Small Market Meetings

NOV 2016

The Newspaper for Smaller Cities, Facilities and Planners.

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Page 33 of 35 34 Iowa Meeting Guide By Rachel Carter Courtesy Des Moines Co. Conservation Starr's Cave Nature Center is housed in an 1800s red dairy barn. W hen groups meet at Starr's Cave Nature Center just outside Burlington, Iowa, "they love it because they're not in the office," said Kent Rector, env ironmenta l education coor- dinator for Des Moines County Conservation. That's the appeal of venues that get groups out from under fluorescent lights and into nature, away from conference centers and into historic settings. In Iowa, groups can eat, meet and sleep in the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel still operating in the world, explore trails at Indian Creek Nature Center, make their own works of art at Octagon Center for the Arts and launch a boat from the dock at Waterloo Boat House. S t a r r ' s C a v e N a t u r e C e n t e r Starr's Cave Nature Center B u r l i n g t o n Burlington Starr's Cave Nature Center offers meeting attendees 200 acres of natural beauty and scenic views, all just minutes from city conveniences. "You can go out and hike and get away from the nor- mal office atmosphere," Rector said. The nature center is housed in an 1800s red dairy barn at the 200-acre Starr's Cave Park and Preserve. The three-level center recently redid all the flooring, light- ing and restrooms, and the second phase, slated to start next winter, will open up and redo the main exhibit hall, and will include new finishes and new exhibits. The third floor is the center's main conference space and can hold about 80 to 100 people, depending on the setup. During breaks, attendees can explore interactive exhibits, among them a large beaver pond that illus- trates Iowa animal habitats. Planners can also arrange for a naturalist to lead educational programs, and groups can hike on two miles of maintained trails that wind though forested areas of old oak, hickory and maple trees; over the Flint Creek bridge; and to the Starr's Cave entrance. The cave is currently closed, however, to prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome among bats. O c t a g o n C e n t e r f o r t h e A r t s Octagon Center for the Arts A m e s Ames Mingling among artwork hung on white walls or meeting among sculptures poised on hardwood floors infuses events with "a little more cultural ambiance," said Heather Johnson, executive director of the Octagon Center for the Arts in downtown Ames, Iowa. The center's main gallery features rotating exhibits throughout the year as well as a stage and a baby grand piano. The space can accommodate up to 120 guests for seated meals or 175 for receptions. The recently reno- vated Octagon Community Gallery on the ground level has large windows that let in natural light and views of the bustling street. Groups can have seated meals there for 40 people or receptions for 65. The center also has a dance studio that can hold up to 75 people and a small boardroom for a 15-person meeting. But Octagon's biggest appeal is its main mission: art education. Planners can incorporate classes, workshops and symposiums into their events. Whether it's a busi- ness retreat or a social outing, "we make it something that's fun for everyone," Johnson said. In the past, groups have done hands-on painting or created vision boards to tie in with the meeting's theme. Other popular options are a mosaics class, during which visitors use broken pieces of glass, mirror and tile to create a patterned mosaic piece, and an encaustic class, where students learn to paint with wax. H i s t o r i c P a r k I n n H o t e l Historic Park Inn Hotel M a s o n C i t y Mason City Frank Lloyd Wright was the architect of record for five hotels around the world — technically six, but one was never built. Of those, only one is still in operation: the Historic Park Inn in Mason City, Iowa. Wright, arguably one of the nation's most famous architects, built the hotel and the adjoining bank and office building in 1910 in his famous Prairie style, which emphasized clean lines, low profiles and natural light. Wright on the Park, a nonprofit organization, led a $20 million restoration that stayed as true as possible to the original design while repurposing the space for today's needs, said executive director Pat Schultz. The hotel reopened in 2011 with 27 guest rooms, and the bank was converted into a 2,400-square-foot ball- room that can seat 150 for meals. Other event spaces include the original law library, which can serve as a boardroom or a small conference room, and the ladies' lounge, for small gatherings. Wright on the Park saved as many original features as possible and reproduced others, among them light- fixture statues of the Roman god Mercury and irides- cent art glass at the top of some columns. In the Skylight Room, guests will see 25 original glass ceiling panels that were removed at some point because they leaked. An attorney who worked in the building's offices had taken them home, and "they were discovered and Only in Iowa

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