Kathy Strong stands at the Dutch door in one of the Union Springs dressing rooms.
(Photo by Macy Boyett)
Finding the perfect gathering place
By Macy Boyett, former intern, Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce
The right spaces and services for meetings, receptions and celebrations can be the key to producing successful events.
Fortunately, Nacogdoches has options.
Following are three examples of businesses and members of the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce that are ready to work with clients for professional and personal occasions.
Eagle Nest / Hidden Lake Resort
Eagle Nest / Hidden Lake Resort is a new event venue located off of 19299 U.S. Hwy 59 N. in Garrison. The owners, Renee and Don Billingsley, recently moved to the County in February 2015 from Lovelady, Texas, after finding the perfect property to begin building their resort and event venue.
The Billingsley’s dream of owning a large property with multiple accommodations began nine years ago.
“We lived in New Mexico at the time. We moved back to Texas and looked for about three years," Don said. "We wanted a good property with a nice lake big enough to have some fun with it. We looked for property on a highway that was near a college town, because we're both from college towns.”
When the property is complete, it will include RV parking along with the lake that offers canoeing, fishing, and the bed and breakfast and cabins, barns, activity center and options for weddings," Renee said. "The property is capable of having weddings in the buildings, the lake and in the gazebo - really, anywhere on the property.”
The property is enjoyed by a variety of groups with different reasons for coming together.
“We want to have a good, clean, wholesome Christian environment,” Don said.“ Somewhere people can bring their families and kids and enjoy it without a lot of hostility. And we will do what we can to make sure they have a good time.”
The biggest challenge that the Billingsleys have had is the weather. When they moved to the property to begin building and planning, it rained for three months straight.
Getting the cabins ready and the activity center up and running were the first projects they started, and the couple have many ideas and plans for the property.
“This is a work in progress that will continue to grow,” Don said.
Union Springs is located at 200 CR 162 in Garrison and opened in September 2014. The owners Kathy and Terry Strong grew up in the Nacogdoches area and decided after they married to continue to live, work and raise their family here.
Kathy has always had a love and passion for this industry and turned her dream into a reality. The venue is not focused on weddings, but a place where different types of events can be held.
“There have been events such as SFA sorority and fraternity group socials, high school junior/senior proms and corporate staff trainings,” she said.
Kathy looked around for several years trying to find the perfect venue. Her inspiration to build her own grew stronger when two of her nephews got married a few years ago in separate venues built for weddings.
“We live out in the country and have the land, so we decided to build our dream,” Kathy said. "The venue is a 5000 sq. ft. western horse barn style building. The outside is rough cut cedar while the interior is pine cut supplied by a local mill in Timpson. The ceiling has four chandeliers that hang from the 25 foot-high raised center aisle."
Union Springs is equipped with separate dressing rooms for the bride and groom and a fully equipped catering kitchen. The outdoor cedar Pergola is available for outdoor events.
“We have tried to think of everything to offer the perfect place where you could have a formal wedding or a rustic county style wedding depending on you dream," she said. "We added unique fixtures to the barn such as the chandeliers, Dutch doors in the bride and grooms dressing rooms to make great photos options and the big sliding doors at the ends of the barn allow you to have an outdoor feeling even though the event is inside."
Kathy said her favorite part of an event is "when we slide open the big barn doors and the bride steps out with her father and they walk down the stairs to the Pergola with everyone standing and watching. It’s an 'aww' moment."
Kathy wants the wedding parties and guests to feel comfortable and not in a rush to clean up quick after the ceremonies. She said she "doesn't like the feeling of herding people out.”
The Strongs are available to help with the wedding coordination.
“I think your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life,” she said. “It should be fun, enjoyable and as stress-free as possible.”
Lynn Waldron, born and raised in Nacogdoches and owner of Southern Bliss wedding venue, opened up for business in June 2014.
The venue location is located on Hwy. 59 south, between Lufkin and Nacogdoches.
Lynn and her husband Damon Waldron both run the business. Her main inspiration to open the venue came about when two of her daughters were married two months apart.
Lynn said she knows how expensive and stressful weddings can be when trying to get everything together from personal experience with her daughters. They used their personal experience to create a venue that would be affordable.
In addition with Southern Bliss, everything you need is already at the venue.
“You can come in and have a wedding and everything you need to decorate and serve is here,” she said. “All the decorations and buffets are included in the price.”
There is a room full of all different themes and types of decorations for people to choose from. There is also a dressing room for the bride and bridesmaids.
“So far, we’ve done really well. We are booked every weekend up to December,” she said.
She said her biggest challenge is having her own personal free time to get things done outside of working at the venue with the business is doing so well.
The Waldrons have recently purchased two acres of land to start expanding the venue. Their plans include building a pond and adding more outdoor features to enhance the facility.