I made this trip to meet Kansas meeting and event planners in Salina. After a productive trip and a good night’s sleep, I met with a few locals to talk about experiences they could offer groups.
The hospitable, Mike Neustrom, owner of Prairie Lavender Farm near Bennington, KS and President of the Lavender Association, showed me his grounds and shop. Mike and his family harvest lavender from May - October yearly. Their gardens are opened to groups for painting events, tours, and even hands-on harvesting get togethers. Mike creates all of his homemade products, including distilled lavender oil, soaps, creams, and even cooking seasonings.
Next, I was able to meet Ron Rideout, General Manager of Tony's Pizza Event Center, formerly known as the Bicentennial Center. He walked me through the arena, ballroom, and second floor meeting spaces. The renovation is wonderful, and with Salina's 2020 downtown renovation plan in place, the event center will be a short, lovely walk from the main street area of town.
Courtyard Salina, at which I stayed, had great amenities for travelers. The Bistro, in the lobby area, served wonderful breakfast offerings and Starbucks® coffee. But to top it off, owner, Stanley Weilert, took time to talk to me about his property and the currently in construction Hilton Garden Inn® Salina Event Center, just down the road. The new hotel will house 100 rooms, and over 11,000 sq. ft. of event space. The rock exterior and entry way cupola already gave the venue a grand feel.
Thanks to the planning prowess of Jo Ann, Visit Salina, I had an extremely productive morning prior to meeting the Kansas planners group and touring multiple hotels and event venues across Salina. From the Quality Inn to the Holiday Inn Express and many venues in between, we were shown event space, were able to ask about capacities with different floor plans, and learn about A/V compatibilities.
The last venue we encountered was Rolling Hills Zoo. Less than a 20 minute drive from Salina, this location is a hidden gem, in my opinion. The conference center entryway, pre-function space, and event room were unique and fun. But the best part is the free museum entrance upon use of the event space. The museum holds a vast amount of wildlife, indoor waterfalls, and a gallery. It is a fun experience for all ages. I received a tour and was in awe of the space and exhibits.
Our evening ended with a RAIN concert at the Tony's Pizza Event Center. It was fun to see the full set up after being there in the morning when lights were just being hoisted. The concert was spectacular and a special end to the day.