50 Year Celebration at Fairfield Bay!

a much younger version of me w/ a guest at the conference center.

a much younger version of me w/ a guest at the conference center.

Fairfield Bay will soon celebrate it’s 50th birthday. I was recently asked to recant some of my favorite memories from my time as Chief Technology Officer (and soda jerk, assistant janitor, and jack of all trades) at the Fairfield Bay Conference Center during the early part of this century. I have many fond memories about the conference business itself but they are mostly centered around the people that I worked with. Some awesome personalities to say the least.

Probably my all-time favorite story would be the time that our groundskeeper Russell, who was in his 90’s easily, was cleaning out our fountain in front just outside the front doors. Let me first backup… I had an amazing aquarium at this time with rare and tropical fish. I managed to get an eel at some point that soon proved to be more than I could handle. I would come home from work and find this thing crawling across my living room floor because it had managed to get out of my aquarium. Nothing I could do would keep this fella in the tank. Finally one day out of frustration I just picked him up and dropped him into the fountain one morning on my way into work. This was during early fall and the fountain was full of water. Later that year we had  a very harsh winter and the fountain stayed frozen most of the winter months. Okay, I’m going to fast forward to the spring now… Russell comes in my office and tells me he’s going to be out front cleaning out the fountain and getting it ready to turn on, we cracked a few jokes and he went on about his way. About 45 minutes later he came running into my office and his face was bright red in color, I’m not sure but I think he was cursing me in German too. Apparently that eel had thrived in that fountain all winter long and now was of considerable size. When Russell reached down into the water to clean the drain it apparently wrapped up around his arm. He immediately knew it was mine. It was one of those situations where you didn’t know to laugh or run, haha. I’m laughing to myself thinking about this now.

our team at the conference center has remained close and have been in business together multiple times since.

our team at the conference center has remained close and have been in business together multiple times since.

Probably the funnest part of operating that conference center was adjusting to the growth, we had a heck of a business operation. We were pulling in groups from around the state, and even out of state, to have their annual events in Fairfield Bay. Originally the Conference Center was built to have a swimming pool downstairs and a weight room. We eventually had to build a floor over the swimming pool to be able to store our chairs from the learning center. It was carpeted and had a trap door we would have our crew open up and just start rolling the chairs into. Some nights there would be 100 chairs that had to be put away for an event and then pulled right back out the next afternoon.

We were also among the first places in the state to secure a T1 network line for high-speed internet, this was in early 2000 or possibly earlier. We managed to do this so that we could become a distance learning center through a partnership we had setup with AETN. We would have a virtual classroom in the conference center that would be broadcast over the internet to locations around the state, even the world.

I can also remember Tim Janssen, who did all of the cooking, would come in and prepare some of the best food I’ve ever eaten for these groups. We’d always go to the kitchen (which was world class at that time) and sneak samples, the kitchen staff would always chase us away.

One of the options that a lot of groups had when they came into town was to have a dance floor, most times it was a DJ but we did have quite a few really good bands play, some of them you might have heard of. My main memory of the dance configurations we would setup was that our crew had to setup our dance floor, it was probably the heaviest dance floor I’ve ever seen or handled. It would often require some kicking to get everything locked into place.

Another memory I have is keeping women with spike-heeled shoes from walking on our wood deck. The heels of their shoes would get caught in the holes (especially when alcohol was involved) and they’d do “headers” down the stairs. I bet we had no less than a half dozen or so signs up but inevitably it was going to happen at least once a year.

I can also remember the technical woes that went along w/ keeping the front desk operation running for our nightly rentals (villas). I eventually would own one of the villas, they were great. Early on there was a community hot tub in one of the villas that if it could talk it probably wouldn’t be PG rated. Guests were always such good sports. We’d have calls on the radio about raccoons or squirrels in their villas, etc. We’d just grab a net and head on over and take care of the problem.

As our business grew we needed to upgrade our desktop software to accommodate more rooms for lodging. Our software at this time was DOS based windows. The company had gone out of business but we managed to find a guy in Branson that would help us w/ the software because he used to work for the company. So, one Saturday morning our general manager, Dale, and I loaded up all of the systems and headed to Branson. He managed to get us up and running. It was one of the biggest miracles of my professional life that that network sustained us until we closed the doors.

Once the doors were closed I was still employed by Asset Management Group and somehow got on the list of people to call if the alarm system went off in the middle of the night. Probably one of the funniest things ever happened one morning about 1am when the alarm system went off and I got a phone call that our alarm system to go off. I met our local police officer (think Barney Fife), he was a great guy. With guns drawn we headed into the conference center and went room to room searching for the culprit(s). What we found wasn’t what you might think. It was a roadrunner! Have you ever tried to catch a roadrunner? I promise you it’s near impossible. We managed to get brooms and chase the winged intruder out one of the doors. It wouldn’t be the last time though, we actually had several roadrunners bust up into meetings because people would leave doors open.

I would not trade anything for my time in Fairfield Bay at the Conference Center, I promise I have a million more stories, some might not be appropriate for print, but every one of them were awesome experiences and we all had a blast.

About Cotton Rohrscheib

Cotton Rohrscheib is the CEO of Rohrscheib Capital Partners. Over the past 20 years he has been associated with numerous projects in the IT, Healthcare, and Agriculture industries. Born a serial entrepreneur, Cotton has personally been involved in several startups, product launches, and brand acquisitions during his career and has consulted on hundreds of projects for clients around the world. Today he still services the marketing and consulting needs for clients while trying to maintain a healthy balance between work and being a good husband and father to his wife, Donna, and their son, Spencer.