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Behind the Scenes at West Baden on the Busiest Day in 3 Years

December 16, 2022 By Brendan Perkins, French Lick Resort Marketing Department
West Baden Holiday Lights inside Dome
What does the busiest day since 2019 at French Lick Resort look like?

Pretty much a blur, honestly. But here’s what I remember of Eventageddon, aka December 3rd at French Lick Resort.

West Baden Springs employees in a blur

We’re used to pulling off big events — concerts for 2,000+ people, Thanksgiving dinner for 1,000, and a tree lighting ceremony that draws everyone in a three-county radius.…and their brother. (If you were here for this year’s French Lick Springs Hotel tree lighting, you know.) But every now and then comes a day that’s bigger than big. Massiver than massive. Those days where it truly requires the entire village to pull off an event of this magnitude.

Which is why I’m here.

You can usually find me behind a keyboard in the resort’s Marketing Department but today I’m scurrying around West Baden Springs Hotel trying to assist — or not screw anything up, at the very least — wherever necessary during this private event of about 900 guests. 



Gourmet Salad
Helping make beds (tight fold on those corners, just like a Christmas present). Setting out salads (lettuce wedge at the bottom) on some of the 93 tables set up across the atrium. Handling dozens upon dozens of hot plates in the kitchen (please, God, don’t let me drop anything). From lighting candles on the tables beforehand to clearing wine glasses and empty bottles from the mezzanine afterward, hundreds of us are constantly moving with one semi-chaotic yet like-minded mission: See something that needs done, jump in and help.

My stint making beds and tidying rooms was supposed to last a little longer. But our housekeeping staff, being the absolute rockstars they are, finished up early on flipping every room in the hotel to be ready for check-in that day — that’s 243 rooms at West Baden Springs Hotel, plus an additional 120 rooms over at French Lick Springs Hotel for this group. (Now’s a good time for a friendly reminder: tip your housekeepers! Not just here, but everywhere you stay. Without a doubt, the unsung heroes of the hotel industry.)

Things start picking up at the next stop: concierge.

hotel employee providing service

Our concierge staff is doing laps around the upper hotel floors, delivering a bottle of wine and chocolate truffles to every guest room as a welcome amenity. Here’s where I learn a fun little fact I never knew: six laps around West Baden Springs Hotel’s circular corridor is roughly equal to one mile. And days like this equate to miles, plural.

“I’m already to 10,000 steps for the day,” our concierge Candis tells me. Oh, and it’s only 3:15. Candis looks like she could go 10,000 more, easy.

West Baden Spring Christmas Tree

Maybe the only person who can rival that sort of mileage is our head florist, Kim. She’s also the one who heads up our holiday decorating at both hotels, and you’d never know this is her crazy season. Always a smile on her face, perpetually on the move. She applies the finishing touches to the floral centerpieces at West Baden. Then, she’s off to French Lick Springs Hotel to move Christmas trees for three other holiday parties going on the same night.

I’ll never complain again about being busy.

Especially not after a cameo in the kitchen to assist with plate-up.

Plate-up is the behind-the-scenes moment I was most curious to see, because how on earth is it possible to cook for 900? West Baden’s executive chef, Ethan, has the kitchen staff huddle around and provides a demo of what every plate should look like. A swirl of mashed potatoes (yes, made from scratch) in the center of the plate, two roasted carrots on top of that, a filet and chicken breast tucked on each side, a drizzle of cream sauce and natural jus on each. Voila! Looks so easy.

Now just make 900 of ‘em.

Line Cooks making dinner plates


Everyone has a specific task in this well-oiled assembly line. I’m on garnish duty and get to finish each plate with some diced red peppers and parsley. I wish it were as easy as channeling my inner Emeril and feeling like some fancypants chef with my sprinkling techniques, then BAM! I get entrusted with a more crucial job. The finished and covered plates are stacked four high onto a cart, wheeled through tight quarters and around sharp corners, and loaded into large warming boxes before they’re served.

Yep. I’m on that detail. This has serious droppage and breakage and humiliation potential written all over it.

But as the fate of hundreds of hot plates and hungry guests rests in these sweaty palms, the rest of West Baden’s kitchen staff is along for the ride to make sure everything goes smoothly. Tara, one of the cooks, is my plate-up line neighbor. She’s obviously done this zillions of times and looks cool as a cucumber even though she’s moving about twice as fast. Tara’s the best, and she tells me in the nicest possible way that maybe go easier on the red peppers ... and oh that plate needs parsley still ... and hold on don’t cover that plate because it still needs sauce ... and hey there’s a stack of plates behind you ready to go.

Phew. That. Was. Intense. Didn’t even drop any plates, though there will always be a few little fires to put out when during an event of this size.

Palm Tree with Christmas Wreath in west baden springs

A last-minute change means an entire extra table of 10 needs to be set. We’re short a couple dozen salads and the kitchen scrambles to make more. A shipment of salt and pepper shakers didn’t arrive, so they’re carefully rationed one set per table. Even a silly little thing like a plant frond drooping where guests will soon be lined up at the bar. The offending frond gets removed, and the show marches on.


Drink Service at West Baden


The devil is in those little details, and that those have been in the works since our Meeting & Event Team launched the planning process in August. Our Scheduling Department started in October to make sure the event was properly staffed — and on nights like these, other departments from Human Resources to Accounting to the Grounds Staff step up to pinch-hit behind the scenes. Pretty much every department at the Resort is involved somehow, from the Laundry Department providing fresh tablecloths and napkins to the Purchasing Department making sure we’re fully stocked. (What’s a party without 100 cases of wine and 178 cases of beer and seltzer?)

employees behind the scenes at West Baden Springs Resort

To see all the inner workings, you truly gain an appreciation of how many steps go into something as simple as a plate of food or a clean room. Speaking of steps, I hit 8,631 by the end of the night. Extend that out to all the other Resort associates chipping in on this busiest day in three years, and we're literally logging a couple thousand miles to pull this all together.

A lot of legwork from all hands on deck, and we’ll do it all over again for the next big event at French Lick Resort. (And if you find your entrée is missing parsley, well, I apologize for that one in advance.)





During large events and banquets, the hotel's old barbershop
and shoe shine room is transformed into a breakdown
station for plates, glasses and utensils before they're
sent to the dishwasher.
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