Valentine’s Weekend with Smitty

I’ve had people ask me to post more details about our vacation in TN, so thought I’d give specifics for anyone interested.

We flew out on Fri from Mpls/St. Paul and flew Midwest. I knew it was going to be a GREAT vacation because Midwest serves fresh chocolate chip cookies (still warm from the oven). IMO, if all airlines did this, they wouldn’t need to worry about bankruptcy! But then, IMO that’s all it would take for world peace, so ya know…

We arrived in Nashville about a half hour later than expected, so we drove to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. I just have to say, I have stayed in quite a few hotels, but this was the biggest hotel I have ever seen and it was BEAUTIFUL! Nine acres of indoor gardens. There were waterfalls, ponds with koi fish that were big enough to eat! I was seriously fearful that if Greg left me alone without a cell phone that I’d be lost for the rest of the wkend. Smitty mentioned that for all the times he had been at this hotel, this is the first time he didn’t get lost. I can see why! Oh, did I mention that they have a Godiva (chocolate) store in the middle of the hotel?!

Here’s a few pics of the hotel that really don’t do it justice, but it’s my feeble attempt at showing the beauty of the gardens, etc.

Outside of the Gaylord Opryland Resort

Outside of the Gaylord Opryland Resort

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One of the many waterfalls at Opryland Resort

One of the many waterfalls at Opryland Resort

Did I mention that there's a riverboat that runs through the hotel that you can ride on?!

Did I mention that there's a riverboat that runs through the hotel that you can ride on?!

One of at least 3 gazebos. This one is covered in magnolias.

One of at least 3 gazebos. This one is covered in magnolias.

We went and completed the registration for the hotel and the Michael W Smith wkend and unloaded our bags after hunting down our room. We then got ready and boarded a bus to the Grand Ole Opry which was about 3 blks away from the hotel. I didn’t know much about the Grand Old Opry before we got there. I’m not into country music for the most part and was a bit disappointed that we’d have to sit through quite a few other entertainers prior to seeing Smitty, but it went ok. The Grand Old Opry is a 2 hr live radio show and they have different performers every half hour. They also have live commercials, which is a bit unusual since you actually pay for the tickets to see it, but whatever…My opinion of it is that some of these entertainers should have retired about 20 yrs ago. But, like I said, I’m not a country music fan per say, so my opinion probably is a bit skewed. Anyway, it was Smitty’s debute at the Grand Ole Opry and that was very cool. He sang “Friends,” “There She Stands,” and “America the Beautiful”. He did an awesome job.

Then, we went back to the hotel for a Valentine’s Dance and reception which involved chocolate cheesecake, coffee, and various other desserts–YUM! There was a movie screening of “C2” afterward, but Greg and I were exhausted and went to bed instead.

Sat morning there was a devotional by John and Beverly Shaesby at 8a. Unfortunately, Greg and I were exhausted, so we didn’t make it to that. Afterward, Bob Nelson (comedian) and Matthew West (Christian recording artist) gave a performance which Greg and I attended. Matthew West is AWESOME and funny. There was an autograph signing afterward by Smitty, Matthew West, and Barbara Smith (Smitty’s mom, who has done 2 wonderful cookbooks). Greg and I got Smitty and Barbara’s autograph. Also, we toured Smitty’s tour bus (luxury on wheels). See my previous post for photos.

Afterward, we saw a prescreening of the video to “A New Hallelujah” the new DVD Smitty has out. The video will be coming out in March. If you don’t have the CD yet, GO BUY IT! It is AWESOME! The video is also amazing as it’s live from Houston and he has the African Children’s Choir helping him out as well as Israel. The taping of this was what Barbara said was one of her favorite times in Smitty’s career. It’s powerful!

That afternoon there were break-out sessions with Barbara Smith (“Cookin’ with Smitty’s Mom”) in which she gave cooking tips (she used to be a professional caterer) and answered all sorts of questions regarding cooking as well as what it’s like to have Smitty as a son, etc. The lady has the gift of hospitality like I have never seen. She made Valentine cookies for everyone there (over 500). They were all decorated and packaged individually. And, they were very tasty!

There was a break-out session with the Shaesby’s also, but Greg and I didn’t attend. We needed a break and I needed to check on our son and make sure our house was still standing, etc.

That evening there was a VIP reception with Smitty in which we got our pics taken–see previous post. they played a video of “Change Your World” (an album Smitty made in the 80’s) and we all had a good laugh. During the reception we met some people from New Jersey that we really connected with and will hopefully stay in contact. Part of the goal for the wkend was for people to meet each other and there were plenty of opportunities to do so. People were there from Spain, Brazil, London, Canada and all over the US. Though it was a smaller group of people than Smitty’s concerts and cruises, there is no way we could have met everyone, but it was easier to make connections to other people.

After the VIP reception was the Valentine’s dinner and concert (the main concert of the wkend). We connected with more people at our table during dinner and of course, the concert was amazing. As usual, Smitty went off his song list and just lets God lead the way. (I have to insert that it is humorous to watch the rest of his band members when he does this as they don’t know what he’s going to do, so they don’t know what instruments to grab for the next song and at one point the drummer didn’t know what kind of beat in which to start the song). Also, a Singing Sergeant that sang at Reagan’s funeral, Bush’s inauguration, etc., sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (pitch-perfect, accopella) It was beautiful!

After the concert, there were games like Smingo (Smitty Bingo) with prizes of some of his gold records, gift certificates to the souvenier table, etc., Wii played on the movie screen, etc. We stayed for a little bit, but eventually the fatigue hit and we went to bed.

Sun morning was church. Smitty led worship (he is seriously gifted in that area). John Shaesby preached and Smitty gave the final closing of thank-you’s and the wrap-up. We said “good-bye” to the friends we had made and that was the end of that part of the wkend.

There are two things I would have changed about that part of the weekend. First, we stood in line forever to get Smitty’s autograph and though others got their pic with him at that point, we couldn’t because they were running short on time. Fortunately, we were VIP’s so we got his pic at the VIP reception, but even there we had about 15-20 seconds to get our picture snapped. There was absolutely no time to say, “Hi” or introduce ourselves or anything. I barely got a “Thank-you” in there and even then the staff seemed irritated at that. I wish they had planned a bit more time for a few more seconds of interaction since they knew how many people were attending the wkend. Just my 2 cents.

Since our flight didn’t leave until Mon, we had all afternoon to explore Nashville, so we went to the Country Music Walk of Fame and found Smitty’s star along Steven Curtis Chapman and a bunch of other’s. I collect Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts, so we went and got a few items there and walked around Nashville for a bit. Then, drove down to Franklin, just south of Nashville. We saw the church that Smitty started and attends and stopped at Kroger’s. (Long story, but I’ve heard a lot about Kroger’s and had to see it for myself! I actually met another couponer there!!) We also stopped downtown historic Franklin which is beautiful! It was a bit chilly, so we stopped at Starbuck’s for a cup of joe! Did I mention that they have Ben & Jerry’s there also? Their Cinnamon bun ice cream is da bomb!

Country Music Walk of Fame

Country Music Walk of Fame

Then, we made a quick stop at the mall only to find out that their mall is owned by the same company as Burnsville Center. There were a lot of the same stores that we have in MN.

That was about it. We went to dinner and walked around our resort for a while through the gardens. We had a very early morning flight out of Nashville the next morning, so we turned in early that night. That was pretty much the end of our vacation. However, we have vowed that we will go back to Nashville and have even considered flights back already. We have considered moving there as though it was cool there, it was nothing like MN in terms of cold and snow. Moving probably won’t be in our immediate future, but it is definitely a possibility.

If you haven’t been to TN, try it out. We loved it! If you haven’t been to a Smitty concert, book some tickets!! He’s touring with Steven Curtis Chapman right now and that would be an awesome experience. If Smitty has a Valentine celebration next year or something similar, I’d definitely recommend it.

Here’s a video of the wkend from Smitty’s staff that you can check out also. http://www.youtube.com/michaelwsmithtv

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