Page 1









Hold your own event at The Cove. The picturesque surroundings of The Cove provide the ideal year-round backdrop for your next Christian conference, retreat, or

ministry event. Our gracious accommodations, delicious meals, distinctive meeting spaces, and exceptional service combine to provide an atmosphere free of distractions where your group can relax, renew, and refocus through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Call our Guest Group sales team at 1-800-950-2092 to discover how we can help make your event one that is both memorable and impactful. 458-Seat and 119-Seat Auditoriums • 14 Additional Meeting and Breakout Rooms • Warm and Inviting Guest Rooms Complete Audio and Visual Capabilities • 24-Hour Complimentary Beverages • Delicious Cuisine

A ministry of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

©2016 BGEA

“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” —1 CHRONICLES 16:11, ESV

Powerful story. . e c n e i r e p x e g n i t Las


—Psalm 145:4, NKJV


the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., and discover how God called a humble farmer’s son to preach the Good News of His love to 215 million people face to face. Retrace his dynamic journey as history comes to life through inspiring multimedia presentations and state-of-the-art exhibits. FREE ADMISSION Monday to Saturday, 9:30–5:00 • • 704-401-3200 Reservations are required for groups of 10 or more; email or call 704-401-3270. 4330 Westmont Drive • Charlotte, North Carolina A ministry of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

©2016 BGEA



[ SPRING 2017 ]

16 20 24

Smoky Mountain Comeback

Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are open for business.

A Texas Adventure

Dinner & A Show

Dallas and Fort Worth anchor this Lone Star itinerary.

Dinner theaters are perennially popular with groups.

DEPARTMENTS Columns 6 EDITOR’S NOTES: “I get to do this!”

ON THE COVER: The daily cattle drive demonstration is a highlight of a visit to the stockyards in Fort Worth. Photo by Kay Dadfar




10 HOW TO: Plan Youth Group Trips

12 PROFILE: Jim and Marsha Booker

8 GOING ON FAITH hosting FAM tour to Ark Encounter, Creation Museum and more faithbased sites in Kentucky



30 Made in the South 34 Southern Girlfriend Getaways 37 Southern Parklands

14 INTERNATIONAL: Samaria, Israel

Mac T. Lacy Founder and Publisher

Brian Jewell Executive Editor

Eliza Myers Online Editor

Charles A. Presley Partner

Herb Sparrow Senior Writer

Christine Clough Copy Editor

Donia Simmons Creative Director

Ashley Ricks Circulation

Savannah Osbourn Staff Writer

Stacey Bowman Account Manager

Going On Faith is published quarterly by THE GROUP TRAVEL LEADER, Inc., 301 East High Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40507, and is distributed free of charge to qualified group leaders who plan travel for churches, synagogues and religious organizations. All other travel suppliers, including tour operators, destinations, attractions, transportation companies, hotels, restaurants, and other travel-related companies, may subscribe to Going On Faith by sending a check for $39 for one year to: Going On Faith, Circulation Department, 301 East High Street, Lexington, KY 40507. Phone: (859) 253-0455 or (859) 253-0503. Copyright THE GROUP TRAVEL LEADER, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of editorial or graphic content in any manner without the written consent of the publisher is prohibited.

We’d like to be your custom publishing partner. The Group Travel Leader Inc has two decades of expertise in working with industry partners to produce stunning print pieces. We write, design, sell, and mail your finished magazine. You’ll be surprised by how easy and affordable it can be.




K E L LY @ G R O U P T R AV E L L E A D E R . C O M





hen was the last time you looked at your church’s travel program and said to yourself “I can’t believe I get to do this? We all have our reasons for the things we do to serve our faith communities. You might be a pastor or a staff member whose job description includes leading various groups on trips. Perhaps you’re a volunteer who is passionate about a certain ministry area or age group, and you spend time with those people to help encourage them in their faith. Or maybe you simply love travel and believe that it can have a positive impact on the lives of your group members and your church as a whole. Whatever your reason for serving, your involvement in church activities comes at a cost. You sacrifice your time and your talent to help give others great experiences. There are hassles that come up along the way and, perhaps, elements of the work that aren’t always your favorite part. But I also hope that in the midst of the work you find joy. One of the things I love about my church here in Lexington, Kentucky, is that the leaders encourage people to get involved and serve in areas where they are most talented and where they find the most enjoyment. There’s no pressure, no guilt trips and no begging people to help in an area of the church that isn’t a good fit for their personalities. When you do something you love, that you’re good at and that makes a positive impact in the lives of others, it’s one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences in church life. Though there are moments of challenge

along the way, the difficulties always seem small in light of the blessings that they lead to. Recently, my church held an after-hours party for volunteers. It was a fun-filled event complete with catering, entertainment and awards. The whole point was to thank the 100 or so people who work hard each week to help in areas such as parking, greeting, child care, hospitality and worship. I loved taking an evening to connect with other people who serve in the church and to celebrate what we have accomplished together. During this party, our pastor took a few minutes to share some stories and testimonies about how our work has affected the lives of church members, visitors and the community over the past year. Throughout this short message, he hammered this point home over and over: “I get to do this!” That message resonated with me, and I hope it means something to you, too. We get to do this, and it’s an honor. As a church travel planner, you get to take people to places around the country and throughout the world that they never thought they would see. You get to help make people’s travel dreams come true. You get to facilitate new friendships and create opportunities for people to connect and build community in ways they can’t at home. And if you’re intentional about it, you can make a difference in someone’s spiritual life. Next time you’re out on the road with travelers from your church, stop for a minute to survey the scene, appreciate the beauty of the moment and give thanks for the privilege. You get to do this, and it’s awesome.



going on faith [ spring 2017 ]

GOING ON FAITH SPEAKER TO SHARE POWERFUL STORY he Going On Faith Conference always presents interesting and encouraging speakers for delegates to enjoy. This year’s conference, scheduled for August 22-24 in the Amish region of Holmes County, Ohio, will offer an inspirational speaker with a remarkable story. Professional speaker and award-winning author Rob Quillen from Omaha, Nebraska, will address the conference. His message, in a nutshell, is about how to change our lives by changing the lives of others. In a talk that follows the GOING ON FAITH theme of his first book, “Why CONFERENCE Wait?,” Quillen conveys the importance of making the dreams of PREVIEW others come true. While aboard a commercial ROB QUILLEN flight bound for Newark, New Jersey, the night before the tragic events of 9/11, Rob Quillen had a remarkable and coincidental encounter with a stranger in the seat next to him. That man profoundly changed Quillen’s life and the lives of countless others, forever. “Every time I talk about this I get emotional,” Quillen told Going On Faith Magazine in a pre-conference interview. “I don’t usually talk to anyone on a plane, but during our flight together, for some reason, the man told me about a dream he had for his 15-year-old son.” Quillen explained further details about the chance encounter but asked that they not be shared yet with the Going On Faith Conference delegates until he addresses them in person in August. Quillen says he was encouraged to write a book about his experience. “I was urged to talk about what I learned from the events of 9/11,” said Quillen. “So I wrote ‘Why Wait?’” All proceeds from the book go back to a foundation Quillen is part of. “In my speech, I challenge people to use the abilities they have to make others’ dreams come true today, and why we wait until it is too late,” Quillen said. Quillen does not describe himself as a motivational speaker. He says some of those professionals are only out to make a buck and often preach messages about helping yourself to get better today. “That’s not the point of this. Instead, why don’t we take today and make somebody else better?” Quillen says he speaks often to young audiences and asks them to think about the two most important days in their lives. One is the day they were born, he says. The other is the day they will figure out why they were born. “For me, it took the tragic events of 9/11 to figure out why I am even here,” he said. “I am here to tell, teach and show everybody that life isn’t about us but about making a difference in somebody else’s life.” Quillen has taken his message to audiences around the country and the globe and has been featured in many dozens of broadcast and print media stories.


With our hearts we welcome you.

Host for 2017 Going on Faith Conference Share our heritage. Share our beauty.


going on faith [ ]


JOIN US FOR A TRIP TO KENTUCKY IN JUNE. Have you always wanted to visit the Creation Museum, the Ark Encounter and other faith-based attractions in Kentucky? Are you looking for ways to learn more about trip possibilities in the Bluegrass State and have a great time doing it? Do you have a few days to see Kentucky firsthand in June? Would you KENTUCKY FAM like to spend a few days with executive staff of The Group Travel Leader magazine while you’re at it? Kentucky Department of Travel is inviting up to 15 of our travel planner readers to enjoy a four-day site inspection trip in northern and central Kentucky, June 11-14. Qualified travel planners will be guests of the Kentucky tourism staff and will enjoy tours of the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky; Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg; and beautiful, historic churches in Bardstown. “Join The Group Travel Leader’s executive editor, Brian Jewell, and Stacey Bowman, our director of advertising sales, for this fun and educational site inspection trip to see Kentucky’s best The Ark Encounter faith-based attractions.” said publisher Mac Lacy. “Brian and Stacey will accompany our Kentucky hosts on this trip and will be sharing their travel experiences with everyone in attendance. “Brian and Stacey will be highlighting the trip in real time on social media, and Brian will write an article on this tour for publication in The Group Travel Leader magazine,” said Lacy. “Tour participants will have the opportunity to share their impressions and experiences about Kentucky with our staff and meet some wonderful hosts from the state. The trip will begin at the Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky International Airport. All accommodations, sightseeing, transportation and meals are included once participants arrive in Kentucky. No travel expenses to and from Kentucky will be reimbursed. This readership event and site inspection tour is limited to 15 qualified travel planners. Participants will complete a brief travel profile that will be used by Kentucky tourism staff to select attendees. To submit your travel profile and We’re not just any small town. We’re the most request a spot on this exciting trip, go to beautiful small town in America, according to Rand McNally and USA Today. Since 1770, spiritual seekers and fill out your profile online. To inquire by have journeyed to Kentucky’s Holy Land. Whether phone or to ask a question, call us toll-free you’re visiting the home of Trappist Monks or the oldest at 888-253-0455 and ask for Stacey. Catholic cathedral west of the Allegheny Mountains, Registration for this complimentary site you’re sure to stand amazed in the presence of inspection trip in Kentucky closes April 21, Bardstown’s centuries-old religious heritage. 800.638.4877 so don’t delay.



going on faith [ spring 2017 ]

You are invited to experience

Kentucky’s Spiritual Adventures Fam!




Begin your journey in Northern Kentucky, home to some of our newest faith-based destinations. Discover family-friendly amenities like our world-class aquarium where you can have personal encounters with ocean creatures in a million gallons of fun and end the day with a relaxing cruise along the river.

See for yourself why this town was named one of Rand McNally’s and USA Today’s Most Beautiful Small Towns in America. Visit the southern mansion that so inspired songwriter Stephen Foster that he wrote a ballad about it and then, attend an evening musical in the nearby amphitheater featuring his timeless classics.

DAY 2 Start the day by engaging your imagination while exploring biblical history.   See the largest timber-framed building in the world detailing Noah’s life and much more.  Then, journey to a peaceful and tranquil setting on 3,000 acres of countryside to learn of the spiritual history of a religious order set among tastefully restored buildings.

DAY 4 End your visit with tours of the first Catholic Church west of the Alleghenies, a Trappist monastery to learn about a monk’s daily life and one of the oldest religious communities of women in the United States on their working farm. *Itinerary subject to change

REGISTER AT The fam tour is limited to the guests notified (one per company) and is non-transferrable. Accommodations, meals, admission on the itinerary and in-tour transportation are included. Travel to/from Kentucky and incidentals are the responsibility of the guest.








he students in your church have been looking forward to this trip for six months, and you are in charge of planning it and executing it properly. You need to make sure that the group arrives at the destination on time, stays safe, learns some things and generally has a great time. And you must do it all in a way that is cost effective. Are you up for the challenge? Youth group trips come with high expectations and their own logistical challenges. If you’re a youth pastor, you might have a firm grasp on how to lead and inspire your kids, but little experience in coordinating travel logistics. And if you’re an experienced travel planner tasked with putting together a trip for the youth, the needs of these groups are likely to be quite different than what you’re used to. Here are 10 tips, gathered from veteran youth pastors and travel planners, that will give you a leg up on planning and executing safe, fun and memorable youth-group trips

going on faith [ spring 2017 ]

IDENTIFY YOUR “WHY.” Though they may be aimed at the same audience, not all types of youth group trips are created equal. Youth might travel on choir performance trips, retreats, summer camps, mission trips and more, and each of these types of trips comes with its own purpose and objectives. Before you begin planning a trip, make sure you understand why this trip is taking place, what the key parameters are and what the ultimate ministry objectives should be. Then make sure everyone involved — including parents, volunteers and even students — is on board with this purpose.


SET PARTICIPATION RULES. If you have identified your “why,” you should have a clearer understanding of who should and should not come on this trip. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches by setting participation rules up front. That will probably include the ages of travelers, but it might also have to do with whether students need to be members or regular churchgoers to attend. Trips can be great opportunities to introduce newcomers to the youth group community, but some experienced youth leaders recommend having a “three-time rule” that encourages newcomers to attend three regular youth group meetings before participating in special trips.


RECRUIT GREAT VOLUNTEERS. Student travelers require a lot more supervision and attention than adult travelers do, so having some great volunteers come along will be crucial to the success of the trip. This goes beyond finding “chaperones”; ideal volunteers are adults who enjoy spending time with teenagers, don’t mind getting dirty and make good role models for the impressionable young people with whom they will be spending time. Sometimes these volunteers will be parents, but there might be other people in your congregation who have a lot to offer as well.


DIVIDE AND CONQUER. Running all the logistics of a trip and then socializing, supervising and teaching at the same time may be too much for even the best group leader. With the right adult volunteers in place, you can delegate responsibilities to adults who can focus on specific areas of logistics, supervision or ministry, leaving you free to do the things you do best. In addition to being responsible for the whereabouts of a handful of kids, each volunteer can head up an area, such as baggage handling, navigation or wake-up calls.


CREATE A COMMUNICATIONS PLAN. When you take a youth group on the road, the kids aren’t the only people you must keep happy — you also have to think about their parents. Families back home will want periodic updates about what their children are doing during a trip, and they will also want to know that you have a quick and effective way of contacting them in case of emergencies, or vice versa. So before you go, set up a communications protocol that includes texting, phone calls, emails and social media. You might consider creating a specific Facebook group for trip parents or employing a text messaging service that will allow you to send messages to the entire group quickly and easily.


ENGAGE ON SOCIAL MEDIA. It’s a fact of life in the 21st century: Young travelers are going to be on their phones almost constantly throughout the course of a trip, and much of that time will be spent on social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. Instead of trying to institute a futile electronics ban, join the young travelers online by creating fun hashtags and sharing photos, videos and other content from the trip in real time.


ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS. If you don’t frequently spend time with teenagers, the daily pace of traveling with a youth group might come as something of a shock. Forget about leisurely quiet time, fine food and plenty of time to sleep — teens have energy to burn, and they do so by being loud, boisterous and active all day long and through much of the night. To keep a good attitude throughout the trip, embrace the fact that your diet, sleep, accommodations and daily routine are going to be very different than when you travel with adults.


BE FOOD SMART. Youth groups travelers aren’t likely to have the discriminating palates of adults, but that doesn’t mean you should feed them junk food for the entire trip. High-fat, high-sugar foods can be fun treats to include during a trip, but making sure the main meals are balanced and nutritious will help keep young travelers from getting sick or lethargic. Also, be on the lookout for food allergies or other dietary restrictions that might affect your meal planning.


LOOK OUT FOR LONERS. In even the friendliest group of young people, there are likely to be some kids on the trip that don’t quite seem to fit in. A group trip can feel long, lonely and isolating for students who have a hard time making friends, so go out of your way to make them feel valued and included. You might even recruit some older, more mature youth group members to help. MAKE TIME FOR GOD MOMENTS. The goal of any youth group trip should be to help students get closer to God, so you should be intentional about creating opportunities for that to happen. Devotionals, prayer times, teaching sessions and group worship can all be parts of this equation, but don’t limit ministry moments to preplanned events. Spending time together can cause travelers to open up in unexpected ways, so always be ready to make the most of these opportunities when they present themselves.

going on faith [ ]



Faith, Family and Travel






WHO DO YOU PLAN FOR? Kenwood Northeast Baptist Church in Crestwood, Kentucky

im and Marsha Booker’s lives can be summed up in three words: faith, family and travel. Both Jim and Marsha grew up in in Shelbyville, a city east of Louisville in Kentucky. Jim was very active in music. He belonged to several singing groups and traveled a lot performing with them. His love of travel rubbed off on his high-school sweetheart, Marsha, and the couple continued to travel quite a bit after they were married. Travel has helped Jim and Marsha make an impact on their friends and family. Jim is senior pastor of Kenwood Northeast Baptist Church in Crestwood, Kentucky, and the couple has inspired a love of travel in their church family. Not only has the church’s travel group increased in numbers, but other blessings have followed, too.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BIBLE VERSE? Jim’s favorite Scripture is the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17 because “there are so many nuggets of wisdom” to be gleaned from the selection. Marsha’s favorite is Proverbs 3:5-6 because it is such a good piece of advice to keep in our minds and our hearts as we go through each day.

WHERE ARE YOU FROM? Jim and Marsha grew up in Shelbyville, Kentucky, and were high school sweethearts.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DESTINATION? Both Jim and Marsha love Hawaii because of its breathtaking beauty. Israel was another favorite for the couple, who called it “eye opening” after the way the destination brought the stories of Scripture to life for them.

TRAV EL TIP S TIP 1 Do your research for wherever you’re going, even down to the restaurants and parking. TIP 2 Find out what types of things your travelers enjoy and plan your trip around those. TIP 3 Don’t pick a hotel just because it’s cheap; pick places your group will want to stay in again if they return to the area.

WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES? Jim and Marsha are the proud grandparents of two little girls and enjoy spending much of their free time with them. Jim also enjoys singing and composing music. going on faith [ spring 2017 ]

TIP 4 Include as much as you can in the cost of your trip, and be organized so there are no surprises for people planning their spending.

“It really brought us together as a family and blessed us,” Jim said. The couple feel that travel has been a tool for their group both to deepen their bonds and grow in their faith. When planning their trips, the Bookers make sure everything is a wholesome and uplifting experience that also includes a little something fun for everybody. “We try to keep it fun and keep it Christian,” Jim said. That means including some things while excluding others. They make a point to avoid certain movies, but “we love comedy, especially Christian comedy.” The group also enjoys devotions and Bible studies while traveling. Marsha said each morning before setting out on the day’s activities, the group prays together for safety, for their plans that day and to thank God for the time they have to spend together. They also enjoy singing songs suggested by the different members of the group. Travel and faith often go hand in hand on their trips. Marsha remembers a moment from a trip to Hawaii when their group came together with many other travelers from more than 100 countries. Everyone sang “How Great Is Our God” in their own language. “All those people singing together just struck me how we can all come together and make such beautiful music, each in our own different languages,” she said.

Hawaii was a favorite trip for both Jim and Marsha.

The Kenwood Baptist travel group in Israel

All photos courtesy Jim and Marsha Booker


Join forces with 160+ member companies and 13,000+ travel professionals to amplify your giving and marketing, and inspire your employees.

Find out more at

Ad space generously donated.

a f a m i ly of br a n d s

In just one day, more than 300 volunteers from 80 companies donated nearly $50,000 in volunteer labor hours to national and state parks in New York and New Jersey.

going on faith [ ]




Groups visiting Samaria can experience the Bedouin lifestyle, a modern-day equivalent of how the patriarchs of the Bible lived. All photos courtesy Israel Ministry of Tourism


W H ER E IN T HE B I BLE ? Both the city and the region of Samaria are mentioned in many places in the Bible under many names, but one of the best known is in John 4 when Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman at the well.

going on faith [ spring 2017 ]

hen Israel conquered the Promised Land, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh claimed the mountainous region of Samaria for themselves. After the kingdom divided upon the death of King Solomon, Samaria became part of the northern kingdom of Israel, and the Samarians believed that they, rather than population of the kingdom of Judah to the south, preserved the true practices of Judaism. Modern Samaritans, a minority culture that still lives in the central part of the West Bank, still hold this belief today. Groups can see how this culture lives on in the Jezreel Valley and at Mount Gerizim, and can learn about the Samaritan way of life at the Samaritan Museum. The West Bank was formerly an area many thought they’d never want to visit; in recent years, however, travel bans have been lifted and tourism in the region is picking up, but it has not reached the crowded levels of bigger tourism destinations like Jerusalem. The biblical


country of Samaria, which hosts numerous sites connected to some of the most well-known biblical figures — Christ, Abraham, Jacob and Joshua — covers much of the West Bank. Historically, Samaria reached from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and from the Jezreel Valley in the north to the Jerusalem Mountains in the south. The area features the mild Mediterranean climate that lends itself to agriculture and supports the region’s many vineyards and orchards. This also means any time of year is pleasant for a visit. The largest city in the region today is Nablus, known in biblical times as Shechem. Groups will want to check out the bustling market at the city center and the soap factories that produce the region’s popular olive oil and goat’s milk soaps. Visitors can relax after a hard day of traveling at one of the two Ottoman hammams, or Turkish baths, where guests sit in a sauna, enjoy a massage and listen to poetry and music.


FOR CHURCH GROUPS • GOOD SAMARITAN MUSEUM — Named for Jesus’ parable in Luke 10, this ancient Ottoman Inn is located along the highway that connects Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. The ancient building has been restored and now includes beautiful Byzantine mosaics and a wide range of archaeological relics from across Israel selected to keep with the spirit of the parable and the nearby monastic community. There is also a section of the museum dedicated to the history and customs of the Samaritan community. • MOUNT GERIZIM — When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, Joshua and the 12 tribes stood on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal to bless and curse. Mount Gerizim has since been known as the Mount of Blessings. Later, the mountain became the site of worship for the Samaritans. Today, there is an archaeological site that contains Samaritan city and the temple district. According to Samaritan tradition, Mount Gerizim is also Mount Moriah, where Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice.

MUST-DO: Olive oil soaps are a common product in the region. Groups can take a factory tour at the Albader Soap Factory in the Old City and see how they use the same traditional methods to make the soap that they have been using for more than 800 years.

MUST-TASTE: Travelers can try kanafeh, a beloved Palestinian dessert made of honeyed cheese and semolina flour soaked in sweet rosewater syrup. Nablus, modern-day Shechem, is considered the best place to eat kanafeh. The Al-Aqsa pastry shop is a favorite stop in the city for the dish. The region around Nablus is also famous for Nabulsi cheese, a white-brined cheese used to make this dessert. Other popular dishes include hummus, falafel, musakhan and lamb.

BRING IT HOME: Samaria is known for its lush landscapes and many wineries and vineyards. Bring a sampling of the region home to share with friends and family with some locally grown olive oil products, such as herb-flavored olive oil or olive oil soap. Olive woodcarvings are also an unusual souvenir.

• ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK OF ANCIENT SHILOH — This archaeological park sits west of the modern-day city of Shiloh. Work at the site resumed in 2010 and has unearthed artifacts such as ceramics, stone walls, stone presses and cisterns from many periods of history. Also at the site are Byzantin Canaanite ruins. • SEBASTIA — A short distance northwest of Nablus, Sebastia was one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the region. The site is home to Nabi Yahya Mosque, a former crusader temple that many believe is built on the historic site of the tombs of the prophets Elisha, Obadiah and John the Baptist. The hilltop above the city is home to the remains of Sebaste, the remodeled fortress of Herod the Great. • BEIT EL TRAIL — Beit El, or Bethel, is the biblical site where Jacob dreamed of the ladder with angels ascending to and descending from heaven. On the modern Beit El Trail, groups can walk along a scenic path that features two ancient stone wine presses; an olive press; and a large rock, believed to be the spot where Jacob had his dream. Sitting atop the summit is a water tower; from this point, you can see as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on a clear day.

PHOTO OP: The En Prat Nature Reserve is a perfect spot for photography lovers. The nature preserve surrounds the spring of En Prat that emerges into a rock pool at the center of a picturesque oasis. Along the stream are many historic sites, including monasteries and a second-century-BC aqueduct. This area is perfect for leisurely photography walks among colorful flowers, rare plants and exotic animals, including a herd of gazelles.

RESEARCHIN G Y OU R TR IP Israel Ministry of Tourism The En Prat Nature Preserve is a popular spot to see exotic animals or outdoor activities like hiking and biking.

going on faith [ ]





Courtesy Ober Gatlinburg

fter a man-made fire devastated the Great Smoky Mountains region last November, resulting in 14 deaths and over 1,000 damaged or destroyed structures, many people watching the repetitive news clips of burning trees and homes wondered if there was anything left to visit. But today, little evidence remains of the disaster, and the national park is growing back more vivid and beautiful than ever. When visitors drive along the winding stretch between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, known as The Spur, they will see vibrant lime-green grass covering the adjacent slopes, which erosion experts planted using hydroseeding. With so much underbrush cleared by the fire, many locals expect to see wildflowers this spring that have not appeared in the area for a long time. “The outpouring of support and donations has been incredible,” said Ami Johns, senior sales manager at the Courtyard by Marriott, who recalls seeing volunteers from California to Alaska flood into the hotel. “When I asked how long they wanted to stay, many of them said, ‘as long as needed.’”


By Savannah Osbourn

Top: The Ober Gatlinburg aerial tram offers groups stunning views of the Tennessee Smoky Mountains. Bottom: The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge

going on faith [ spring 2017 ]

With residential areas primarily affected by the fire, all the beloved attractions and shops in downtown Gatlinburg still await visitors with open doors. This year, the 232,000-square-foot LeConte Event Center in Pigeon Forge will continue hosting some of the country’s largest religious conferences. Located next to the river walk, this state-of-the-art facility features stunning woodwork and mountain themes to give attendees the impression of relaxing in nature, even while indoors. Last October, the beautiful Courtyard by Marriott opened in Pigeon Forge, quickly becoming a favorite hotel choice for travelers from around the world. The indoor pool has retractable glass walls with views of the mountains and river; guests can also enjoy three fire pits and an on-site Starbucks. In Gatlinburg, the Park Vista hotel is perched on a big hill overlooking the lights in the city. It is one of the few hotels where every room has a view, and visitors can access the national park from the foot of the hotel driveway. As the region continues to rebuild and inspire travelers with breathtaking attractions, groups should be sure to stop by the following highlights.

DOLLY PARTON’S LUMBERJACK ADVENTURE | PIGEON FORGE At Dolly Parton’s Lumberjack Adventure, Parton’s latest attraction in Pigeon Forge, groups can enjoy a dazzling dinner show with song, dance and aerial acrobatics. The theater was formerly the home of Lumberjack Feud, and Parton personally oversaw a $25 million renovation to the building, lining the walls in barn wood and enhancing the set with a retractable floor above a pool. The rustic-style auditorium provides an intimate setting with close views of the stage and seats up to 750 guests. When the show reopened in 2016 as “Lumberjack Adventure,” Parton brought in seasoned performers from around the world and crafted a story that highlights regional history and culture. WWW.LUMBERJACKADVENTURE.COM

COMEDY BARN | PIGEON FORGE Currently in its 23rd season, the Comedy Barn sees more repeat business than most attractions in town, with a focus on clean family fun. “We sell memories more than theater,” said Debbie Newsom, director of public relations. “We want people to remember having a good time with each other.” In addition to music, tap dancing and comedy, guests can enjoy acts from trained parrots, pigs, cats and dogs handled by animal experts Anthony and Alena King, who have appeared on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and Animal Planet’s “Pet Star.” Other shows offered by Fee Hedrick Family Entertainment include the “Smoky Mountain Opry”; the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show; and “Magic Beyond Belief,” featuring Darren Romeo. WWW.COMEDYBARN.COM

Lumberjack Adventure Courtesy Pigeon Forge Dept. of Tourism

Comedy Barn

ALCATRAZ EAST CRIME MUSEUM | PIGEON FORGE In the brand-new Alcatraz East Crime Museum, groups of all ages will be riveted as they explore the history of crime and punishment around the world, from torture during the Dark Ages to the Salem Witch Trials and the lawless Wild West. The museum features numerous interactive displays, visitors can engage in a Western shoot-out or try their hand at cracking a bank safe combination. Other exhibits cover crime lords like Al Capone, who was one of the first inmates at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, as well as serial killers, gang culture and mass shootings. Groups of 15 or more receive a discounted rate; teachers, military personnel and law enforcement officers enter free of charge. WWW.ALCATRAZEAST.COM

Courtesy Fee/Hedrick Entertainment

Alcatraz East Crime Museum

OLD MILL | PIGEON FORGE When visitors come to the Old Mill, they “turn left at traffic light 7 and go back 200 years,” according to Donna Huffaker, director of group sales and marketing. Originally built in 1830, the mill served as a cornerstone in the Pigeon Forge community, playing various roles as a post office, a hospital and even a source of power. To this day, the gristmill ships thousands of pounds of cornmeal and flour around the country in traditional hand-tied bags. Visitors can pick up a pancake mix or fresh mountain jam from the General Store or enjoy a hot Southern meal at the Old Mill Restaurant, famous for its pecan pie and corn chowder soup. Other highlights of the property are the Pottery House Café, the Old Mill Candy Kitchen and the Old Mill ice cream parlor. WWW.OLD-MILL.COM Courtesy Pigeon Forge Dept. of Tourism

going on faith [ ]

Cliff Dwellers Art Gallery

CLIFF DWELLERS GALLERY | GATLINBURG Just three miles outside of downtown Gatlinburg, groups will find a true hidden gem: an eightmile loop of art galleries and specialty shops known as the Arts and Crafts Community. Managed by four female artists for nearly 20 years, Cliff Dwellers offers fine art such as marbled leather bookmarks, hand-painted gourds, pottery and baskets. Tour groups are welcome to park in the gravel lot outside and wander down the road to nearby cafes and shops. Classes are often held in the workshop upstairs, particularly in early spring when the community hosts an arts festival called Hands-On Gatlinburg, during which visitors can learn crafts like painting and weaving. This year, the arts community will celebrate its 80th anniversary. WWW.CLIFFDWELLERSGALLERY.COM By Savannah Osbourn


Sevier Air Trampoline Park and Ninja Warrior Course By Savannah Osbourn

Dive into a vivid oceanic experience at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, where groups can pick up horseshoe crabs, touch the umbrella-shaped bells of moon jellyfish and stroke stingrays as they glide past in a shallow pool. One of the most popular exhibits is the Penguin Playhouse, where guests can crawl through a tunnel that weaves into the pen to see the adorable birds up close. The aquarium packs a different world within its walls, from piranhas and poison dart frogs in the Tropical Rainforest to alienlike creatures such as octopus, Japanese spider crabs and jellyfish in the Gallery of the Seas. A 340-foot moving walkway carries visitors through an underwater glass tunnel, as sharks, sawfish and green moray eels loom overhead. WWW.RIPLEYAQUARIUMS.COM/GATLINBURG

OBER GATLINBURG | GATLINBURG Though famous for its pristine ski slopes, Ober Gatlinburg offers adventure and spectacular views year-round. Starting downtown, groups take the aerial tramway 2.1 miles to the center of the park, high above the city and distant hills. There they will find indoor ice skating, a carousel, a fudge shop, snack bars and gift shops. After the snow tubing and ski slopes close for winter, there are still numerous activities to enjoy, such as mini golf, a maze, an alpine slide, the Ski Mountain Coaster and the Blue Cyclone Rapids water ride. Visitors can stop by Wildlife Encounter to see bears, otters and raccoons, or take a scenic chairlift that travels high above the valley. Between Memorial Day and Thanksgiving, a bluegrass band performs daily at the summit. WWW.OBERGATLINBURG.COM

going on faith [ spring 2017 ]

Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant

Courtesy Applewood Farmhouse

APPLEWOOD FARMHOUSE RESTAURANT | SEVIERVILLE Featuring a picturesque view of the river, Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant began as a simple family farm more than 30 years ago, eventually expanding into a full-scale restaurant and grill. The restaurant is open five days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner; guests can start the day with a fresh glass of Applewood Julep, a unique blend of lemon, orange juice and pineapple juice, along with complimentary apple cinnamon muffins. Some choice menu options include the Smoky Mountain biscuit Benedict, old-fashioned chicken and dumplings, and Apple Valley Orchard salad. Afterward, top off the meal with a slice of Hershey’s chocolate cake or blackberry cobbler. WWW.APPLEWOODFARMHOUSERESTAURANT.COM

SEVIER AIR TRAMPOLINE AND NINJA WARRIOR PARK | SEVIERVILLE While trampoline parks become increasingly more common, Sevier Air is one of just two locations in the country that offers a two-story ninja obstacle course, replicated from the hit NBC show “American Ninja Warrior.” Children ages 2 to 10 can explore a three-story net system and slide while older guests take on either junior or advanced ninja courses. According to general manager Paul Ratcliffe, “If you can walk, you can come play.” Among the 7,000 square feet of trampolines, there are two ultimate dodgeball courts, three basketball lanes, a rock wall and a swinging rope over a massive air mat. Those wanting to take a break can visit the concessions center downstairs or observe the action from an elevated lounge. WWW.SEVIERAIR.COM

going on faith [ ]





Courtesy DCVB


Clockwise from top: the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden; Cow Camp in Fort Worth; Dallas Museum of Art

going on faith [ spring 2017 ] Courtesy DCVB

Courtesy Fort Worth CVB








1 DA L L A S



The arts are thriving in Dallas, a city that puts a decidedly glamorous spin on the traditional Texas cowboy aesthetic. Dallas is one of the wealthiest cities in the state, and local philanthropists have funded a vibrant cultural scene that includes museums and major performing-arts spaces. Arts lovers visiting the city will want to immerse themselves in the Dallas Arts District, the largest urban arts district in the nation. This 19-block area is anchored by museums and performing-arts centers. To catch a great show, check out the schedule of events at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in the district. The center covers 10 acres and includes the Winspear Opera House, home to the Dallas Opera and the Texas Ballet Theater, and other performance spaces used by organizations such as the Dallas Theater Center, the Dallas Black Dance Theatre and the Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico. WHILE YOU’RE THERE: This fall will mark the debut of “A Tasteful Place,” an $8 million farm-to-table vegetable, herb and fruit garden at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Interactive programs for groups will allow visitors to tour the garden with a chef who will choose ingredients to bring back to the demonstration kitchen for cooking classes





f “cowboy cool” has a home, it’s in northeast Texas. In a state synonymous with the Wild West and a spirit of rugged independence, Dallas, Fort Worth and several other nearby destinations are putting a 21st-century spin on classical cowboy culture. In addition to experiencing the best of the West, groups that visit this area of Texas will get their fill of arts, gardens and distinctive Lone Star charm. This tour begins and ends in the Dallas area and includes time in Grapevine, a Dallas suburb, and Fort Worth, a city so close by that it shares an airport with Dallas. From there, it goes to Waco, a booming college town southwest of Fort Worth and then back east to Tyler. From there, groups can go 90 miles back north to Dallas to catch flights home or continue by motorcoach to points east. It’s possible to do this trip in five days and four nights, but if you have the time, making it a full week will allow for some richer experiences and opportunities to soak up the essence of Texas life.

It’s a 20-mile trip from downtown Dallas to Grapevine, a charming town sandwiched between Dallas and Fort Worth. As its name suggests, Grapevine is a hot spot of viniculture and winemaking in Texas, and there are 10 wineries and tasting rooms within walking distance of each other in the charming downtown district. But there’s much more to Grapevine than wine. The city has several Vintage Texas experiences for groups, offering looks at historic elements of the area. Many groups enjoy stops at historic Nash Farm, the oldest operating farmstead in the area, as well as the Great American West Gallery, which features paintings and sculptures by Western artists. Travelers can experience a bit of Texas heritage firsthand by taking excursions aboard the Grapevine Vintage Railroad. Nicknamed “Puffy,” the railroad’s 1896 steam engine pulls trains on trips back and forth to the Fort Worth Stockyards. There are numerous special themed train outings available throughout the year. WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Even if you don’t stay overnight, it’s worth taking a couple of hours to let your group explore the shops, restaurants and gardens beneath the signature glass atrium at the massive Gaylord Texan Resort. Many groups also take time to shop at Grapevine Mills, which features more than 180 retail stores, as well as at the nearby Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World.


going on faith [ ]







Whether you take the train from Grapevine or drive from Dallas, Fort Worth is a must-see destination for groups exploring northeast Texas. The city was once the Texas hub for the cattle business and an important stop on the Chisholm Trail, the route that took cattle drivers from Texas to Kansas railheads. The Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District preserves the area that was at the center of Texas’ 19th-century cattle culture. The area features original brick walkways and wooden corrals that were used to sort and separate livestock for the long journey north. Twice a day the Fort Worth Herd cattle drive demonstration gives visitors a glimpse of what working in the stockyards was like for cowboys of the day. Guides also offer guided walking tours of the area, and groups can enjoy free time at the restaurants, saloons and shops in the district. WHILE YOU’RE THERE: The Fort Worth Cultural District gives visitors a more complete look at the city’s past. The district encompasses five museums, including the National Cowgirl Museum, the only museum in the country dedicated to the story of women in the West.

An 85-mile drive south from Fort Worth brings travelers to Waco, a city that has reinvented its public image thanks to the popularity of the hit HGTV show “Fixer Upper,” which features interior designers and Waco residents Chip and Joanna Gaines restoring and redecorating homes around the city. The Gaines’ design business, Magnolia, and associated enterprises have grown into a phenomenon in Waco, and the city’s tourism officials have created the Magnolia Trail for fans of the show to see sites featured on the show and related to the Gaines’ business. Among the most popular sites on the trail is Magnolia Silos, former grain silos that now house the Gaines’ home decor store, Magnolia Market. If you have superfans of “Fixer Upper” in your group, consider arranging a tour of the 1910 Mailander House, which was featured on the first season of the television show, by contacting owner Dave Morrow at WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Texas Rangers are fixtures of Old West lore, and the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco pays tribute to the oldest state law-enforcement agency. Artifacts include historic cowboy hats, silver stars, guns, saddles and items from Texas Ranger depictions in pop culture.



Vetro Glassblowing Studio in Grapevine

Chip and Joanna Gaines of Waco

Fort Worth Stockyards

Courtesy Fort Worth CVB

Magnolia Market Courtesy Grapevine CVB


going on faith [ spring 2017 ]

Courtesy Magnolia

Courtesy Waco CVB

5 TYLER HIGHLIGHT | ROSE CAPITAL About 130 miles east of Waco, Tyler has staked its claim as America’s Rose Capital. Farms throughout the area produce millions of roses and other commercial flowers each year, and groups that visit the city can immerse themselves in this horticultural heritage in a variety of ways. The Tyler Municipal Rose Garden is the largest rose garden in the country. More than 450 varieties of roses grow on the 14-acre campus, and botanists there regularly breed and display new varieties. Groups that travel to Tyler in mid-October can attend the Texas Rose Festival, which is held at the rose garden. This event features music, parades and the coronation of a local young woman as the Rose Queen. The museum at the garden features gowns worn by former Rose Queens as well as other memorabilia from past editions of the festival. WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Roses aren’t the only flowers to be found in Tyler. Azaleas grow abundantly in three areas of the city that are all listed on the National Historic Register. These neighborhoods are connected by the 10-mile Azalea Trail, and groups can see highlights on tours led by step-on guides or on an open-air shuttle.

Tyler Municipal Rose Garden By Jim Grantham


By Janis Bullard Photos courtesy Tyler CVB

For over 65 years, Lakeview has been creating transformative experiences for people of all ages through camps, retreats, reunions, conferences, outdoor education and team building programs. From rustic retreat settings and scenic trails to state-of-the-art auditoriums and sacred spaces, our full-service Conference Center offers a range of facilities and accommodations perfect for your group of 12 to 1,200. Centrally located between, Dallas, Houston, and Austin, Lakeview sits on 1,300 acres in the heart of the Pineywoods near historic Palestine, Texas. Head downtown for legendary bakeries, unique boutiques, decadent dining, and striking architecture. 903.538.2711 800.659.3484

WHERE NATURE going on faith [ ] 23





The stage is set for a show at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre in Indianapolis.

inner and a show — it’s a classic combination. Dinner theaters offer the best of both, either at the same time or in separate spaces. Many provide the traditional experience that allows theatergoers to enjoy their meal while watching the performance, and others have side-by-side facilities that make for an easy commute from the restaurant to the theater. Although classic musicals are alive and well at these dinner theaters, guests can also enjoy contemporary productions, concert series and even comedy acts.

Courtesy Beef and Boards

A fried chicken dinner at Ohio Star Theater Courtesy Ohio Star Theater

“Singing in the Rain” at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Courtesy Candlelight Dinner Playhouse


going on faith [ spring 2017 ]

[ OHIO STAR THEATER ] SUGARCREEK, OHIO The new Ohio Star Theater is opening April 1 of this year in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country, marking the theater’s sixth season and its first in its new space. During its first five seasons, a hotel conference center served as the venue, with a stage surrounded by 187 banquet chairs on risers. Although the audience was “just inches away from the actors,” the company decided to “build an actual, state-of-the-art theater,” said Vicki VanNatta, public relations coordinator for Dutchman Hospitality Group, the company that owns the theater and the neighboring restaurant and inn. And it will have a few more seats to fill — 512 on the sloped main floor and in the balcony — but the Guy Penrod concert on April 1 was already sold out as of this writing, as were two Mark Lowry performances scheduled for Labor Day weekend. The theater sits across the parking lot not 100 yards from Dutch Valley restaurant, Dutch Valley Market and the 69-room Carlilse Inn. For dinner, groups can enjoy Amish cooking during a family-style meal or at the all-youcan-eat Barn-Raising Buffet in the tradition of a church potluck. At the Dutch Valley Market, visitors can browse and buy an array of Amish goods, including cheeses, relishes, spreads, pickles and preserves. In addition to about 15 concerts throughout the year, the theater’s sixth season will feature four live musicals, starting with “Home Game,” which tells the story of an Amish boy who has a shot to play professional baseball. “The Confession,” the first musical the company performed, will return to tell the story of an Amish girl who finds out she was adopted into an Amish family. “Mennonite Girls Can Cook” started as a blog, then became a one-act play and is now a full musical that tells the story of two Canadian Mennonite women who started a cooking blog. The theater will wrap up its season with the return of “Our Christmas Dinner,” about a family that “gets caught up in all the wrong things at Christmas,” VanNatta said. [ BEEF AND BOARDS DINNER THEATRE ] INDIANAPOLIS “With six, semicircular tiers wrapping around the stage at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre in Indianapolis, “you’re never far from our stage,” said Patricia Rettig, director of marketing and media relations. The intimate setting allows the company to put on shows with “less flash and more heart” and allows actors to play with the space, she said. During a run of “Cats,” the cats are out among the tables interacting with guests. “There’s such an energy when you’re really close to it and see their eyes and feel what they’re feeling,” Rettig said. The theater originally opened in 1973 as part of a chain, but the College Park location is the last remaining privately owned Beef and Boards theater. It can seat up to 450 people, depending on configuration. When guests arrive, they can fill their plates at the buffet, which is replaced by the stage about half an hour before curtain call. Beef and Boards puts on seven main-stage productions a year, and although classical musicals are its bread and butter, the theater is now incorporating more new productions. In the past, the theater has put on two newer shows each season to complement the classics; this season features four contemporary productions including “Shrek the Musical” and “Ghost the Musical,” both based on their respective hit movies, and “Ring of Fire,” a musical about the life of Johnny Cash. The theater has also mounted classic productions such

as “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “My Fair Lady” and “West Side Story.” “After a while, people have seen the shows that have been around, and they’re ready for something new, all while still keeping those mainstay classics,” Rettig said. This year will mark the 25th annual “Beef and Boards Christmas,” an original variety show, and the theater also offers a holiday buffet with a truncated one-hour “A Christmas Carol” matinee.

“The Wizard of Oz” at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Courtesy Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

[ CANDLELIGHT DINNER PLAYHOUSE ] JOHNSTOWN, COLORADO The Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is “dedicated to preserving the art form of American musical theater,” said director of marketing Don Berlin. That means in the 2017-2018 season, the Candlelight’s 10th, theatergoers will enjoy productions of “Man of La Mancha,” “Kiss Me Kate” and “The Music Man,” which runs from September through August. The Candlelight, which puts on five or six shows each season, is now branching out into newer pieces such as Disney’s “Beauty and Beast,” straight from Broadway, and Disney’s “Newsies” next summer, Berlin said. It will wrap up its current season with “42nd Street,” which runs through June 4, followed by “The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella,” running through August 27. The Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is in Johnstown, Colorado, 45 miles due north of Denver and a straight shot on Interstate 25. Because the Candlelight was built as a dinner theater, it was designed with the experience in mind. The main auditorium area features a proscenium theater with guests sitting on one of seven tiers in front it, “so there really isn’t a bad seat in the house,” Berlin said. The playhouse can seat about 250 for each show, but its new conference and meeting facility that opened in February offers event space for another 200 people. Unlike some theaters with separate restaurants or preshow buffets, guests spend the entire evening at their table, with dinner during the show and dessert during intermission. The playhouse does a brisk group business with out-of-state tour groups, as well as with local churches, company parties and senior centers. Because the owner is a devout Christian, he strives to make sure the Candlelight’s programming is appropriate for a wide variety of audiences and ages, Berlin said.

going on faith [ ] 25

“Million Dollar Quartet” at the Fireside Dinner Theatre

Courtesy the Fireside Dinner Theatre

The Glenn Miller Orchestra at Derby Dinner Playhouse

Courtesy Derby Dinner Playhouse

[ FIRESIDE DINNER THEATRE ] FORT ATKINSON, WISCONSIN In 1964, Dick and Betty Klopcic built a 60-foot-by-60-foot pyramid-shaped building in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, with a fireplace at its center. The Fireside restaurant was born. As business boomed, the couple expanded several times over the years until they eventually expanded into dinner theater. In 1978, they connected the restaurant to an adjacent building that they transformed into an in-the-round theater. Today, more than 50 years after opening, the Fireside comprises the original restaurant, the theater and four gift shops, all of which are still in the Klopcic family; the couple’s son, Rick Klopcic, took over in 1998. The theater can seat 650 guests and offers several matinees and evening performances each week, except on Friday nights. In Wisconsin, Friday nights are fish-fry nights. “We’ll serve 600 people easy,” said Julie Nordeen, marketing manager who has been with the Fireside for 35 years. Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” will run through April 16, followed by “South Pacific” through June 4. “Back to the ’50s,” a musical revue, will be onstage until July 23 and will be followed by the original production of “Church Basement Ladies,” a live musical about the “quintessential ladies that run the church,” Nordeen said. “It’s very Scandinavian. It’s very funny.” This fall, “Elvis Lives” takes the audience through the King’s life, and this year’s holiday production will be the musical version of “Miracle on 34th Street.” The Fireside also offers a Christian concert series that features four acts a year. The Jim Brady Trio is a gospel act that will perform in May, and Southern Raised will bring its blend of Christian country, bluegrass, classical and Celtic to the stage in August. The family group The Hoppers will perform in November. [ DERBY DINNER PLAYHOUSE ] CLARKSVILLE, INDIANA Just across the Ohio River from downtown Louisville, Kentucky, the Derby Dinner Playhouse in Clarksville, Indiana, is a 500-seat theater that has been entertaining guests and satisfying their appetites for more than 40 years. After wrapping up a production of “The Addams Family,” “Stinky Kids the Musical” will run through April 1, followed by “Sister Act,” the musical version of the movie about a Vegas singer who hides out in a nunnery. The Derby will offer more children’s theater with “Fancy Nancy the Musical” through the month of June. The Derby’s annual concert series features a wide variety of performers, such as John Denver tribute artists and Beatles cover bands, doo-wop groups and comedy acts. The 19-piece Glenn Miller Orchestra will perform a matinee and an evening concert on June 5 featuring favorites such as “Tuxedo Junction” and “In the Mood.” “How Great Thou Art” is a concert featuring the gospel music of Elvis Presley, with Robert Shaw and the Lonely Street Band, along with a gospel quartet. “Both of these concerts are very popular with groups, and we bring them back year after year to soldout crowds,” said marketing director Annie Myers.


going on faith [ spring 2017 ]




Creation Northwest draws thousands of music fans to rural Washington each summer.


here is something universal about the way a few bars of music can reach straight to the soul. Worship music especially allows listeners to feel the presence of a higher power right in their bones. Faith-based groups can harness music as an emotional conduit to God with a trip to one of America’s Christian music festivals. Each of these events attracts a long roster of Christian music’s top-billed artists, so festivalgoers feel they’ve attended numerous concerts wrapped up into one. Attendees not only listen to the uplifting music, but also participate in each of the festivals’ numerous activities, offered to add fun, prayer and creative outlets. After groups worship together at these festivals, they can also enjoy the area’s attractions for an experience that will solidify both faith and friendships.

Courtesy Creation Festivals

[ HILLS ALIVE FESTIVAL ] RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA Groups retreat into the Black Hills of South Dakota to unplug from the day-today stresses and devote time to the Lord at the Hills Alive Festival in Rapid City. Started in 1985, the festival provides a family environment for people to connect to their faith through contemporary Christian music. Since it began 30-plus years ago, the festival has grown from six bands and a couple thousand people on just one day to more than 20 artists and up to 25,000 visitors over three days. The July festival starts on a Friday in Main Street Square and moves to Memorial Park for the rest of the weekend. Last year, the concert drew RED, Sidewalk Prophets, Building 429 and Casting Crowns, among others. WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Rapid City serves as a jumping-off point for several major parks in the area, including Badlands National Park, Custer State Park and the iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial. A plethora of attractions for groups await within the city limits. Many groups start at City View Trolley for a narrated tour of Rapid City with stops along the way. The city boasts two historic districts, bronze sculptures of the presidents, art galleries and the popular Journey Museum. Set amid a forested backdrop, the Chapel in the Hills offers a place of quiet reflection for faith-based groups. The church replicates the striking Norwegian Borgan Stavkirke, with an attached museum illustrating the day-to-day realities of the area’s Scandinavian pioneers.

going on faith [ ] 27



Twilight Tour Progressive Mansions Dinner

After a day at nearby Creation Museum, it’s the perfect time for a Twilight Tour. Venture down the Ohio River Scenic Byway to tour and dine in historic Aurora, Indiana’s landmark estates – Hillforest Victorian House Museum and Veraestau Historic Site.

Guides in costume, Hillforest

Delicious desserts, Veraestau

OHIO Indianapolis







South of I-74 & west of I-275, 20 minutes west of Cincinnati 800-322-8198


TobyMac performs at Hills Alive Festival in Rapid City By Electric Worship Photography

Spiritsong at King’s Island near Cincinnati Courtesy King’s Island

[ KINGDOM BOUND FESTIVAL ] DARIEN, NEW YORK Guests to the Kingdom Bound Festival not only listen for God’s message from top Christian artists, but also look for visual representations of God’s love in their own art. The four-day festival outside of Buffalo, New York, features popular Christian music, as well as a variety of activities, like the Art and Soul Workshops. Taught by artist Tony Goodwin, these sessions teach participants to find their inner creativity. Seminars, worship gatherings, skits and games all revolve around biblical teachings. The July festival recently added Awaken, a new youth program geared toward high school and college students. The program engages groups with guided worship, keynote speakers, interactive games and breakout sessions. The festival takes place on the grounds of Darien Lake Theme Park and partners with the amusement park’s lodge for packaged deals. Attendees can choose among the park’s lodge, cabin, bunk house or campgrounds. Those staying at the park’s accommodations can enjoy additional activities, including acoustic worship around the fire, morning worship services, open mic nights, movie nights and late-night dance parties. What started as a basic Christian concert in 1986 grew quickly once the Darien Lake Theme Park became involved the next year. In 2016, the concert drew more than 40,000 for more than 40 musical acts, such as Skillet, RED, For King and Country and Rend Collective. WHILE YOU’RE THERE: All tickets to the concert include access to the Darien Lake theme park. The park offers more than 45 rides, including six roller coasters, a wave pool, a lazy river, dozens of family rides and entertainment shows. The 1,200-acre park also contains the rustic 196room Lodge of the Lake Hotel. The park is in Darien, New York, in Genesee County, 45 minutes from Niagara Falls between Buffalo and Rochester. Groups in the area also take advantage of the region’s quaint towns, the JELL-O Gallery Museum and Darien Lakes State Park. [ SPIRITSONG ] KINGS MILLS, OHIO Groups can embrace the joy of life by swaying to a song of praise one minute and screaming with their friends on a record-breaking roller coaster the next at SpiritSong. This contemporary Christian music festival takes place at Kings Island, an amusement park outside of Cincinnati. For more than 20 years, groups have traveled from near and far to attend the June festival, which includes entrance to Kings Island and Soak City water park. Top artists, such as Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp, TobyMac and Rend Collective, perform at the amusement park’s 10,000-seat, outdoor Timberwolf Amphitheatre. Groups can choose from one-day, two-day or three-day tickets to the festival, but planners should book early, since the festival often sells out. Christ in the Smokies Museum and Gardens WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Guests can wander the 364-acre Kings Island for thrills at any of the park’s more than 100 rides. Adrenaline lovers will appreciate the park’s 15 roller coasters, including the world’s longest wooden roller coaster, the Beast, and the record-breaking Banshee. The adjacent Soak Island offers more than 50 water attractions, such as the Tropical Plunge, where participants can choose from six different waterslides in one seven-story complex. Nearby Cincinnati also has a wide range of attractions, from cultural museums to an acclaimed zoo. Opened in 1875, the Cincinnati Zoo holds the distinction of being the second-oldest zoo in the nation. Guests can admire more than 580 animal species, take a train ride or experience a 4-D Theater production.

going on faith [ spring 2017 ] Courtesy Christ in the Smokies

[ CREATION NORTHWEST ] KENNEWICK, WASHINGTON Thousands of candles fill everyone’s field of vision for a powerful symbolic moment when participants hear the words “You are the light of the world.” The candle-lighting service at Creation Northwest creates a seeming “city set on a hill” when all artificial lights turn off so that the only illumination comes from attendees’ tiny candles. This spectacle often becomes participants’ favorite moment of the four-day festival. Each year at the end of July, thousands gather at the Benton County Fairgrounds to listen to top Christian artists, with genres ranging from country to indie and hip hop. Organizers have already announced part of the music lineup for this year, including Skillet, Relient K, Family Force 5 and Bread of Stone. Groups not only choose which bands’ acts to attend, but they can also choose their other activities, such as baptisms, a community Communion ceremony, dance parties, an extreme sports show and the Creation Art Gallery. WHILE YOU’RE THERE: The Tri-Cities consist of Kennewick, Pasco and Richland. Riverfront parks and 67 miles of paved pedestrian and bike trails wind their way through the three cities. The Sacagawea Heritage Trail is one of the most popular trails, since it connects the three cities’ waterfront parks with interpretive signs along the way that explain the area’s historic and natural heritage, such as its importance on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the nearby Columbia, Yakima and Snake rivers, which all offer boating and river cruising. Many groups also like the J&S Dreamland Express, which features an open-air, multicar train ride through Kennewick’s Columbia Park.

[ LIFEST ] OSHKOSH, WISCONSIN What began as a simple 5K run to raise money to teach youth about God’s love has developed into one of the largest Christian music festivals in the country. Life Promotions started Lifest in 1990 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, but music didn’t enter the picture until 1999. Now, the four-day July event draws about 20,000 attendees daily to listen to the festival’s 100 artists on six stages. The Wisconsin festival showcases the talents of Christian music’s top billboard artists, such as Newsboys, Michael W. Smith, Matt Maher and Hawk Nelson. Inspirational speakers, comedians and prayer leaders also fill the festivals stages throughout the event. Instead of limiting the experience to passive listening, groups can stay active participating in the event’s 5K run, art workshop, sports activities and inflatable games. A new photo scavenger hunt lets groups hunt for photos of a variety of items with a chance to win a meet-and-greet session with one of the headliners that night. WHILE YOU’RE THERE: A collection of more than 200 historic airplanes highlights the marvels of the golden age of aviation at the EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh. The 1,600-acre museum illustrates the impressive evolution of aviation technology with full-size aircrafts, art galleries and interactive exhibits. The city also boasts several other museums, historic homes, art galleries and shopping opportunities. For an overview of the area, the Oshkosh Public Museum delves into the heritage of the Lake Winnebago region of Wisconsin with interactive exhibits. Guests can imagine themselves a Civil War soldier, a Wisconsin logger and other former Oshkosh citizens at various exhibits.


Endless shopping, dining and nightlife options

Make the Fox Cities your next meeting destination! Enjoy the big city amenities and small town charm that our 20 communities along the shores of Lake Winnebago and the Fox River have to offer: • An exceptional visitor experience for groups of 10 to 2,500 • Safe, walkable communities • Flexible, affordable meeting spaces • Free bureau services

15+ facilities with unique, affordable meeting space

We invite your group to COME TOGETHER IN THE FOX CITIES.

Begin your planning at


Fun options for group

going onactivities faith [ ] 29 and team building




Artisans demonstrate letterpress art to a group visiting Hatch Show Print.



rom rich, cuisine to distinct local art groups will find many worthy keepsakes during their travels in the South. Instead of bringing back the usual postcard or ocean-themed necklace, try visiting one of these unique locations to discover what kind of craftsmanship the South can offer.

By CK Photo, courtesy CMHOF

Hatch Show Print at the Country Music Hall of Fame

going on faith [ spring 2017 ]

SOUTH TABASCO SAUCE AVERY ISLAND, LOUISIANA After Edmund McIlhenny first developed the recipe for Tabasco sauce in the 1860s, he went on to sell about 350,000 bottles over the course of 25 years, eventually passing on the business to other family members. Today, the factory produces 700,000 bottles per day. On the lush landscape of Avery Island, Louisiana, groups can tour the Tabasco visitors center and museum seven days a week, accompanied per request by an onsite historian with extensive knowledge of Cajun culture. According to John Simmons, a member of the McIlhenny family, the key ingredient to the sauce is time. “What we do is grind heirloom Tabasco peppers with salt, put the mash into oak barrels and age it for three years,” said Simmons. “During that time, the colors change from a bright red to a deep, richer red, and from there you add vinegar.” Since Avery Island sits atop a salt dome, some of the salt used in the product comes from the local mine, and visitors can stop by a mine exhibit for more information. Adjacent to the main center and museum, Restaurant 1868 enables guests to experience firsthand how contemporary chefs use the sauce in cuisine, from gourmet dishes to traditional Louisianan food like gumbo. There is also a 170-acre botanical garden and bird sanctuary called Jungle Gardens that provides prime opportunities to catch a glimpse of local birds like egrets and roseate spoonbills. “Avery Island lends itself to taking a good picture,” said Simmons.


Tabasco factory on Avery Island

Founded by the Hatch family during the 1870s, Hatch Show Print specializes in crisp, minimalist designs that embody American culture and entertainment. During the Roaring ’20s, after moving to Music City, the print shop immortalized many famous artists, such as Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith and Duke Ellington, as well as numerous country stars. Though the advent of offset and digital printing hurt the business for a number of years, Hatch Show Print continued to produce traditional letterpress works, relying on its long-standing relationship with the music industry. Today, the shop produces 500 to 600 posters each year as many artists and ad agencies opt for more original and vintage designs over digital print. When groups visit the shop at its current location in the Country Music Hall of Fame, they can watch posters roll fresh off the presses in the central workshop, as well as peruse a gallery of the company’s signature designs. Groups can also possible schedule a class in the Hatch Show Print Space for Design, where participants learn about traditional printing techniques through a guided demonstration.

HAPPY BALLS LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY Bourbon balls have always been a popular party treat in Kentucky, but no one makes them quite like Ron and Jane Harris, who run a handmade-candy operation from their century-old Victorian home in Louisville, Kentucky. The name and recipe for the candy are derived from Ron’s Aunt Gladys, nicknamed Happy, who used to make her special bourbon balls every Christmas. “My wife and I were actors in New York for 30 years,” said Ron. “Occasionally, we would make Aunt Happy’s bourbon balls to give to casting directors as gifts.” After retiring in 2004, the couple moved to Louisville and began selling the candy to help maintain their historic house, which required substantial repairs. “We wanted to make sure we had the best product,” said Harris, “so we made six different batches and had our friends come over to taste them.” In addition to developing three aging processes, one of the main tweaks that Ron made to his aunt’s recipe was exchanging cheap ingredients for Guittard dipping chocolate from San Francisco and Knob Creek 100proof, 9-year-old single barrel bourbon. While Jane handles the packaging and marketing, Ron prepares the candy, mixing bourbon butter cream with “drunken nuts,” which are chopped pecans that have soaked in bourbon for 24 hours. After the balls have been chilled in the refrigerator, he adds a coat of chocolate “just the way old Kentucky ladies always made them,” hand-dipping each ball with a toothpick. As the chocolate shell hardens, the butter cream sets into a moist, rich texture. A pecan is added on top as well. According to Jane, many people who do not normally like bourbon balls enjoy Happy Balls because the unique aging process removes the edge of the alcohol, giving the candy more vanilla and caramel tones.

VALLEY GREEN NATURALS SPERRYVILLE, VIRGINIA After the upheaval of 9/11, Art and Cindy Lawson DeVore decided to move from Washington, D.C., to the northern Virginia countryside for a change of pace. They bought a 1743 farmhouse and started raising chickens and growing their own vegetables. When Art brought home an old soap-making kit one day, the couple began experimenting with homemade beauty products using ingredients from their farm. Cindy started giving out her

Courtesy McIlhenny Company

going on faith [ ]

natural soaps as gifts and later sold them on the website Etsy. “It started out as a fun thing, and before I knew, it we were really, really busy,” said Cindy with a laugh. Eventually, a Chicago-based company picked up the brand, and today, Valley Green Naturals sells 28 products in stores from Hawaii to Maine. Though all the ingredients in Valley Green Naturals products are natural and locally sourced, one of the most consistent characteristics is raw honey, which comes from the DeVores’ own beehives. One percent of sales revenue is donated to organizations that protect bees. “We’re not certified organic because I believe that can be a misleading label,” Cindy said. “Our goal is to keep our products affordable while all natural, and we only use the best suppliers.” The company’s No. 1-selling product is the charcoal-activated cleanser, a third of which is raw honey. “The honey is antioxidizing and antibacterial, going after the free radicals that affect the aging process, while the charcoal helps draw out toxins,” Cindy said. Valley Green Naturals also partners with a nearby distillery called Copper Fox Distillery to produce liquor-scented products like gin soap. Groups passing through Virginia can find Valley Green Naturals products at various locations, including Ellwood Thompson’s in Richmond, Eden’s Natural Market in Gainesville, Rebecca’s Natural Food in Charlottesville, For Goodness Sake in Leesburg and Finley’s General Store in Smithfield.



Courtesy Happy Balls

and Fun!

Fishing & Boat Rentals • Water Park & Ropes Course Lakefront Condos & Cabins • RV & Tent Sites Restaurant • Outdoor Movies • Hiking • Biking Trails — CAN HOST GROUPS OF UP TO 300 —


Near Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in the Kentucky Lakes Region on Lake Barkley


going on faith [ spring 2017 ]

Courtesy Valley Green Naturals

Top: Louisville’s Happy Balls Bottom: Virginia’s Valley Green Naturals

SWEETGRASS BASKETS CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA As visitors wander through Charleston’s bustling City Market, they will inevitably stumble across the city’s most distinctive product: handwoven sweetgrass baskets. “Sweetgrass baskets are the oldest living African art form in America,” said Darryl Stoneworth, who manages DNA Sweetgrass Baskets with his wife, Angela. In West Africa, the sturdy baskets were used to carry rice. Many people were captured from this region and forced into slavery because of their expertise in rice production. When these slaves eventually arrived in South Carolina, they found bulrush and sweetgrass to continue making the baskets, which were such a quality work tool that they became standard at all the plantations. “What makes it special for me is that this is something that was passed down from generation to generation,” said Angela, who was taught the craft by her grandmother at the age of 5. “I believe if we keep teaching our children, it keeps our ancestors alive.” She recalls trekking into the wooded area behind her grandmother’s home to collect the grass, though modern development has wiped out most wild sweetgrass that once thrived in the region. Once a year, Darryl pays a visit to a property where the grass still grows and often spends an entire day filling two bags. After the grass dries out, it can take a whole afternoon to weave small to medium-size baskets; more elaborate pieces can take several months. “What started as a simple work tool has been transformed into an art form,” said Darryl. “People are often surprised by the artistry and weight of each basket. They can last 100 years.”

Photos courtesy DNA Sweetgrass Baskets

DNA Sweetgrass Baskets are signature souvenirs from Charleston.


Come see all of the history and beauty that makes our meetings so incredibly inspirational. Contact Kristen Grissom today to book your next conference at 800.768.3401.

800.768.3401 |

going on faith [ ] 33 St. Joseph Cathedral




The patio at Elizabeth Pointe Lodge on Amelia Island is an ideal place for girlfriend groups to relax and enjoy the Atlantic coast.



n a region characterized by temperate weather and colorful boutique shops, female travelers will find no shortage of ideal destinations for a girlfriend getaway in the South. Before making arrangements in a more common location, planners should consider one of these hidden gems.

AMELIA ISLAND, FLORIDA Nothing says getaway like a vibrant island with untamed landscape. Located on the northernmost point of Florida, Amelia Island features a glittering view of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and green salt marshes on the other. In between, visitors will find groves of live oak trees, sprawling grassland and looming sand dunes. In addition to offering water sports like kayaking and paddle boarding, Amelia Island is one of the few locations in the country where people can go horseback riding on the beach. Amelia’s historic downtown carries the influence of Spanish, French and British rule, offering a


going on faith [ spring 2017 ]

variety of Victorian architecture, boutiques and hookto-plate seafood restaurants overlooking the marina. “For an island, Amelia has truly exceptional food,” said Kaitlin Harris, account manager at Hayworth Public Relations. Amelia Island has a long history as a shrimp fishing hot spot, so visitors would be remiss not to try a plate of fresh shrimp at one of the local eateries, such as Timoti’s Seafood Shak, which is ideal for those on a budget. For an afternoon activity, groups can schedule a cooking class, such as the Farmers Market Tour and Class, at the Amelia Island Culinary Academy. “The chef is highly rated,” said Harris. “He takes ladies to the farmers market to show them what ingredients to get; then they go back to cook the meal together.”


Groups can also take a ferry to nearby Cumberland Island, which was saved from commercial development during the 1970s and features wild horses, armadillos and mansion ruins. Among several luxury resorts is the Ritz-Carlton, home to the five-diamond Salt restaurant, and the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort. The Omni Resort comprises a shopping village, a golf course, a nature center and a selection of nine restaurants managed by award-winning chef Daven Wardynski.


Courtesy Hayworth PR

Courtesy Purdy Art Co.

HELEN, GEORGIA Though often overlooked as a destination in Georgia, the Alpine Village of Helen enthralls the imagination with cobblestone roads and more than 200 specialty shops. While browsing the colorful stores, groups should be sure to stop by the Nora Mill Granary and pick up a fresh package of stone-ground grits, also known as Georgia ice cream. Other notable stores include the Habersham Winery, the Hot and Sweet Coffee Company and the Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen, which features treats like hand-glazed pineapple slices, almond butter toffee and pecan logs. One of the store’s owners, David Jones, wrote the book “Candy-Making for Dummies.” The Bodensee Restaurant is a local favorite, complimenting the city’s Bavarian themes with authentic,

With 26 miles of beaches and picturesque towns, the Mississippi Gulf Coast provides an ideal venue for girlfriend groups to lounge, shop and explore. Along the water, travelers can enjoy paddle boarding, kayaking, biking, walking trails and birdwatching, as well as mouthwatering seafood like salty-sweet oysters, fresh shrimp, flounder and crab. Groups will find rich local culture and attractions in the city of Biloxi, Mississippi, without the crowds and expense of destinations like New Orleans. Lodging options along the waterfront include the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel, the White House Hotel and the South Beach Hotel. At the end of the day, visitors can experience awardwinning Creole cuisine and outdoor seating at Patio 44. Another great hotel choice to consider is the Oak Crest Mansion Inn, a beautiful antebellum bed-and-breakfast in Pass Christian. Nearby, the city of Gulfport offers a vibrant nightlife, especially in Fishbone Alley, which runs between two prominent bar streets and serves as a community entertainment district. At Canvas An Official NASA Visitor Center and Cocktails, groups can learn how to paint step by IST # 1 TO U R step while enjoying a cool ION T C ATTRA refreshment of their choice. ABAMA •

A spa treatment in Eureka Springs

To experience some of the best beaches in the region, many visitors take the Ship Island Excursions tour, which travels from the Gulfport small-craft harbor on a 50-minute ferry ride to the barrier island of West Ship Island. During the trip, passengers sometimes catch a glimpse of a bottlenose dolphin. Ocean Springs features a walkable, historic downtown with numerous boutique shops. For gourmet dining, groups can pay a visit to Vestige, which some travelers consider the best restaurant on the Gulf Coast.

Paducah’s Hotel Metropolitan Courtesy Paducah CVB


Fascinating two- to six-day immersive camps for all ages: children, families, adults and corporate programs!

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS)

Huntsville, Alabama • (800) 637-7223

going on faith [ ] 35

German cuisine. Chef Aurel Prodan studied the culinary arts in Romania and later established his reputation as a master chef in Bavaria, Germany, bringing back traditional dishes like pork schnitzel, beef stroganoff and veal cordon bleu. The area is also renowned for the surrounding waterfalls, such as Anny Ruby Falls and Raven Cliff Falls. Groups can stop by the nearby Chattahoochee Stables for horseback riding or take a tubing adventure in the Chattahoochee River.

PADUCAH, KENTUCKY Located halfway between major cities Louisville, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee, Paducah provides a convenient location for traveling groups in central Kentucky, surprising many visitors with its eclectic offering of eateries, art galleries and historic attractions. One of its prized features is the National Quilt Museum, which displays an exquisite collection of artisan quilts. “You’re among the greatest fiber art in the world,” said Fowler Black, group sales director at Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau. “These are not the quilts our grandmothers used to make. This is fine contemporary art.” To put the skill of the craft in perspective, groups can sign up for the Creative Stitch VIP tour and quilt-making workshop. “I was a guinea pig for this experience,” said Black, “and I proudly display my quilt here at the office. It’s a great conversation point when talking with people.” Another quintessential attraction in the city is the Hotel Metropolitan, a historic hotel that housed African-American guests during segregation. As soon as visitors step onto the porch, history comes alive as the hotel hostess, Miss Maggie, warily opens the door and tries to shoo any white guests away to the “white hotel,” complaining about Jim Crow laws. Eventually, she allows the group inside, where they

can learn about the building’s unique past and enjoy a slice of chess pie. “It’s incredible to learn about its history,” said Black. “Even famous AfricanAmericans had no place to stay in town except the Metropolitan.” In the Lower Town Arts District, many artists lead hands-on workshops; they include Kijsa Housman, owner of Make Paducah, and Kristin Williams from Ephemera Paducah, who offers embroidering and Bible-journaling classes. Popular dining options include Kirchhoff’s Bakery and Deli, Cynthia’s and the Freight House Restaurant, which is in an old freight depot.

EUREKA SPRINGS, ARKANSAS Built during the late 1800s, Eureka Springs carries a significant amount of history, with its Victorian-style hotels, homes and shops. “We have a ton of shopping and art galleries in our downtown area,” said Gina Rambo, publicist at the Eureka Spring Convention and Visitors Bureau. True to its name, the city is interspersed with about a dozen natural springs, with Basin Spring nestled in the center of town. Other favorites include Grotto Spring, which emerges from a mountain cave, and Crescent Spring, where visitors will find a stone staircase and trail adjacent to the historic Crescent Hotel. Before the town was established, many early settlers traveled to the area to experience the healing mineral waters, and Eureka Springs continues to serve as a prime environment for rejuvenation, with nearly a dozen spas and wellness centers. Reminiscent of European castles, the Palace Hotel and Bathhouse combines modern amenities with romantic charm, with a century-old bathhouse downstairs. One hidden gem in town is the Thorncrown Chapel, an award-winning structure that features exquisite glass walls and crisscrossing beams.

Experience where New Orleans goes to meet and unwind!

Reserve a peaceful retreat from the bustling big city. Just a beat from New Orleans, experience Kenner, Jefferson’s largest city and home to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. In Kenner, our 75,000 square foot Pontchartrain Convention & Civic Center and over 2,000 of the parish’s 8,000 hotel rooms are ready to host your group. Jefferson Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. 3 Call 504.731.7083 3 Toll Free 1.877.572.7474 3


going on faith [ spring 2017 ]




Petit Jean State Park is one of the most beautiful sites in Arkansas.


Courtesy AR Parks and Tourism


ith so many travel options to consider, it is easy to overlook some of the South’s most distinctive and beautiful state parks. From a Civil War-era mill to a historic railway, the following parks contain unique geographical features and landmarks, providing natureloving groups with an unforgettable experience.

STONE MOUNTAIN STATE PARK NORTH CAROLINA Located just below North Carolina’s scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, Stone Mountain State Park features 18 miles of hiking trails, sheltered picnic areas and a restored 19th-century mountain farm. The centerpiece of the park is a 600-foot granite dome that looms above a meadow. This unusual geological attribute resulted from a 25-mile pluton, which is an igneous rock bent upward by molten lava. With time, wind and rain wore down the terrain to reveal the smooth dome that visitors see today.

Popular activities in the park include horseback riding, hiking, rock climbing and trout fishing. The 4.5-mile Stone Mountain Loop Trail takes hikers past a towering 200-foot waterfall leading up to the summit of Stone Mountain. Visitors are welcome to tour the historic Hutchinson Homestead property at any time; the property was restored to reflect everyday life for the region’s first settlers and features a log cabin, a barn, a blacksmith shop and a meat house.

CASS SCENIC RAILROAD STATE PARK WEST VIRGINIA Cass Scenic Railroad State Park begins in the quaint town of Cass, West Virginia, where the cottages, company going on faith [ ] 37

West Virginia’s Cass Scenic Railroad

Cheaha State Park in Alabama Courtesy Cass Scenic RR State Park

Courtesy AL State Parks


Stone Mountain State Park in North Carolina

Interpreters at Georgia’s Sweetwater Creek State Park

Courtesy Visit NC

store and train depot remind visitors of a time when locomotives played a central role in American culture. Originally built in 1901 to transport lumber to the mill in Cass, the Cass Scenic Railroad — with black billows of smoke pumping into the sky from the engine — takes groups through lush, untamed countryside. As the train steadily climbs the mountainous terrain, passengers will see a recreated 1940s logging camp as well as a natural spring from which water is drawn to cool the engines. Eventually, the journey ends at Bald Knob, the third-highest point in West Virginia at an elevation of 4,700 feet. Visitors are free to walk out to the overlook and relish the sweeping view. Groups must reserve tickets in advance and are advised to arrive several hours early to take advantage of a free guided tour through the locomotive shops and a Cass orientation film. Warm clothes are recommended, since the mountain air can be chilly.

Courtesy Sweetwater Creek State Park

As Arkansas’ first state park, Petit Jean State Park holds a rich threshold of history, remaining one of the state’s most popular attractions. Its central feature is the majestic, 24-room Mather Lodge, which was built in 1933 using rocks and timber from the surrounding area, though aspects of the structure recently underwent a $4.3 million renovation. Guests can bring tents or RVs to one of the 125 campsites or rent one of the park’s yurts, which are large tents with bunk beds inside. There are numerous hiking trails to enjoy, and park staff often lead hikes on request to point out key landmarks, such as the Native American pictographs in Rock House Cave. Another popular program is the Owl Prowl, during which groups follow a guide on a night hike as they attempt to locate screech owls using an electric animal caller.



an all-new immersive entertainment experience

GRACELAND.COM/GROUPS • 800-238-2010 © EPE. Graceland is a trademark of EPE. Elvis Presley™; Photo © 2017 ABG EPE IP LLC


THE GUEST HOUSE AT GRACELAND For information, visit


going on faith [ spring 2017 ]


Out of 21 miles of hiking trails, the Cedar Falls trail continues to draw the most crowds, passing a beautiful overlook by Petit Jean’s gravesite. The park was named after a French girl who attempted to travel to the region disguised as a cabin boy, only to die from a mysterious illness upon arrival.

Conservation Corps Museum and a statue called Iron Might that honors the Civilian Conservation Corps. The park is also home to one of the few scenic byways in Alabama, the Talladega Scenic Byway, which travels to the peak of Cheaha Mountain. There is a tower at the summit where people can climb and gaze out at the endless expanse below.

CHEAHA STATE PARK ALABAMA Featuring some of the best mountain views in Alabama, Cheaha State Park has activities to keep everyone entertained. “Hiking is the No. 1 attraction here,” said Kelly Ezell, district superintendent at the park. “There are trails for all levels of hikers.” The most recognized trail is the Bald Road Boardwalk hike, which is ADA accessible and covers only three-tenths of a mile, making it easy for any visitor to enjoy the boardwalk and the spectacular overlook. Due to the park’s elevation, there are stunning views to appreciate in every direction, particularly from popular hiking points like Bald Rock, Pulpit Rock and Rock Garden. To enjoy dinner with a view, the Cheaha Restaurant provides a sweeping panorama of the Talladega National Forest. “People don’t always think of mountains in Alabama, but it’s a very special place,” said Ezell. To spend the night at the crown of the mountain, visitors can lodge in a cabin, chalet, campsite or one of the 12 rooms at Bald Rock Lodge, which offers meeting space for corporate groups, reunions and wedding parties. Other attractions are the Walter Farr Indian Relic Museum, the Civilian

SWEETWATER CREEK STATE PARK GEORGIA Paddle boarding and kayaking are popular activities in Georgia’s Sweetwater Creek State Park, which is known for its rocky terrain and teeming rapids. The paddle season lasts from around March until the end of October. “We provide a great recreational opportunity,” said David Jordan, state park manager. “It’s only 15 minutes from the thriving city of downtown Atlanta, so you can come out here and once you start hiking and experiencing the creek, it really makes you forget the nearby metro city.” Visitors can hike to the ruins of a Civil War-era textile mill once owned by New Manchester Manufacturing. After the mill burned down during the 1860s, the local community eventually abandoned the area, which is what allowed the land to become a state park. The park hosts numerous events and programs throughout the year, such as night hikes, wilderness survival classes and photography workshops. Over Father’s Day weekend, the park hosts a two-day living-history event called New Manchester Days, re-enacting a union encampment and other aspects of the mill’s history.


Naturally Made

’ y

y y

going on faith [ ] 39

Journeys that


taking travelers beyond the sites Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem

Collette’s collection of religious tours has been created with our faith-based travelers in mind. These inspiring travel experiences capture the reflective and humble surroundings of the world-famous spiritual places they visit. Jerusalem

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Offer the world to your travelers with journeys to seven continents.


To learn about our extensive tour selection, call 800.762.5345 or your local Travel Agent. CST# 2006766-20 UBN# 601220855 Nevada Seller of Travel Registration No. 2003-0279

Profile for The Group Travel Leader, Inc.

Going On Faith Spring 2017  

The Going On Faith Spring 2017 issue features group travel ideas for Samaria, Texas, the Smokies, Christian music festivals, dinner theater...

Going On Faith Spring 2017  

The Going On Faith Spring 2017 issue features group travel ideas for Samaria, Texas, the Smokies, Christian music festivals, dinner theater...