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Purple mountain's majesty.

Petit Jean's Tanyard Springs Offers Executives Chance to Escape Daily Rigors of Business World

TO SAY THAT LANCE Watkins likes his job is an understatement of massive proportions.

Watkins, the general manager of Tanyard Springs, speaks of the Conway County resort in tones usually reserved for a close friend or beloved pet.

He likens the promotional brochures describing what the 200-acre hideaway has to offer to a family photo album.

To an outsider, it may seem like nothing more than a collection of pictures.

To Watkins, and many of those who have visited the vacation area, it is much, much more.

"They are among the centers of influence in their communities," says Watkins of the guests who frequent the resort, located on the south rim of Petit Jean Mountain. "They are some of the respectable, professional" -- and he emphasizes with an air of respect -- "neat people.

"Being able to serve these clients is an honor."

His client list includes some of central Arkansas' leading attorneys, physicians and bankers, most of whom make the relaxing drive up Arkansas 10 West, and a short side trip on Arkansas 9 North and Arkansas 154 West, to take advantage of the resort's seclusive atmosphere.

"The majority of our clients are in a high-stress lifestyle and we are their escape," Watkins says. "Tanyard Springs really is not for everyone, but for those who do have a hectic lifestyle. We give them the opportunity to unwind and rediscover themselves and their families and the true joys of life."

The Rustic Look

Owned by Arkansas multimillionaire Winthrop Paul Rockefeller, Tanyard Springs rests adjacent to Petit Jean State Park, its entrance within the park's boundaries.

The resort's title is derived from a leather tanning yard, located in the area in the 1800s, and the surrounding natural springs, used in the tanning process to produce shoe material.

Developed by a Louisiana clinical psychologist, Tanyard Springs is host to 13 rustic but comfortable cabins, each with a distinctive design.

The Stagecoach, for example, boasts an authentic stagecoach in the upstairs sleeping loft designed with children in mind. The stagecoach features a vanity in the rear and a hanging closet in the front where the driver sat.

The Gambler -- the closest the resort comes to being ostentatious -- harks back to the days when riverboats journeyed up and down the Mississippi River. Crystal chandeliers, a spiral staircase and a dining table inlaid with a five-card stud poker game completes the picture.

The Cattle Rancher depicts "a Ponderosa theme" and is a favorite of President-elect Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, who stayed in the cabin last year. The downstairs bed is an actual buckboard wagon, complete with wheels, while the kitchen resembles the back end of a chuck wagon. Even the door pulls were once used as branding irons.

"We try to utilize many different kinds of woods and construction," says Watkins.

Some of the cabins are constructed with rough-hewn logs, others from rounded logs of cypress and cedar. While provincial in appearance, all 13 offer central heat and air conditioning.

The natural surroundings offer diversities such as Cedar Falls, a 100-foot waterfall, and six overlooks in the state park that provide hikers with a scenic view of the Arkansas River and the valley surrounding the mountain. Fishing enthusiasts will find four stocked lakes.

The natural security of the cabin area is enhanced by a mechanical gate, which allows only guests with a pass key to enter, as well as the natural barriers of the mountainous region.

"It's next to impossible to get back there without going through the gate," says Watkins.

The natural and structural beauty aside, not to mention a nearby 6,000-foot full-service landing field for private aircraft, an added attraction is the health factor.

"All of the water comes from the natural springs, so all of the water that you drink, cook with and bathe in is pure spring water," says Watkins.

Adrienne's, the resort's restaurant, seats 32 and has the distinct advantage of having the only liquor license on Petit Jean Mountain. Considered a private club, Adrienne's has some 2,000 active members, the majority of whom are from the surrounding area.

A Local Effort

Built by local craftsmen and artists, the resort was the product of two years' work.

The Louisiana physician adopted the area as his home away from home after honeymooning at the park's Mather Lodge. He sold the property in 1990 to Rockefeller.

Rockefeller owns the nearby Winrock Farms, which specializes in raising and selling purebred Santa Gertrudis cattle.

Despite its steep rates, Tanyard Springs had 92 percent occupancy last month. The rates vary from $125 per day on weekdays to $150 a day on weekends. Special packages, such as the Romance Getaway, provide such amenities as a picnic basket for two, continental breakfasts and three-course dinners at Adrienne's.

"The No. 1 complaint we have is lack of availability," says Watkins, who advises prospective clients to make reservations at least two months in advance.

The winter holiday season is an especially busy one for Watkins and his staff. Fifty percent of the cabins are reserved a year in advance.

Those staying at Tanyard Springs during December can expect to see groups of carolers visiting each cabin along with elaborate decorations spread throughout the resort.

A group of local merchants, organized by the state park's administrative staff, will host an open house the second week in December, during which Tanyard will provide the public with free tours of the cabins.

Change in Store

Vacationers spending Christmas at Tanyard Springs will notice one considerable addition to the resort.

The former general store, located near the entrance, is in the process of being converted into a conference center to facilitate the number of corporations using the location for executive retreats.

Decorated in a fashion similar to the nearby cabins, the conference center will feature three separate breakout rooms and will be capable of hosting meetings of up to 100 when it opens Dec. 1.

"We'll have full capabilities for our clients and full catering capabilities," explains Watkins.

Televisions, slide projectors, videotaping facilities and word processing will be available to customers using the conference center.

"Businesses must have their retreats, their planning sessions for executives," Watkins says. "They are tired of Dallas and New Orleans, where they have to pay air fare ... They're wanting much more value for their money. Here at Tanyard, they are able to plan and control their meetings from beginning to end."

The Tanyard Springs logo sports an ambiguous Indian symbol found on the walls of nearby caves. The symbol's true meaning remains undetermined but is associated with native perceptions of the harvest, sunrise and the seasons.

"The best that we were able to decipher |of the symbol~ is that it is the feeling that you get by being on the mountain," says Watkins. "Just like you can't describe Tanyard Springs just by saying it has cabins. It's an experience."

Home for the Holidays

Will Christmas Events Beef Up Winter Tourism in Arkansas?

CHRISTMAS IN ARKANSAS brings to mind scenes of crisp mornings, roaring fireplaces and family get-togethers.

But to the residents of Wilmot, Christmas means fireworks and an armada of yuletide yachts.

The Lake Enterprise Christmas Flotilla and Fireworks Festival will be Dec. 5 on the 350-acre lake in Ashley County. Some 25 boats and barges are expected to take part in the flotilla.

About 1,500 people attended last year's inaugural event. In addition to the fireworks display, the event's planners are scheduling an arts and crafts show and an antique car show. Both will be held on the lake's banks near the Wilmot City Hall.

Piers surrounding the lake will be covered in ornamental lights, while three towering Christmas trees will be lighted and set afloat.

Besides Wilmot's festival, there are more than 100 concerts, exhibits and parades planned for December around the state. Christmas, of course, is the central theme.

"What we're trying to impress upon the people of Arkansas is that there is more to see and do than the traditional events of the past," says Jim Hankins, tourism development manager of the state Department of Parks & Tourism.

Selling Winter

Hankins' office has been busy for the last few months trying to get the word out about some of the more innovative holiday events.

The flotilla, the annual Ozark Christmas gala at the Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View and Eureka Springs' annual Christmas Historic Tour are just a few of the events Parks & Tourism is promoting.

It's an attempt to attract visitors during the usually slow month of December.

Hot Springs' Holiday in the Park is an example.

The festival runs from Nov. 27-Jan. 1. It will include a luminary display throughout the Downtown Historic District, a parade, a tree-lighting ceremony and choral performances.

Many of the events will be filmed Dec. 6-7 for airing on The Nashville Network's "Crook & Chase" Christmas special.

Recording star Tracey Lawrence, an Arkansas native, will host the festivities from Hot Springs for TNN.

Fort Smith's 20th annual Christmas parade will be Dec. 5.

The annual Christmas on the Square in Hamburg will be Dec. 4, featuring the largest array of Christmas lights and decorations in southern Arkansas.

Proceeds from the fifth annual Christmas Potpourri on Dec. 4 at Little Rock's Villa Marre will benefit the Quapaw Quarter Association.

Christmas on the Mountain is Dec. 21-24 at Queen Wilhelmina State Park in Mena.
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Title Annotation:includes related article; Tanyard Springs resort for business executives on Petit Jean Mountain, Arkansas; Winter in Arkansas, part 2
Author:Taylor, Tim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Nov 16, 1992
Previous Article:Acxiom's turnaround - will it continue?
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