Opryland knows how to party

by Brian Jewell 20. November 2010 19:41

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.

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Nashville, baby!

Opryland's double celebration

by Brian Jewell 19. November 2010 07:28

Opryland -- and Nashville along with it -- is back, and in a big way.

When flook waters ripped through the streets of downtown Nashville in early May, residents and business owners alike were floored. Never in recorded history had Nashville seen an inundation like this; a friend from the CVB today told me that it was a "500 year flood" -- the kind of event that takes place only twice a millenium.

The flood destroyed numerous homes, ruined the ground floor of the sparkling new Schermerhorn Symphony Center, and devestated the Gaylord Opryland Resort, a Nashville landmark that is one of the most iconic hotels in the country. Reports from that day say that there were up to eight feet of standing water in the hotel's garden atriums. Observers recall seeing armchairs and other lobby furniture floating in the middle of the building.

Now six months and $200 million later, the Opryland is in the middle of a grand reopening... and in this case, it is grand indeed. I arrived today to a sparkling new hotel, with completely redesigned public areas, re-imagined restaurants, re-cultivated indoor landscapes and a completely re-invigorated staff.  From the valets to the front desk managers, banquet servers, sales staff and even the folks stationed throughout the complex to help visitors find their way around, there is a palpable sense of excitement and pride.

The hotel opened to its first guest Monday, and will celebrate its official grand opening tomorrow night. But the party started tonight, with the lighting ceremony that kicks of A Country Christmas, the 27th annual instalment of the Opryland's signature holiday festival. To say that the ceremony was a spectacle would be an understatement: This outdoor show featured a live band, a full lineup of Rockettes, a performance by Louise Mandrell and a rousing fireworks finale. The event also included the illumination of the resort's brand-new Christmas lights.

"In July, we had to buy 2 million new lights, because our old ones had a little bit of water damage," joked general manager Peter Weien.

The illumination was attended by dignitaries, journalists, and hundreds of Nashville locals. For Nashvillians, and for all of us who treasure the tourism industry, it was a dual celebration: Christmas is coming, and Music City is back in business.








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