Fair Hills in DL paper

Thanks to D-L Online for their great article on the Hootenanny hitting the road. We had a great time and we think their captured the fun we had. Also thanks for permission to reprint the article here:

Hootenanny: Fair Hills takes its act on the road this winter
Fair Hills owner explained that since last year’s business was all right, not great due to the economy, a group of employees brainstormed how to get guests
By Pippi Mayfield, DL-Online

The Fair Hills Hootenanny hit the road this winter.

“It was a throw back to other times,” four-generation resort owner Beth Schupp said.

She explained that since last year’s business was all right, not great due to the economy, the group brainstormed how to get guests. Schupp’s dad brought up how her grandfather would take the Hootenanny on the road to St. Louis, and thus the 2010 “Hoot de Tour” was born.

So, beginning Jan. 4, three Fair Hills staff members loaded up the vehicle and toured the Midwest and made a stop in Canada, bringing the Hootenanny to former and potential guests.

Hoot de Tour schedule

Human Resources staffer Caitlin Pawlowski put together a Power Point of songs, Larry Swenson brought his piano and song sheets and Schupp prepared a tale of the history of the resort.

The three of them hit the road, driving from Sioux Falls to Omaha, Des Moines to Eden Prairie, Stillwater to Winnipeg, with a few stops in between.

Along with audience members, the three performed three classic songs from the Hootenanny including “Let’s Go to Pelican Lake” — complete with pelican costumes, “2-1-8” and “Monotone Lawnboy.” It ended of course with Swenson’s “Wide Mouth Frog” joke, which Schupp and Pawlowski agree is still funny after 40 years.

“The guests loved being the staff,” Schupp said of those pulled out of the audience to help with the performances.

With the prepared PowerPoint, guests got to see pictures of themselves and other guests at Fair Hills throughout the years. They also got a “little sample of all our activities,” Pawlowski said.

“A little slice of our resort,” Schupp added.

The only lack of planning Schupp admits they did was not getting the word out early enough for those they invited to attend the Hoot de Tour. Sending out e-vites, newsletters and e-mails in the fall, she said this year they plan to know the dates and locations for next year’s traveling show and let guests know farther in advance, while they’re already at the resort even.

Those invited were asked to bring guests and anyone interested in a musical good time.

Looking at the demographics and locations of their guests is how they determined the tour stops. And as much as the audience enjoyed the visit and stories, so did those from Fair Hills.

At a stop in Stillwater, a retirement community, they connected with a lady that had been a guest in 1926 and continued to return for summers. After the show, she said she was going to bring her kids and grandkids next time.

“Which, of course, is what we want,” Schupp said.

The Fair Hills gang asked the audience members about their favorite memories of Fair Hills.

“It was fun to talk about what was really enjoyed, and fun to hear the stories,” Schupp said.

They got some new bookings from the trip as well as the opportunity to remind past members to make reservations.

“We got excited, they got excited,” and they booked again, Pawlowski said.

Hootenanny history

Moving into its 45th year, the Hootenanny is said to be one of the most loved parts of visiting Fair Hills.

“It’s evolved, but it started as a real hootenanny,” Schupp said — complete with hay bales, gingham costumes and the works.

After 45 years, “The Hoot” is the longest running musical in the state of Minnesota. It is filled with songs and choreography of different types and genres.

Employees, full-time staff and resort owners take part in Hootenanny performances. During the resort’s summer family season, employees rehearse for the weekly show almost every day.

“We look for musical talent in our employees, and we definitely ask a lot of our staff during this musical,” said Swenson, who produces the Hootenanny, said in the letters that went out to guests.

Fair Hills History

Fair Hills was built in 1906, going through three different owners until brothers Ed and Chester Kaldahl purchased it in 1926.

The land and resort, which was being run as a casino, was foreclosed on, and “anything that could be picked up was sold,” Schupp said.

Having a look at the basically stripped and abandoned property, the two men decided this wasn’t what they had bargained for and decided it was the purchase for them. That was until the sparkling sun shone down on the lake and changed their minds.

“And here we are today,” she said.

The men took three years to build up the resort only to be faced with the recession. The resort obviously survived though. As did the music, which has been a part of the resort since the start.

After 2,300 miles of traveling in the vehicle, the Fair Hills group is tweaking the show for next winter, but it will be about the same format and same songs.

“The songs are so classic, you can’t not do them,” Pawlowski said.