Friday, March 24, 2017

World War Two Vet Meets His Singing Idol

Jesse Parnell During WWII
Jesse Parnell served in WWII, raised four children, and flew with the Indy Honor Flight, so he’s pretty hard to surprise. But when Jesse’s daughter Darlene Parnell heard that Connie Smith would be at the resort, she began making plans. “Dad has listened to country music forever,” Darlene said. “I can remember as a child listening to country songs when we were driving to my grandparents. He just loves it.”
“Connie Smith is his all-time favorite singer,” Darlene said. “Saturday nights on RFD TV, when the Marty Stuart Show comes on and Marty features his country queen – Connie Smith, we can’t even talk with Dad. We have to wait until the show is over. He’s really a fan!”

Jesse Parnell Today
Darlene knew that she had to get tickets to see Marty Stuart and Connie Smith perform at French Lick. She wrote the resort, explaining that after an active life, having served in WWII, raising four children working as a warehouse superintendent in Indianapolis, and flying with the Indy Honor Guard, there was one thing the 91-year-old still hoped to do: meet Connie Smith. French Lick Resort decided to make it a show Jesse would never forget.
Darlene knew ahead of time that Jesse would be meeting Connie but she only told him that they would be attending the concert. “He will be so surprised,” she said. “He’s very happy about going to the concert, he hopes she “sing his favorite song, ‘Once a Day’.”
Jesse finds out he'll meet Connie Smith 

Concert day arrived, cool and drizzly. It was Friday, March 17th - St Patrick’s Day, so the majority of resort guests were sporting green shirts, pants and headgear, Darlene and Jesse included. Jesse was excited but he didn’t suspect a thing.
It wasn’t until Darlene and Jesse went to pick up their tickets that he learned he would get to meet his idol, and get photos taken with her. Jesse was speechless! Darlene said that her dad had never met anyone famous.

Jesse Parnell and Connie Smith
Now he has, and the fact that it was Connie Smith – his all-time favorite singer – well, the look on Jesse’s face says it all: Ain’t We Having Us a Good Time!
By Joy Neighbors

Monday, March 20, 2017

Improvements Make West Baden Shine for 10th Anniversary

West Baden Atrium with New Lights
Spring brings about thoughts of remodeling but when you’re in charge of a large hotel, winter is the more appropriate time for making those formidable changes.

West Baden Springs Hotel Facility Director Ron Walker has had a full plate since January when the hotel began undergoing several restoration projects. The renovation list included new LED lighting in the atrium, more than 700 windows replaced on the second and third floors, the relocation of the fitness center, building a shooting range, and a new wedding venue.

Most guests will notice the atrium is sporting new colored lights. The LED bulbs –146,000 watts of them - were replaced with 120 spot lights, 240 color strip lights and 508 lights – all LEDs. According to Ron, “That will result in an energy savings of 96-percent. It’s just amazing.”

But saving energy isn’t the only positive result from switching out the lights – guests can now enjoy a virtual light show. The dome lights and those surrounding the atrium feature new colors and patterns, and can be adjusted to sync with music; an intriguing option for those holding conferences, celebrations and weddings under the dome.

The West Baden fitness center now has a new home. Once located in the Spa at West Baden, the fitness center moved downstairs to the pool area near the hot tub. According to Ron, “The new location is more efficient and we are adding more equipment to vary it up.” The spa gets a remodel, converting the old fitness room into more treatment rooms for guests.

Replacing Historic Windows
The replacement of more than 700 windows adds to the energy efficiency of the hotel. All of the windows on the second and third floors of the hotel were “taken out and replaced with energy-efficient, double paned Marvin windows,” Ron said. “And all are constructed to be historically accurate- they look exactly like the older windows. That’s a requirement for our historical designation.” Windows were also replaced in meeting rooms throughout the hotel, ending what has been a two-year project.

If you’re into marksmanship, there’s a new game in town. French Lick Resort has a new shooting range located near The Stables. Designed for clay target shooting, the range will open for groups-only later this spring.

Billiards and Bowling Alley Building
And the final project is one that staff and guests alike have anxiously awaited – the refurbishing of the old billiards and bowling alley building located to the west of the formal garden. Plans are underway to turn the structure into a unique venue for weddings. We will keep you updated on the progress in future posts.

By Joy Neighbors

Friday, March 3, 2017

Atrium’s Rookwood Pottery Fireplace Ignites Interest

March is Women's History Month. The first pottery company in America that was founded and managed by a woman played a significant part in the remodeling of West Baden Springs Hotel in 1917.
Hotel owner, Lillian Sinclair was remodeling the hotel in a Greco-Italian theme when she commissioned RookwoodPottery of Cincinnati, Ohio to construct a pottery façade for the massive brick fireplace located in the atrium. Rookwood founder and owner Maria Longworth Nichols Storer had taken years to perfect her American art pottery techniques and her pottery was as functional as it was beautiful. By the turn of the twentieth century, Storer had added “architectural pottery” to her company’s portfolio; perfect for what Sinclair had in mind.
Rookwood Pottery at Carew Tower
William Watts Taylor oversaw Rookwood’s manufacturing of fireplace pottery pieces. The custom designs and installations became derigueur and requests came pouring in from not only Cincinnati, (Carew Tower and Union Terminal are just two examples.) but also from the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, and in New York City where Rookwood fireplace surrounds adorned the Vanderbilt Hotel, Lord & Taylor, and Grand Central Station.
Lillian Sinclair
Lillian Sinclair knew that a custom Rookwood fireplace would be the crowning touch to the new look. She requested a pictorial scene of Springs Valley showing Sprudel, the gnome, featured prominently on the surround, along with an image of the hotel. 

Guests Relax in Front of Rookwood Fireplace
The entire surround measures 19-feet long  and 11-feet high. A branching catalpa tree drapes across the front of the fireplace opening. On the left of the surround, Sprudel sits near a waterfall of healing mineral water; in his hand he holds a ram’s horn full of water and watches over the atrium. On the right side, the hotel can be see off in the distance. 

Fireplace Today
Details of Plants
The fireplace is believed to be the largest that Rookwood ever built, and the surround is estimated to be worth anywhere from $250,000 - $500,000. But hotel management and staff say the surround is such a stunning addition to the atrium that it is simply irreplaceable.

Commemorative Tile Concept Drawing
Now, you can take home your own piece of West Baden with a Rookwood Pottery tile from the West Baden Mercantile Shop, located in the hotel. The tiles highlight four well known images from the fireplace including the hotel's domed exterior and Sprudel, the water gnome. A brief history of the hotel can be found on the back of each tile, which comes in sepia or gray.

By Joy Neighbors

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love is in the Air

Doreen and Joe: Prom 1970
Last autumn Joe and Doreen Trimboli came to the resort to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. Back in 1970, when the couple started dating, they had no idea that it would be almost 40 years before they finally tied the knot. Joe still remembers the first night they met. “I went to a dance at Methodist church. I saw this good-looking girl with green eyes and red hair, and she stole my heart.”
Doreen laughed as she said, “We got along well and we dated – eventually we went to the prom together. But that summer, my family moved away from Mishawaka, Indiana. I lived all around the country, and it wasn’t until 2001 when I came back to take care of my ailing parents, that Joe and I reconnected, with some help.”

Doreen and Joe on heir wedding day
Help came in the form of Joe’s sister, Jenny who was a manager at a mortgage company where Doreen worked. Jenny encouraged Joe to call Doreen, and after some sisterly prodding, he did. “I thought he wanted to apply for a mortgage,” Doreen said, “so I took all of my mortgage forms when I went to meet him. I was totally focused on work, and he had other business in mind.” But things progressed smoothly from there and on November 27, 2006, Joe and Doreen eloped to Las Vegas.

Joe and Doreen at French Lick Resort in November
Last fall, as their tenth anniversary approached, the Trimboli’s decided to do something different. “We wanted to celebrate our 10th, which is 70 years in dog years, someplace special,” Doreen said. Dog years? “We started telling people we were married in dog years since we started so late.”
Joe continued the story, “Doreen and I were looking for a getaway and her brothers suggested French Lick Resort. They had been to a golf tourney during the summer and said how nice it was.” But, Joe was apprehensive at first, “I was a school administrator back in the 1980s and I had seen the hotel when Sheraton owned it,” Joe said. “The place was dilapidated. Doreen and I checked it out on line and it was a very pleasant surprise. I thought I had been everywhere in Indiana, but to find a gem like this was very satisfying.”
French Lick Springs Hotel Lobby
Doreen continued, “From the time we stepped into the lobby (of the French Lick Springs Hotel), it was amazing – there was such attention paid to details – chandelier, gold trim, paintings, it made us feel like we were in Europe. It was very regal, and the staff at the front desk were gracious and knowledgeable.”
Joe agreed, “The hospitality was terrific, and everyone was happy to be there.”
Will it take another milestone event to bring them back? “We absolutely will be back,” Joe said. “In fact, we’ve already discussed it with our families and we’d like to plan a reunion with relatives from Texas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.”
 “We had a marvelous time,” Doreen said. “It would definitely be worth another trip!”
By Joy Neighbors

Friday, February 10, 2017

Photography Weekend Coming in March

West Baden Springs Hotel Photo by Ian McSpadden
Discover how to take better travel photos in just one weekend. French Lick Resort is offering a Photography Weekend, March 17 - 19 with professional photographer, Ian McSpadden. Learn from the tips and tricks he's gathered during his career, take part in several photo shoots and get advice on how to improve your photography skills.
Photographer Ian McSpadden
McSpadden has had a life-long interest in photography. “My dad took photos,” Ian said, “so he was an inspiration to me. I worked in DC for five years traveling around the country and abroad taking photos.” 

In 2007, McSpadden returned home to Southern Indiana and started a photography business. His photos grace the covers of several resort publications including The Destination. McSpadden has also shot major resort events like the Senior PGA Championship, the Porsche Parade and the Concours d'Elegance at French Lick.
In fact, he shoots most of the iconic resort images you see; those photos in ads, magazines, on the website and in the newsletters. He knows the ins and outs of both hotels and can provide valuable insight for shooting throughout the property, and access to some terrific views.

Weekend Details
McSpadden's Photo of a Golfer at Pete Dye
The photography weekend begins with a Friday evening Welcome Reception featuring wine and hors d’oeuvres. Saturday morning kicks off with an introductory class where Ian gets to know participants, their skill levels, and what they would like to accomplish. Other workshops include shooting in and around the resort with a focus on nature and architecture. There is also a sunrise shoot scheduled for Sunday morning high atop the stunning Pete Dye Course. Saturday evening’s lesson on shooting during the “beauty hour” will inspire and impress. Optional critiques are available.

Travel and vacation photos can be a challenge; here are three of Ian’s tips that can make them better. 
Ian’s Tips for Better Travel Photos
Concours d'Elegance at French Lick
1. Shoot during the “Golden Hour.” More often than not, the prettiest light falls an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset.  
2.  Change your perspective.  Not everything has to be from eye level. Lay on the ground, find something to climb up on, do whatever it takes to gain a new perspective on your subject. It’s all about experimenting!
3. Remember the rule of thirds.  This is one of the most fundamental rules in photography and it’s about the way we compose images. Imagine the frame divided into nine equal parts. Two evenly spaced vertical lines and two equally spaced horizontal lines. The subject should be at or near a point where these lines cross.  
Class size is limited to allow for in-depth one-on-one time with McSpadden. Wear comfortable clothing and bring your digital camera. The Photography Weekend is March 17 – 19 at West Baden Springs Hotel. The two-night package starts at $361 per person (double occupancy) and includes the Welcome Reception Friday evening with wine and hors d’oeuvres, and all photography workshops Saturday and Sunday. Reserve your spot at French Lick Resort or call (888) 936-9360.

Ian McSpadden Photography focuses on people, places and events. The company's current work includes editorial and professional portraits, family portraits, weddings and commercial photography. Contact Ian at or (502) 640-9346.

By Joy Neighbors

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Top 5 Reasons French Lick Resort is Your Concert Go-To

   1. More than a concert venue | French Lick Resort isn’t your typical concert arena. Not only do we host our concerts in the resort’s largest event space, our seating and concert experience is intimate and unique. No need to get lost in the shuffle of a large stadium, enjoy a variety of concerts here throughout the year in a welcoming setting   

  2. Complimentary parking | All parking at the resort is free—and you won’t need your car until you leave for home! We have complimentary transportation services 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.   

   3. Variety of genres | Every year we bring a range of talent to our concert series’. This winter/spring, we welcome modern and classic country with Maddie & Tae, Connie Smith, Marty Stuart, Jamey Johnson and we finish the series with jazz, funk and soul with Kool & The Gang. Our Winter/Spring concert series doesn’t end there! We’ll have several more fabulous artists perform throughout the rest of the year.

   4. Close to home | We’re conveniently located in Southern Indiana—an easy drive from Indianapolis and Louisville.

   5. Pre and post-concert plans | At French Lick Resort, there is something everyone can enjoy. Between a selection of dining venues, activities, shopping outlets and breath-taking historic sights to delight in, we have your concert day (or weekend) covered. The fun doesn’t have to stop once the concert is over! Get your game on at French Lick Casino, conveniently connected to French Lick Springs Hotel. Enjoy live weekend entertainment while you play to win big jackpots on slot machines or a progressive jackpot at our table games. Then, grab a late-night bite at our newest dining venue—Casino Park Grill.

       Classic Country legends Marty Stuart and Connie Smith hit the stage in our next concert
Friday, March 17 to kick off our Country Music Weekend.
Jamey Johnson rounds out our Country
 Music Weekend on Saturday, March 18 
with his honky-tonk sound.

      Kool & The Gang ends our Winter/Spring Concert series with their incredible blend
 of jazz, funk and sound on Saturday, April 29. 
  Visit to purchase tickets. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Chocolate Festival: A Sensory Experience

Chocolates to Sample
As Valentine’s Day approaches, thoughts turn (mostly) to love and romance, but this is also THE biggest chocolate weekend of the year. More than 58 million pounds of chocolate are sold during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. That’s $345 million in chocolate sales in just one week! (Annual sales top $83 billion - yes, we do love our chocolate.) 

Chocolate Fudge
At French Lick Resort, we understand your desire to indulge in an exquisite chocolate experience so we are hosting the much anticipated Chocolate Festival, for the ninth year in a row, the weekend before Valentine’s Day. 

Since 2007, chocolate has been savored and celebrated at the resort with a festival that features all kinds of delicious foods created from mild, semi-sweet, dark and intense chocolates. (White chocolate will be featured too, but technically, it isn’t really a chocolate.)

A Chocolate Fountain
The festival will host live demonstrations and tasty confections with samples of brownies, cookies, candies and cupcakes. 

Try your had dipping fruit, pretzels and graham crackers in flowing chocolaty goodness. Your taste buds will be tempted with steamy hot chocolate coffee drinks, fizzy chocolate sodas and an adult beverage bar featuring chocolate wine, beer and martinis. There will also be a Savory Bar where you can experience chocolate dipped meats and veggies. (Chocolate jerky, anyone?)

Chocolate Cookies
Plan to nibble, sip and savor your way through this chocolatey paradise on Saturday, February 11 from 1:00 – 4:00. Tickets are $50 for adults and $20 for children 4-10 years old. (Those 3 years and younger are free with paying adult.) 
A chocolate nirvana awaits.

By Joy Neighbors

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Twins Celebrate 80th Birthday at French Lick Resort

Jan Craig and Ann Wright
Last weekend about a dozen guests threw a spectacular birthday party for twin sisters Jan Craig and Ann Wright as they celebrated their 80th birthday at French Lick Resort.

On January 11, 1937 at St Edwards Catholic Hospital in New Albany Indiana, the twins were born during the 1937 flood. The Main girls, and their mother, were evacuated from the hospital and moved to a relative’s home in Fredericksburg where they stayed for several weeks. (Over one million people were left homeless during the flood with property losses reaching $500 million - $8.7 billion dollars today.)

Flood in Indiana - Filson Historical Photo
According to the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, “In January 1937 one of the largest floods in American history inundated the Ohio River Valley.  Many cities and towns on the Ohio and its tributaries were affected. Louisville and Southern Indiana were among those most devastated.  Torrential rain together with some sleet and freezing rain fell from January 9 to January 23, raising the Ohio River to its highest recorded level.  On January 23 the river at Louisville crested at 51.1 feet, and eventually reached 57.15 feet above flood stage on the upper gauge.”

Jazz Festival
Jan still lives in New Albany, Indiana but Ann now resides in Houston, Texas where she is a nursing director. Both twins remembered the first time they were at the resort. According to Jan, “We attended a jazz concert when we were I.U. students. Dizzy Gillespie and Peter Fountain played and we sat out on the lawn and listened. It was great! Then I came back about two years ago and celebrated my birthday here.”

Dancing Waiter
For Ann, “It was long before the renovations were done. I came with friends and we had a spa and massage. It was a great day away. It was back when the waiters put the trays on their heads – they had such showmanship.”

But coming to French Lick Resort has always been something of a family tradition. “Mom has been coming here for a very long time, since she was about 5-years-old,” Jan said. “Her family drove over from New Albany on Sunday outings. She remembers seeing people sitting on the porch and being told that they were wealthy movie stars.”

1950 Silver Dollar
Ann continued the story, “When our parents came here years ago, they would always tip their servers a silver dollar. Everyone knew them. When mom came back about 10 years ago, she met some of people who had worked here back in the 1950s. She remembered them and was so happy that they were still employed here."

Although the twins can’t always celebrate their birthday together, they try to spend a few days celebrating. “We went to Paris when we turned 50,” Jan said. “Ann called me and said ‘I’m going to Paris for our birthday. Want to come along?’ So I thought for a few minutes and said, ‘Sure.’ We have always enjoyed being together and we try to see each other a couple of times a year. We have the same trend of mind. We buy the same furniture, the same clothes.”

Ann laughs, “And we don’t know what the other one bought; she lives in Indiana and I live in Houston – in fact, I have those shoes, Jan.”
Jan smiled, “We’ve bought the same gift for someone’s birthday. We’ve given the same greeting card to the same person.”

Ann nods, “We even went into the same profession. – We were both nurses” But there was a drawback when Ann had to move to Houston for her job. She remembers it being rough, “It was a difficult move; pulling up those roots … and Jan continues the story, “Because before that we were always close by. I lived in New Albany and she lived in Jeffersonville.” At least for this weekend, the two could celebrate their milestone birthday together with their daughters, grand-daughters and nieces.

The Spa at West Baden Springs Hotel
So what was on the birthday agenda? “Oh we’ll be spontaneous,” Jan said as Ann replied, “The spa and the casino.” Jan nodded, “Okay, and some shopping. Just having everyone together will be fun.” “This group always has fun,” Ann replied. “We’ll just spend time talking and catching up.”

West Baden Springs Hotel
As the two prepared to start their day, Jan remarked, “Turning 80 is special and we wanted a special place to celebrate, so we decided on this special hotel.” Ann smiled, “It’s such a vintage hotel and it has such charm … “ “It reminds me of the hotels in Europe,” Jan continued, “where the service … “ “The service is wonderful and everyone here is always so friendly and attentive,” Ann finished. 

Wishing a Happy Birthday Jan and Ann from all of the staff at French Lick Resort!

By Joy Neighbors

Friday, January 6, 2017

Kitchen Live Events Are Back

They’re back! Let Kitchen Live events add some spice to your weekends this winter. Watch and learn from resort chefs as they chop, mix and work their magic on several delectable dishes. Make plans to attend one or all of the free Kitchen Live events at French Lick Resort.

Chef Paul Owens

January 7th - Chef Paul Owens of French Lick Springs Hotel will demonstrate how to prepare “Beef Wellington.” 

January 14 - Enjoy a “Taste of Italy” when Chef Anthony Barba presents Italian food done right.

Chef Dalyn Roney

January 21 – Chef Dalyn Roney of the French Lick Springs Hotel Bakery will tempt your sweet tooth with “Chocolates and Confections.”

Chef David Lee
January 28 – Chef David Lee of Hagen’s Restaurant will spice up your life with lessons on “Creole Cooking”– namely shrimp and grits.

Chef Michael Stevens
February 4 – What better for the “Month of Love” than a lesson from Chef Michael Stevens in the preparation of “White Chocolate Raviolis with Blackberry Filling and an Almond Sabayon.” 

Chef Ryan West
February 18 – Hola! Take a trip to the home of tapas as Chef Ryan West offers you a “Taste of Spain.”

Chef Jack Chiu

February 25 – Wrap up the Kitchen Live event with information on how to prepare “Hong Kong Style Pepper Steak” with Chef Jack Chiu.

Kitchen Live events take place Saturdays from 1:30 – 3:00 pm at The Grand Colonnade in French Lick Springs Hotel. No registration required. Indulge your inner-foodie and learn just how to up your cooking game.

By Joy Neighbors

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

10 Accomplishments for a Fantastic Year!

Resolutions are great, but we usually give them up after a while. This year, switch it up and decide on accomplishments that will make you happier. Remember, it’s not an “all or nothing” proposition, it’s about creating a more satisfying life for yourself, and others.
1)   Learn Something New
Explore the Library
Now’s the perfect time to visit your local library and check out the latest in books, DVDs and online offerings. Join a book club or attend presentations by speakers on topics you’re interested in. Take an online class and expand your mind.

2)   Get Financially Savvy
Find Financial Opportunities
Decide what financial matters you want to work on now. Look for local college classes or internet courses that will help make sense of the topic. If you’re interested in investing, get a subscription to some of the financial magazines; talk with an investor and start planning what changes to make in your portfolio – or start one.

Indulge in a Mani-Pedi

3)   Pamper Yourself
Indulge in something lavish, just for you.  Splurge on a mani-pedi or treat yourself to a hot caramel mocha when it’s really cold outside. Make a list of what makes you feel special and then indulge a few times a month just because.

4)   Enjoy Life More
Paoli Peaks
New year, new possibilities, that’s why this is the perfect time to try something new. Always wanted to learn to ski? Paoli Peaks is close by. Love pachyderms? Schedule a visit to Wilstem Ranch when the girls are back in town next spring. Want to treat the kids to a surprise? Big Splash Adventure is always a fun excuse to get soaking wet.

5)   Be Healthier
Eat Your Veggies
Select just one healthy alternative and go for it. Nothing big; decide to eat more veggies or drink more water each day. When that becomes a habit, add another healthy option to your life – maybe more walking, or keeping track of your blood pressure. All these little habits will add up to a healthier you.

6)   Help Others
Donate to a Charity
Volunteer. Check with the local humane society and offer to walk dogs and clean cages. Contact your local school and be available to mentor a child. Do that annual New Year’s purge and donate unwanted clothing, furniture and toys to a charity of your choice.

7)   Spend More Time with Those You Love
Take a Family Walk
This is one of the most popular resolutions we make. Plan short outings with the family and enjoy a walk around the park or a ride on the resort trolley. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming to count as quality time. Start looking around and you’ll discover other ways to enjoy being together right where you are.

8)   Travel to New Places
Check out local and state parks in your area for a weekend of fun and exploring. Plan a Girl’s Day Out at the local spa or the newest restaurant. If you haven’t been to French Lick Resort, put us on your bucket list. With two historic hotels, two world-class spas, over a dozen restaurants and plenty of kid-friendly activities, there’s no time like the present to explore all we have to offer. 

9)   Keep the Momentum Going
When you’ve achieved one of your goals, add another. That way, you’ll always have something new and adventurous in your life.

10) Have a Happy New Year!
May 2017 bring you good luck, good health, good fortune and good times!

By Joy Neighbors