Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lack of snow won't slow Opryland hotel's winter show

Rain and warmer weather have slowed the accumulation of machine-made snow that's to be part of Gaylord Opryland's grand reopening holiday sales blitz this week, but no one seems too stressed out about it after six months of costly flood recovery efforts.
The hotel will go ahead with its Christmas decorations and tree-lighting ceremony this evening regardless.

"No matter what happens with the weather, the show will go on," said director of special events Ken Groneck, who is overseeing holiday preparations. Those include a relentless effort to keep churning out 130 tons of snow per day to cover an outdoor children's play area called "SNOW!" debuting this weekend.

Two million Christmas lights strung outdoors on trees and shrubs will be lit with a flick of a switch at 6 tonight as part of the annual lighting ceremony. The Rockettes dance troupe will perform at the public event.

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Already, guests are filling the repaired hotel, which was closed for a half a year after the early May flood.

Elaine and Bob Mason, a couple from Toronto, have visited two or three times before and secured an eight-day reservation for the opening as soon as Gaylord announced the reopening dates.

"We come here because it's such a unique place, the service is great and we like to catch the shows at the Grand Ole Opry ," Elaine Mason said. "It's a little more modern now but still beautiful."

Many of the guests wandering through Gaylord's signature atriums filled with newly planted foliage, potted poinsettias and 200,000 Christmas lights were equally enthusiastic, although 9-year-old Reese Phinney, who lives in Franklin and was visiting the hotel with her parents and relatives from Belgium, had a single complaint.

"There's not as many fish," she said, referring to a man-made waterway snaking through the hotel's interior.

Business is brisk

Early business is brisk among paying customers and guests, though.

The hotel's 2,881 rooms are sold out beginning Friday for advertised holiday events, including the SNOW! exhibit, according to Jenny Barker, public relations director at the hotel.

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