In perhaps the biggest party ever thrown at one of their hotels, the Gaylord staff staged a massive celebration last night to officially mark the grand reopening of the Opryland Resort.
My day started with a tour of the hotel lead by general manager Pete Weien, who told a group of journalists stories about the evacuation of the hotel during the flooding of May 2-3, the physical damage to the property and the ensuing six-month effort to reopen Opryland. The story is nothing short of incredible -- as we walked along, Pete pointed out the high water marks in different sections of the property. Most of the time, they were far above our heads, some eight to 10 feet above the ground level.
But It wasn't a day for mourning losses: The tour was intended to highlight the new improvements made to the hotel since the flood, which came to well over $200 million. Then last night before dinner, the real party began. Gaylord gathered around 1,200 meeting planners, tour operators, journalists, dignitaries and other VIPs for a reopening ceremony that featured not only a speech from the company's CEO, but also a stunning show. The spectacle featured a full orchestra in white coat tails, a gospel choir, cirque-style aerial acrobatics, a parade of employees and a breathtaking indoor fireworks display, all of which took place in the center of the hotel's Delta atrium.
After the ceremony, we all proceeded to a gala dinner in the convention center, featuring bone-in filet mignon and other house specialties. The evening ended with a 90-minute concert by Keith Urban, a country music superstar who rocked the crowd full of suits and cocktail dresses. At one point, Urban left the stage and walked out into the audience, then proceeded jump up and perform a song from atop one of the banquet tables.
Throughout the room, there was a pervasive sense of glee -- not just because the party was grand, but because it marked a triumph of camaraderie, hard work, and capitalism over a devastating natural disaster. Now at the end of 2010, it's good to be Gaylord; this weekend, it's great to be an Opryland guest.
General manager Pete Weien leads a tour of the newly renovated Opryland Resort.
The Gaylord Opryland Symphony Orchestra.
A gospel choir celebrates Nashville's recovery.
Aerial acrobats potrayed Opryland's service staff.
Beginning of an indoor fireworks finale.
A pyrotechnic finish.
Keith Urban performs.
Table-top serenade, with a light-up guitar.
Keith Urban wows the crowd with his guitar chops.