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Exploring Kentucky: Retreat and Recharge

By Katherine Tandy Brown

Lake Cumberland Winery and Cana Vineyard are on the property of Lake Cumberland Conference and Retreat Center near Monticello. The boutique winery now produces 1,000 gallons of wine annually.

Looking for a corporate retreat spot in the midst of nature with comfy overnight housing, teambuilding facilities with expert leadership and plenty of downtime activities? Lake Cumberland Conference and Retreat Center (LCCRC) near Monticello in southern Kentucky may just fill the bill.

A bit more than 15 years ago, Norrie Wake, former county attorney for Fayette County, began an RV camping site on his family’s 52-acre farm near Monticello. Shortly thereafter, it began morphing into what is now LCCRC, an amazing retreat site for meetings and retreats for companies, and also for weddings, family reunions and group getaways in general. Amazing due to its sheer abundance of facilities and activities, all in a lovely rural setting.

For corporate gatherings, the center offers multifaceted team building, beginning with its Alpine Tower Adventure Course, an experiential educational challenge course with two 55-foot tall structures that are perfect for team building and learning leadership skills.

“The towers look pretty intimidating,” Wake says. “You wear a harness and helmet and are tied to a rope. Team members help each other climb to reach an identified goal height. For some people, it’s putting on the harness that’s the challenge. They’re scared of heights, but if they can overcome that fear, then with a support team behind them, they can move out of their comfort zone and accomplish something that can only be achieved as a team.”

Generally, groups of three to 40 people participate in an activity, either on the tower or on the ground. In one of the latter, called “Cow Pasture,” some 300 tennis balls, i.e. fake cow poop, are scattered over a confined area. A participant who is blindfolded and not allowed to speak, must maneuver through the area without stepping on (in!) a ball (pile!), guided only by a partner outside the area giving verbal directions.

The focuses of the exercise are the physical challenge of balance and the workplace challenge of developing communication skills. An attendee must learn to trust his teammate’s directions to accomplish the task.

“Often, communication is the sort of issue faced in the office back in Lexington, Louisville or Cincinnati, with say, 200 people trying to do things together,” says Wake. “We use these kinds of activities to not only sensitize people to their communication styles but to also sensitize them to the needs of the people with whom they’re communicating. In this age of communication – both face to face and over the internet – it’s important to know that words do matter.”

A debriefing process following each teambuilding activity includes guided discussion that identifies what worked, what didn’t and – the big takeaway – how to apply what a participant learned back in the workplace.

Another important component of the process takes place when participants arrive. A qualified presenter, Wake explains the Myers-Briggs Indicator personality-typing system, which helps identify each attendees’ preferences about how they prefer to receive, absorb and act upon information from the outside world. According to Wake, there are no two identical types, but there are enough similarities that you can talk about how different people will respond. The next day, participants can apply that information by observing their teammates’ responses.

A Corporate Orienteering Course is also available.

Guest accommodations at the center are available onsite at The Lodge, with 3,550 s.f. of meeting and reception space and the capacity to sleep 24 people. The entire property has free Wi-Fi with a micro-cell booster. Caterers can provide food.

Nearby Golden Pond Resort partners with LCCRC to provide a total of 44 private bedrooms in cabins and condos with kitchens and some maid service. Guests at the resort may use the facilities at the center and vice versa.

When it’s time for a break from meeting and learning, attendees can stay as busy having fun as they choose. Wake’s Lake Cumberland Winery and Cana Vineyards are on property. He began the venture by planting 400 vines a number of years ago as an alternative to growing tobacco. Friends enjoyed the grape harvesting and winemaking process so much that Wake then “lost his mind and planted 700 more vines,” (a quote from his wife), won the right to go commercial in Wayne County through a special vote, and opened to the public in 2011. The boutique winery now produces 1,000 gallons of award-winning wine each year.

In addition to relaxing over wine, a group can schedule a murder-mystery dinner with attendee participation, put on its own skit or talent show at a lighted outdoor amphitheater, roast marshmallows at a firepit, walk woodsy trails, go boating on Lake Cumberland or take advantage of a myriad of activities at Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area.

“The center satisfies the need of companies to work off site from their business, yet with all the modern conveniences,” Wake explains. “You can put down your phone and be assured of the opportunity to leave behind typical daily interruptions to focus on team building, leadership development and enjoying being with one another in a totally different context.”

For companies not free to leave their facility, Wake is also available for onsite training.

“Everything we do is designed to be enjoyable,” he says, “because I believe that people learn more when they’re having a good time.”

Katherine Tandy Brown is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected].