing a second encounter with the disease. Ashtyn’s narrative gave Rosie insight into the non-medical tool-kit and strength needed to persevere.
Fast Friends: Rosie Jones and Ashtyn Brown 
When asked who would win when the two get around to playing a round, Ashtyn teased, “I think she can take me.” She continued, “Rosie has an incredible mental game and my mental game needs work. I’m already practicing differently. She’s not too hard on herself and that’s something that I would love to learn.” Ashtyn, from her home in Indianapolis and Rosie, who is based in Atlanta, mostly communicate by text and email.

Rosie Jones and Ashtyn Brown are both strong women and positive role models. Respected, welcoming, open and shepherding others on their journey. When it comes to these two, it’s hard to tell who is mentor and who is being mentored.

See Rosie and Ashtyn at The Legends Tournament at French Lick Resort August 15 - 17, 2014.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Kindred Spirits: Classic American Resort and Classic Cars

West Baden Springs Hotel abandoned

To use car terminology, West Baden Springs Hotel was a "barn find." A once glorious lady who became a shadow of herself following years of decay. Abandoned. Vulnerable to the elements. Unsure if she would ever be saved from extinction.

Magnificent West Baden Springs Hotel
Until an entrepreneur and consummate preservationist fell in love and saved the National Historic  Landmark.

Like anyone who has restored a classic car, the Cook family couldn’t learn enough about their new find. They spent countless hours trying to find out about the people who built and owned the hotel, the guests who visited and its subsequent lives as a Jesuit seminary and a private college.

Unfortunately, no architectural drawings of the hotel were located, but numerous photos provided the “blueprint” for the painstaking restoration. 22,000 pound towers were re-created and returned to their rightful perch, flanking what was once the world’s largest dome. Modern amenities were added while still maintaining the historic integrity and lavish guestrooms were designed to accommodate today’s discerning traveler. It would take $90 million to revive the classic beauty.

But the work didn’t end there; a top-to-bottom rehab was also done on French Lick Springs Hotel, once a competitor hotel but now under the French Lick Resort collection. Before it was all over, a 1917 designed golf    course would be converted back to its original design, a PGA championship worthy course would be added, a full-service casino would bring gaming back to the resort town (legal this time) and an event center would be added to host large-scale groups. In all, $560 million was spent to complete the “Save of the Century” as it has been dubbed.

Interestingly enough, it’s classic car groups who have been driving business to the resort. Auto preservationists can appreciate the comeback story and love the vintage appeal of the resort as a backdrop for their beauty.

Model A Restorers Club of America
Annual Conference June 2014
 MG 2014--- North American MGB
Register Convention
June 2014 
International Hudson Meet
July 2014
It’s not an uncommon sight to see Model A’s lining up outside of the hotels, MGs touring the back roads of southern Indiana or Hudsons parked as far as the eye can see. This trio of national car club events, which all happened within a five week span this summer, are just the tip of the iceberg. More events are already on the books - like the Porsche Parade in June 2015.

2014 Best of Show winners
Richard & Irina Mitchell
The resort will also be hosting the illustrious Concours d’Elegance at French Lick this fall. Formerly known as the Louisville Concours d’Elegance, the celebration of automotive excellence is on pace to become one of the top Concours in the country. This year, cars valued at well over $100 million dollars will grace the show field with Shelby American and classic cars from Indiana as the featured marques.

Rare cars like Carroll Shelby's
personal driver will be on display
during the Concours d'Elegance
at French Lick
Rarest of the rare cars from personal collections, well-heeled judges and a full weekend of activities will make the 2014 Concours d’Elegance at French Lick Resort an event to remember.   
It’s no wonder classic cars flock to this classic American resort; they’re kindred spirits - saved from extinction, lovingly restored and preserved for the future.