Holidays at the Arlington
The upcoming holiday season is “a very big deal” for the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa, beginning with Thanksgiving and continuing through New Year's Eve.
The upcoming holiday season is “a very big deal” for the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa, beginning with Thanksgiving and continuing through New Year's Eve, says Gaye Hardin, administrative assistant to the general manager.
“It is something that is steeped in tradition at the hotel. As long as I've been here, we've had a lot of holiday activities going on,” she said.
Hardin said many of the hotel's guests during the holiday season are people who return year after year for one or all of the events.
Scott Francis, Food and Beverage director, said the Thanksgiving Day events rival Easter for the number of people attending.
Francis said that at most places he's worked Mother's Day is still the largest “dining out” day of the year, with Easter being No. 2 and Thanksgiving usually a distant third, “but here at the Arlington, Thanksgiving holds its own. We take reservations for 600 to 650 so if we have 550 to 600, then that is usually where we're at for Thanksgiving,” he said.
The Thanksgiving Day feast will be an hour longer this year, Francis said, running from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and instead of a full buffet for the evening meal, a traditional plated Thanksgiving meal with turkey, dressing, stuffing, cranberries, and sweet potatoes will be served.
“Usually guests staying in the hotel will eat the evening meal, and the community will come in for the noon meal,” Francis said.
Reservations for the Thanksgiving Day meal are not
required, but Francis said they “are extremely recommended.”
“We tell people that they can come in and if there is a table open, we'll be glad to seat them, but I can't guarantee an opening,” he said.
Another Thanksgiving weekend tradition at the Arlington is a dinner theater in the Crystal Ballroom, and keeping with the holiday theme, the presentation will be the Nunsense Christmas Musical “Nunsense,” performed by the Community Theater of Little Rock, Hardin said.
“This is a ticketed event, and reservations are required,” she said, noting that the meal will consist of a salad, entree and dessert.
With Thanksgiving and Christmas less than a month apart, the hotel staff will begin some of its Christmas decorations prior to Thanksgiving, including the popular gingerbread house that is presented in the hotel's main lobby each year.
“The downtown lighting ceremony will take place just before Thanksgiving, so we start decorating outdoors and the culinary team should have the gingerbread house completed before then,” Hardin said.
“We'll probably start work on it the second full week of November, and it takes about two weeks to do the house, so you'll start to see Christmas taking shape in the Arlington around mid-November,” Francis said.
“The goal is to have the gingerbread house done and complete for the Thanksgiving brunch, and the Christmas tree will be up by then, too,” he said.
Francis said the hotel chefs bake about 40 hotel-size sheet pans of gingerbread, which takes about a week and a half, and it is then cut to various sizes and placed on the frame of the house. Then the hotel's administrative staff and employees begin decorating the cake and putting the candy pieces on the house. He said everything on the house is edible, but it is built for decoration, not for taste.
Francis said a forklift is used to move the house, which measures about 5 feet by 5 feet by 6 feet high, into position in the lobby where it is then assembled.
“The guests can watch it being built. There's no hidden tricks to it,” he said, but would not divulge the number of candy pieces placed on the house.
“I was surprised last year when the winner came within five pieces of guessing the exact number of total pieces of candy. I was the only one who knew the exact amount, but we're talking thousands of pieces of candy,” Francis said.
Hardin said many of the hotel's guests at Christmas are in Hot Springs to visit family, and many will bring their family to the hotel to see the decorations or take advantage of the Christmas Day feast from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Hardin, who has been at the hotel for 30 years, said the holiday season culminates with the New Year's Eve festivities, which begin with a celebration buffet from 5:30-9:30 p.m., or guests can take part in the Gala Dinner Dance in the Crystal Ballroom from 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., with big-band music provided by the Stardust Big Band. A New Year's Eve Festival Party will also be held in the Conference Center from 8:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. with White Chocolate providing the music.
“I think this year is especially exciting because it is the 90th anniversary of the hotel following the 1923 fire. The grand opening was a New Years Eve dance that year,” Hardin said.
The Arlingotn Resort Hotel & Spa holds numerous holiday events including the creation of a gingerbread house and a New Year's party.
The Arlingotn Resort Hotel & Spa's Scott Francis, left, and Gaye Hardin work tirelessly to organize the many events held at the hotel.