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Narrow it down to broaden your reunion’s appeal

by Jacky Runice

My grandmother, from the Old Country, had it so right. “Too much - no good” was her uncomplicated advice for a host of things, from food to television watching. It works for reunions, too. Sensory overload destinations such as Orlando, Gatlinburg and Branson have so much to offer, and visitors often feel they must do it all to get the most value out of the trip. A nice alternative is to build a reunion around a single attraction that members can enjoy together or separately, allowing plenty of time to reconnect back at the ranch. You'll have leisurely opportunities to bond and also benefit from a mini-vacation experience.

WindDancers is a reunion destination for reunion goers of all kinds.

WindDancers Lodge & Llama Treks, located in a serene, secluded 270-acre cove of wilderness and mountains in western North Carolina, has hosted many reunions in their five years in business. Visitors have options. You can take it easy and catch up on a meandering short hike with family members. Or you can do a llama trek, a popular group activity. The sturdy, good-natured llamas haul gear and goodies so hikers can enjoy the views and each other's company.
Your hosts--Susan, Gregg, Donna and Gale Livengood--offer lunch and dinner treks for creating perfect reunion memories. You'll hike about a mile along a mountain stream, catching sight of various birds, butterflies, flora and fauna. Feel free to take a breather whenever you or your llama need one. Using country-fresh ingredients, guides prepare delicious three-course meals that hikers enjoy on a comfortable deck.

WindDancers' log lodges are ideal lodging for reunions, too. The Hickory Lodge, for example, offers two suites, each with a master bedroom and loft with either two twin beds or a king size bed; a full kitchen, dining and sitting area; a gas barbeque grill on the front deck; a kid-favorite "tree house" loft with a spiral staircase; deluxe continental breakfast and magnificent views.

Barent and Linda Parslow, from Staunton, Virginia, visited WindDancers with their daughter. “We had a wonderful time.  The rooms, the food, the local area, the views were all wonderful,” the Parslows said.

The WindDancers have popular greeters waiting for your arrival.

Since the extended Parslow family is from the Florida panhandle and enjoy the mountains, the couple thought a larger family get-together at WindDancers would be ideal and settled on a Thanksgiving reunion. “My brother and two sisters attended with their spouses and three grandchildren,” Linda Parslow explained. “My father was ill at the time and his mobility wasn't so good, and the Livengoods were very accommodating and even gave us an additional room at discount. Susan was able to arrange for our Thanksgiving dinner to be catered and it was wonderful. The caterer was wonderful. I know that I may overuse 'wonderful' in this case but I am not bereft of adjectives - it was simply wonderful,” she said.  Although the group did not trek with the llamas, they visited Waynesville, Maggie Valley (where they saw the Christmas parade), Cherokee, Gatlinburg and the Biltmore at Asheville. Of course, as if by magic, the Florida family experienced a nearly perfect snowfall - playable for the kids, yet drivable, too. “The lodge is easy to access, easy to find, and suitably remote while still close to the local attractions,” Parslow concluded.

When it was Radha Selvester's turn to organize a family reconnect, so she researched various accommodations and determined that Wind Dancers was the most interesting, unique and well situated for easy access to myriad activities. The family's reunions consist of the three Warshavsky sisters (Selvester's mother and aunts) and everyone's brood. “Wind Dancers has a variety of rooms,” Selvester explained. “I needed one of the little cottages in the back with two bedrooms for myself and kids; my brother took a small loft accommodation out back; my sister and her husband also took a loft apartment; aunt Judy stayed in one of the rooms inside the main building - she can't walk on rough terrain and has a hard time with steps; my cousin with baby also stayed within the building on the ground floor; and other relatives stayed upstairs in main building.”

Selvester loved the airy, spacious rooms, gorgeously decorated in themes of places around the world. “The big lounge area in the main building was super for just hanging out and talking,” she added. “We had three full days to explore the area. One day the elders took the little girls to Santa Land while the more adventurous folks went to Tennessee’s Pigeon River for white water rafting - totally cool!” Then, they did the llama trek for dinner. “Wow,” Selvester exclaimed, “that is something no one had ever done before and my daughter fell in love with Beeper, her llama. Each person got a llama to hike with and we went up the mountain and there were two tables built into the side of the mountain inside the woods, shady and cool. A jeep brought my aunt to this place where Judy could not possibly walk. The Wind Dancers folks served us a fancy meal with wine and real dishes. It was a phenomenal experience. My relatives kept remarking ‘How did you find this place?’”

Located in Fines Creek, North Carolina, WindDancers Lodge & Llama Treks is convenient to Asheville, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Appalachian Trail, Pisgah National Forest and about 30 minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Contact Innkeeper Susan Livengood, toll free 877-627 3330; or visit the website.

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