While leaders at Gaylord Opyland Resort & Convention Center seemed to say it all weekend, the statement “Something Greater, Something Gaylord” no doubt is true. Yes you can see the detailed renovations all throughout the enormous resort, but the renewed energy in the employees and guests during the three-day grand reopening ceremony was truly something you had to experience. Just six months after being devastated by the Nashville floods, the resort not only opened for business (thanks to tireless efforts & a $270 million dollar renovation), but they threw one heck of a weekend bash!
Festivities kicked off Thursday night with the grandest of lighting ceremonies. As a child, coming to the hotel for Christmas was a family tradition but I’m not sure I have felt as filled with child like spirit as I did this week. My heart pounded, my eyes sparkled and my smile was permanent as I sat front row. Thousands gathered at the Magnolia entrance for performances from Louise Mandrell, the Radio City Rockettes and Santa himself. An awesome firework show and pyrotechnics lit the resort like never before. It was indeed quite the production featuring a montage of all of there “Country Christmas” offerings. Special guests and VIPS were paraded to the lighting ceremony with a special “12 Days of Christmas” presentation, which featured live performers (jugglers, hula hoopers, dancers) representing elements of the song.
Following the ceremony, country stars Trace Adkins & Craig Morgan performed a benefit concert. The “Greater Together” concert showcased carnivalesque tents, games and food and benefited Hands on Nashville, the Nashville Area Chapter of the American Red Cross and Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee.
Day two, I participated in a guided tour of the hotel’s renovations with Senior VP & GM Pete Weien. The tour showcased the redesigned Cascades lobby and new restaurants/bars (Ravello, Solario, The Falls, Conservatory Bar). We dined at Solario (authentic Mexican) and had the best tableside guacamole ever.
Next we went to Winter Wonderland where we made Gingerbread houses, visited the Holidays Craft Show and the Hall of Trees (60 decorated trees that raise money for charities in and around Middle Tennessee). Next stop, Ice! This years hand-carved, 2 million pounds of ice is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town and it may be my favorite display yet!
Later Friday night, rather than hosting a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony Gaylord Entertainment put on a grand reopening ceremony in the Delta Atrium amazing the crowd with dancers hanging by wires, aerial performers, fire blowers, indoor fireworks and pyrotechnics.
A special group of business planners and media were then invited to a private dinner and concert with country superstar Keith Urban. He walked through the crowd and even gave me a high five! A highlight of his performance was when he sang Making Memories of Us followed by Meet Me in the Middle, his band members all took turns singing as well.
Saturday’s festivities kicked off with a special luncheon with none other than celebrity chef Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-ins and Dives). The chef boasted about eating Prince’s Hot Chicken at 4AM and scoring a cast iron skillet from the legendary joint. He also mentioned being pals with rockers Kings of Leon and trying to take them to Martin’s Barbeque (which I’ve never even heard of). Now I know what’s next on my list for lunch.
The evening wrapped up with dinner samplings from each of the restaurants (of course my favorite is Old Hickory Steakhouse where the maître d’fromage had the best cheese and wine pairings). Multi-Grammy award winner Sheryl Crow closed out the weekend festivities with one heck of a performance.
Congrats to the staff for pulling through and throwing an incredible grand reopening. You are back and greater than ever! PS: I’m ready to move in anytime! I hope to come back soon and check out the new attraction, Snow! featuring live reindeer, a snow maze, snowball throwing range and more! “A Country Christmas” celebration continues through Jan. 2