Ozark Foothills Town Can Meet Your Meeting Needs
By Amy Smith
- You’re holding a business expo where you’re expecting hundreds of people. You’ll need a large space and a stage for presentations.
- You’ve had a long day of meetings and you’re looking to get everyone together for a glass of wine. You’ll want a relaxing atmosphere (a nice view wouldn’t hurt) and, of course, some wine.
- You’d like to do some team-building and get a little fresh air. You’ll want some trails for walking, hiking, or even climbing, and maybe a golf course.
You’ll want to go to Farmington.
Nestled in the Ozark Foothills, Farmington boasts quaint shops and historic buildings. The town is surrounded by nine wineries, a brewery, and the natural beauty of no less than six state parks and historic sites, all within a 30-minute drive. It’s no wonder you can find just about anything you need for your meeting or event in Farmington, from free airport meeting rooms to elegant event spaces which can be rented for a fee.
Farmington is somewhat of a hidden gem, but city officials are working hard to change that. The town is hosting festivals and events to help more people discover the town, said Farmington Tourism Director Chris Engler. “We offer such diverse activities,” she said. In addition to wineries and parks, there’s Bonne Terre Mines and a new space museum, also in Bonne Terre. According to Engler, the Farmington historical society is restoring the 19th century town jail for use as a museum and the Old Plank Road as a historical trail through town. The Civil War-era wooden road used to run from Ste. Genevieve to Pilot Knob, the site of a Civil War battlefield and now a state park. (For history buffs, it’s just a 25-minute drive southwest of Farmington.)
The Farmington Civic Center and the adjacent Centene Center are located in the heart of the town. Owned and operated by the city, the Civic Center serves as the community recreation center, while the Centene Center, added on to the Civic Center in 2003, is a conference and performance space.
The Centene Center’s auditorium has a stage for seminars, presentations and award ceremonies, padded seats, and professional sound and lighting equipment with 525 permanent seats and 200 movable seats.
The conference area is outside the performance space and serves as the building’s spacious curved lobby. It can hold up to 300 people and has a retractable wall that can divide the room into two spaces, each with a capacity of 100. The cost to rent the conference area ranges from $60 per hour (two-hour minimum) for half the space, up to $475 for the whole space for a full day. Tables, chairs and basic audio visual equipment are included in the price, with other items available for a fee. Center staff can help arrange catering.
Christina Hampel, medical staff secretary for Parkland Health Center, has used the Centene Center several times for medical staff meetings and is a on the committee for the annual Mommy Baby Expo. For the staff meetings, Hampel uses half the space for a catered dinner for about 50 people. The entire space is used for the expo, which several hundred people attend and includes booths and a kids’ play area.
Hampel likes to use the center because it’s centrally located in the southeast region of the state and is close to hotels and the shopping district.
“It’s always clean and they always provide everything you need,” Hampel said. “They’re wonderful to work with.”
Hampel “absolutely” recommends the Centene Center for meetings and events. She likes it so much she got married there. “Everything was perfect.”
Jeneen McEntire from First State Community Bank regularly holds events at Centene, from catered meals with low-key entertainment to Bingo games with 100 players to Christmas dinners for 250.
“The staff at the Centene Center is always very helpful and the kitchen makes caterers quite happy,” McEntire said. :”I am able to make suggestions on how I would like tables set up and the staff makes it happen. They are quite accommodating and make hosting events at this venue stress free.”
Wining and Dining
The Weingarten Vineyard is about 20 minutes northwest of downtown Farmington. Launched in 2009, the winery also includes the Garten House Restaurant, and three event spaces, including the main floor room that holds 150 for dinner or 225 for cocktails. The lower level has a capacity of 350, or 500 with the outdoor patio, and a small room on the main floor, the Chambourcin Room, holds 50 people.
Julia McGuire planned a meeting at the Weingarten Vineyard for Edward Jones regional offices in October. About 70 people attended an evening social that included drinks and a wine-tasting station in the tasting room. “It was a Thursday, so it was closed to the public and we had the whole place to ourselves,” McQuire said. “It was a good value. The room didn’t cost us anything, only the food.”
“It was a perfect space,” McGuire said. “Everyone really liked it. It was large enough where everyone could stand around and then move to the tables for a very delicious buffet. And of course the room has a beautiful view.”
The next day started with a buffet breakfast and then meetings, lunch, and more meetings.
“The food was delicious,” McGuire said. “We would definitely go again.”
Other wineries that offer event space include Twin Oaks Winery, just five miles out of town as well as Chaumette Vineyards and Winery, Crown Valley Winery, and Cave Winery & Distillery.
Crown Pointe Golf Club and Resort includes the golf course, Crown Pointe Lodge, and Eagle Lake event space. Each of the two rooms at Eagle Lake accommodates 125. The Golden Eagle room rents for $150 per hour and the Main Room is $350 per hour. The combined space holds up to 250 guests and costs $2,000 for four hours, with several on-site catering options. Eagle Lake hosts corporate retreats, training seminars and conferences.
Crown Pointe’s sister hotel, Tradition Inn, has a banquet facility for 120 people and a 12-person conference room. Spokes Pub & Grill is the on-site restaurant.
Happy Holiday Inn
Business is increasing at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites, said General Manager Kim Tucker. It is north of downtown, adjacent to the Maple Valley shopping district, and is conveniently located just off Highway 67. The hotel has a meeting room that holds up to 40 people and rents for $175 per day, with a discount when rented in combination with five or more sleeping rooms.
“We do a lot of corporate events and government business,” Tucker said. “We do a lot of depositions. It’s very attractive for lawyers.”
Two inexpensive and less conventional options include three meeting rooms at the state-of-the-art Farmington Public Library, and a boardroom at the Farmington Regional Airport.
The library rooms offer a sizable range of guest space, as well as price. They accommodate up to 100, 16, or 8 people and the rental fee is anywhere between $35 for one hour in the smallest conference room, up to $350 for a whole day in the large community room.
For people flying in and pressed for time, the well-appointed city-owned Farmington Regional Airport meeting room accommodates 16 or more and has a small kitchen area, media screen and Wi-Fi. Catering is available from nearby restaurants. Banks, insurance companies and government agencies have used the room. Its cost? Free.
Said Airport Director Charles Sitzes: “We are here to promote business in Farmington.”
Amy Smith is a freelance writer from St. Louis
Christiane (Chris) Engler
110 West Columbia, Farmington, Mo. 63640