Right at Home in the Wilderness

September 8, 2011

Right at Home in the Wilderness:
Big Cedar Lodge is an oasis of creature
comforts in a setting of natural beauty

FF BigCedar

By Julia M. Johnson

Just ten miles south of Branson lies a
sanctuary that offers meeting planners and
guests the best of both worlds – a wealth
of amenities and activities surrounded by
some of Mother Nature’s finest work.

Founded in 1921 and owned by Bass
Pro Shops, Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale,
Mo., is a unique blend of modern comforts
and rustic tranquility on the banks
of Table Rock Lake. The setting includes
a Jack Nicklaus golf course, marina, nature
park, two spas, dining, and a menu
of activities so varied, your only difficulty
will be in choosing your fun.

Big Cedar features 21,000 square feet
of meeting space on 800 acres, and it’s
conveniently located just minutes from
the Branson Strip, airport and major
highways. There’s a wide selection of
comfortable lodge rooms, cottages and
log cabins, depending on just how close
to nature your guests wish to be.

Many pages would be needed to list
all the perks that guests can enjoy on the
grounds of Big Cedar. But the following
should whet your appetite for events that
are as fun as they are meaningful.

Meetings, first and foremost
Big Cedar’s Grandview Conference
Center is aptly titled. Situated at the heart
of the lodge complex, it’s a picturesque
location for meetings and events of every
kind, easily adaptable for gatherings of 10
to 1,000 guests. The center, built in 2008,
features a variety of space options that can
be used in classroom-, banquet- and theater-
style configurations. Its tall windows
usher in ample daylight and offer moonlit
vistas that delight guests at any hour.

“Just about every space has a water
view,” says Jana Daugherty, director of
marketing at Big Cedar. “Most everywhere
you go, you are overlooking the
lake. And there is a huge lawn in front of
the conference center, which can serve as
outdoor function space.” Large groups
are easily accommodated, but small ones
are just as welcome, Daugherty adds.
“We can do very intimate meetings here.
Smaller groups often use our board rooms
and cabins for gatherings.”

The conference center includes multiple
levels of ballroom, boardroom and breakout
space, according to Simeon Ebedes, director
of sales. The center is fully equipped
with modern audio/visual equipment and
knowledgeable staff, and there is wireless
Internet access throughout the property.
Three restaurants and full catering services
fulfill groups’ culinary needs, and inclusive
event packages are easy to configure
based on group size and budget. Big Cedar
can even customize guest room keycards,
T-shirts, photo memory albums and other
items with company logos if desired.

Meeting clients at Big Cedar have included
trade associations, medical societies,
software and information technology
firms, education and government groups,
and businesses of all kinds. State Farm
Insurance Co., American Honda Finance
Corp., and the Arkansas Society of Certified
Public Accountants are just a few
of the clients who have used words like
“friendly,” “efficient,” “comfortable,” “relaxing”
and “unforgettable” to describe
their Big Cedar meeting experiences.

“We run the full gamut of event
types, including board meetings, sales
rollouts, classes and weddings – and
with all our amenities, we also attract a
lot of incentive trips and team-building
events,” Ebedes says.

Next comes the fun
Ebedes notes that Big Cedar offers no
end of memorable and customizable activities
for event attendees. “We’ve had
groups that have done fishing tournaments,
scavenger hunts on the lake, cooking
challenges, bonfires, cowboy singing
events, and chuckwagon barbecues outdoors,”
he says.

Pick up a Big Cedar Adventure Planner
for the week of your stay, and be
amazed at the range of pastimes in which
your attendees can indulge. Here is the
short list of ways guests and their families
can stay busy: Boat cruises, fishing,
swimming, hiking, sports, nature and
garden tours, picnics, happy hours, musical
performances, movie screenings, a
photography studio and gallery, crafts,
golf clinics, spa services, day camps,
games, fitness classes, holiday parties and
bedtime stories for kids. The Dogwood
Canyon Nature Park also offers ATV
rentals and rides along old logging trails.

“There’s a full activities staff who can
cultivate a plan for any group’s interests,”
says Daugherty. “We even have
fully equipped stables, trail rides and
horse-drawn carriages. We specialize in
impromptu activities, too. Last year,
for example, there was a big snow, so we
brought sleds and hot cocoa up to the
conference center lawn for guests. We
take advantage of opportunities like that
to bring people a little nostalgia.”

Ebedes says Big Cedar employees are
particularly adept at conjuring up the
unexpected. Recently, the conference
staff worked with a group of meeting
organizers to plan a surprise trail ride
and outdoor lunch for session attendees.

“When the group’s noon meeting break
started, we had horses lined up on the
grass outside the conference center,” he
says. “Everyone saddled up and went for
a two-hour trail ride out to a chuckwagon
site with a bar, food and music. Meetings
can be so predictable, but this really took
them out of their comfort zone. We also
have groups that do team-building fishing
activities, and what you catch is what you
make for dinner.”

Let’s all go
Meeting attendees are always welcome
to bring their families to Big Cedar.
And there are no worries about
kids feeling bored while their parents
attend conferences or training sessions.
“It’s very popular for meeting guests to
bring their children here,” says Daugherty.
“Our activities department takes
over, and for the kids, it’s like being at
camp. There are lots of fun things to do,
and many of them are nature-oriented.”
Spouses often choose spa outings, golf,
and cooking classes while meetings are
in session, Ebedes adds.

Elizabeth Hendler, an independent
environmental air quality consultant,
experienced Big Cedar’s vacation and
meeting offerings for herself in the summer
of 2011. She described it as an ideal
event location that’s as user-friendly as
it is family-friendly. “The grounds are
beautiful, and the service at all levels is
excellent,” she says of her visit, which included
her husband and daughters. “At
check-in, you get guides to the property
and its many daily activities, and a set
of coupons for the gift shop, spa, marina
and other attractions. Many activities
are free, and others, like the one-hour
trail ride, are about half the price we have
paid at other resorts.”

Hendler also took note of the vast
property’s openness and accessibility
to vacation and meeting guests. “The
grounds are large and extensive, but well
designed walking trails and free on-call
shuttle vans get you where you want to
go quickly,” she says.

Green, inside and out
If your event clients are especially committed
to environmental responsibility, a
trip to Big Cedar is an excellent addition
to the meeting agenda.

The property performs regular recycling
of cardboard, paper, plastic, metals,
and glass; employs a towel and linen reuse
program; uses low-flow plumbing devices
to reduce water use; practices responsible
facility and land management, including
water recycling and the use of native
plants; and participates in the “Clean the
World” program, which recycles soap
products for use by third world countries.

“Everything you see and experience at
Big Cedar involves a family tradition of
conservation values,” Ebedes says. “It’s all
centered on the outdoors.” MM&E

(Julia M. Johnson is the assistant editor
from St. Louis, Mo.)

Contact Information
Big Cedar Lodge and Grandview
Conference Center
612 Devil’s Pool Road
Ridgedale, MO 65739
Phone: (417) 335-2777
Toll-Free: 1-800-BC-LODGE

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