When Wanda Jewell told me that our annual site visit to the Innisbrook Resort in preparation for upcoming Discovery Show in September would be in March, she did warn me. "It will be during Valspar" she cautioned. I must have looked blank, because she added "the golf tournament." I shrugged and nodded. It was Florida. There would be golf, I thought.
It wasn't until we hit the traffic on US 19 and found ourselves behind a row of coach buses that I realized, oh it's a GOLF TOURNAMENT. So my first introduction to the Innisbrook Resort was one of confused, milling excitement. Golf cart taxis and trams were zipping to and fro. Lines of people wearing sun visors and carrying beach bags and sun block stood at security check points, waiting to be, uh, wanded. Someone had created an exhibit of Tiny Houses near the walkway that led down to the 15th hole. Boy are they tiny. I think I'd need about six just for my books. Adults were walking around with martinis and mojitos in plastic cups. Kids were running around wearing straw hats and grasping paper fans stapled to wooden popsicle sticks.
I'm not a huge golf fan, but I still immediately called my dad. "Guess where I am!" I gloated.
Normally, a site visit means seeing the space "in action" on a normal day. This was hardly normal. Tiger Woods was on the premises, playing like he hadn't for the last five years. The enthusiasm was infectious. And oddly enough, I think being on site during a major event like Valspar was useful because we got a sort of "sky's the limit" view of the possibilities, and we got to see the resort staff really rise to every occasion.
So what do we have to look forward to in September?
Well, the place is beautiful.
That was abundantly clear despite the lines and the traffic and the security details. There are many lovely places to walk and it was not lost on me that the ospreys were nesting and not at all bothered by the crowds. I usually spend the week of the Discovery Show all but trapped in a hotel, so having so much open green space around me was addictive.
The exhibit hall is beautiful.
The foyer has a skylight the length of the building making it bright and welcoming. I think we're going to be putting the TRIO exhibit there. For exhibitors, loading in and out is going to be a dream. The loading docks are RIGHT THERE, and yet somehow invisible. No contending with creaky hotel elevators.
The rooms are really, really comfortable.
At Innisbrook, you have the choice between a "deluxe guestroom" and 1- and 2-bedroom suites. And I will say right now it is worth it to upgrade to the suite if you can. If you share with another person, or a couple people, they are less expensive per person than the guestroom, so this is the Discovery Show where you bring along family for a little vacation. And the suites come with a full kitchen: Fridge, stove, the works. When I come in September, I'm bringing my own coffee maker. No more trying to live off those little coffee pods hotels all have now!
There are something like five restaurants, three bars, a spa, and four or five pools on site.
Which is fortunate, because one thing about Innisbrook is that it is its own contained little world. Getting offsite takes some effort, and I am guessing most folks when they get there, are going to want to stay there. And speaking of food: It is, of course, very good. The menus are heavy on the seafood, naturally. So if you have special dietary concerns, be sure to let SIBA know when you register.
It looks like things are farther away than they really are.
It took me a little while to get used to the idea that all the program events would be a different building from where I was sleeping. Just out of curiosity, I tried to see how long it would take me to walk from my room to the exhibit hall, the building farthest away from where we were staying. At an amble it took me twelve minutes. With the tram service, it will take less time than an elevator ride. In fact, the hotel liaison told us they actually test their tram schedules against elevators in other hotels to make sure they have their times beat. "Think of the trams like a horizontal elevator" she said. Horizontal elevators with sunshine and fresh air!
So why are you still reading? Go register for #SIBA18 now!