By Brian Jewell
Any time is a good time to get away to America’s great resorts. But during certain special occasions, some resort properties pull out all the stops and host special events that elevate the visitor experience to the next level.
For festivals and events, resorts take advantage of their spacious grounds and expert staffs to create memorable meals, fun activities and a variety of special entertainment options. In many ways, special events showcase the very best of the properties that produce them.
Around the country, resort events take place at different times of year, highlighting the strengths of the surrounding destinations. The Fourth of July and other summer holidays include a waterfront fireworks show at Chateau on the Lake in Branson, Mo., while Nemacolin Woodlands Resort celebrates chili, beer and other goodies in the summer and fall.
During the holidays, Gaylord Opryland throws a Christmas party with Nashville star power, and Keystone Resort in Vail, Colo., makes the most of the area’s culinary talent for a food bash at the end of the winter season.
Next time you plan a resort getaway for your group, consider timing it to coincide with one of these great festivals and events.
Chateau on the Lake
A series of annual events on national holidays take place at Chateau on the Lake, a waterfront woodland resort. Miles away from the lights and music of Branson’s entertainment district, this four-star property makes summer and winter events memorable for both hotel guests and visiting locals.
“We have a fantastic Fourth of July celebration,” said director of catering Angela Davis. “We do carriage rides around the property in a horse-drawn carriage. There are all kinds of activities in the pool, a huge outdoor barbecue with a big-top tent and a backyard barbecue with tons of Southern food. At the end of the night, there’s an outrageous fireworks display over the lake.”
Although Independence Day is the largest of the summer celebrations, Chateau puts on similar events for Memorial Day and Labor Day. In addition to attending the barbecues and fireworks shows, guests can take advantage of the summer weather to hike on the property’s trails or take free canoe and kayak excursions out on Table Rock Lake.
For Thanksgiving, the resort’s catering team puts on a feast of grand proportions.
“Our Thanksgiving brunch is so large that we turn our 32,000-square-foot great hall into a restaurant, with buffets wrapped around a baby grand piano and entertainment,” Davis said. “We have a seafood bar with crab legs, oysters on the half shell, shrimp cocktail, soups and salads.
“There’s a traditional Thanksgiving feast with turkey, ham and rack of lamb, and we have a pumpkin-themed dessert bar.”
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
In the mountains outside of Pittsburgh, the five-star Nemacolin Woodlands Resort hosts a special event for each season of the year; the events focus on a variety of themes, from outdoor sports to chili and craft beer. It all starts with Winterfest.
“Winterfest focuses on winter sports — some that people are familiar with and some that they’re not,” said Zelma Kassimer, the resort’s media relations manager. “It starts with a snow-melt party on a Saturday evening with a reggae band. There are ice-carving demonstrations, a polar bear plunge in one of our ponds and a polar bear golf classic where they play nine holes.”
In one popular Winterfest activity, called the Out Cold Party, participants ski down a hill with a stein of beer to see who has the most liquid left at the end of the run. Beer also takes center stage during the Spring BrewFest, an event that highlights craft beers from regional breweries.
June brings Nemacolin’s largest event: the Mountain Madness Five-Alarm Chili Festival.
“It’s an International Chili Society-sanctioned event,” Kassimer said. “It’s a very serious competition, with 40 chili teams that travel from all over the country. Last year, the winner went directly to the world competition.”
Hotel guests and other visitors can taste chili for $5 per person, with all proceeds going to support the local volunteer fire department. The chili festival also includes beer tasting and adventure sports elements, with a climbing wall, a ropes course and a zip line.