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Participants Raise Critically Needed Funds for Alzheimer’s Care, Support and Research

 

The Alzheimer’s Association invites Oklahoma City residents to unite in a movement to reclaim the future for millions by participating in the OKC Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark on Saturday, September 12 at 9:00 a.m.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is more than just a walk; it is an experience for over 5,000 participants in the Oklahoma City area who will learn about Alzheimer’s disease and how to get involved with this critical cause, from advocacy opportunities, the latest in Alzheimer’s research and clinical trial enrollment to support programs and services. Participants will also join in a meaningful ceremony to honor those affected by Alzheimer’s disease, emceed by Lance West of News Channel 4.
Alzheimer’s disease is the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death and yet there is no way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression. As baby boomers age, the number of individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to increase 40 percent from the over 5 million affected in 2015. The funds raised through the Walk to End Alzheimer’s not only support vital research efforts, but also provide free programs and support services to Oklahoma families impacted by the disease.
“Participating in the 2015 Walk to Alzheimer’s, by starting a team, raising money or volunteering, is one of the most impactful ways to further the movement to help end this horrible disease,” said Erin Logan, OKC Walk to End Alzheimer’s event chair. “By getting involved, you are truly making a difference.”
Registration begins at 8:00 a.m., followed by the opening ceremony and two-mile walk at 9:00 a.m. Entertainment will include: face painting; appearances by Disney princesses, super heroes and the Ghost Busters; a live DJ; Eat-On Mobile Bistro; a “Swag Shack” full of branded items for sale; and free Alzheimer’s resources and support information. To start, join or donate to a team, visit okcwalk.com.
The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the nation’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Since 1989, the Alzheimer’s Association mobilized millions of Americans in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk®; now the Alzheimer’s Association is continuing to lead the way with Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Together, we can end Alzheimer’s – the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death.
The Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health

At 65, Marilyn Govich still performs with Lyric Theatre and teaches voice at the University of Central Oklahoma.

by Mike Lee, Staff Writer

If life is a stage then 65-year-old Marilyn Govich wants to play her part.
Accomplished actor, singer, teacher – and most importantly, mother – Govich feels most comfortable when all eyes are on her.
And thousands were able to see her earlier this month as she performed in Lyric Theatre’s production of Mary Poppins.
“My part is small,” she says humbly.
Her role in this run may have been brief but the part she’s played in the lives of her students is immeasurable.
Govich was bitten by the stage bug early and she sang a lot in church. After winning the lead role in a fifth grade operetta voice lessons soon followed.
“I was blessed with a voice that stood out from other people at that time, at that age,” the professor of voice at the University of Central Oklahoma said. “My parents, I thank them so much.”
To say the Govich family is artistically gifted would be an understatement.
Daughter Milena is accomplished on stage and screen. She played Detective Nina Cassady on the hit series Law & Order. Along the way she’s appeared in seven feature films and maintained a thriving voice career, appearing twice on tour with China’s biggest pop star.
Her son, Mateja Govich, just returned to Oklahoma from New York City where he spent the last eight years pursuing theatre. Most notably, Mat performed in the Broadway revival of Cabaret at Studio 54.
He is currently working on his Master’s degree in Music at the University of Central Oklahoma where he is also an adjunct instructor of voice.
Her other son, Nikola, has helped elevate the New York City and now Minneapolis cocktail scenes as a mixologist.
Both Mat and Milena studied voice under their mother. The full impact would hit years later.
“This a stage mother’s fantasy,” she said. “They were both in Cabaret on Broadway at the same time. I’m sitting in the audience beaming and smiling.”
Govich went into teaching and then dropped out for a few years to become a mom.
“I was out of school 25 years after completing my masters and then went back to get a doctorate after a quarter century,” she says with pride.
The policy for UCO faculty was that you had to have a terminal degree to gain promotion. She didn’t do it for the money. Like most things she does, she did it for the accomplishment.
“I decided this was what I really wanted to be doing,” she said. “And I really wanted to be the best I could be at the highest level.”
So there she was teaching full-time as her own children were leaving to go to college.
“It was an exciting and busy, challenging time but something I’m really proud I did,” Govich said.
Her career is a celebrated one.
She has performed as a soloist with the newly created Center for Historical Performance Practice, and previously was a soloist with the Oklahoma Collegium Musicum.
She continues as an active recitalist, oratorio soloist, adjudicator and clinician. She has twice been selected to perform as a soloist at the National Conference of the National Opera Association in New York City and has twice presented Artist Recitals at the Texoma Regional Conference of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, as well as performed for regional conferences of The College Music Society.
She has recorded a scene from the David Yeagley opera “Jacek” with the Polish National Radio Symphony in Katowice, Poland for Opus One Records.
Two of her students recently won national Outstanding Performance Awards at the Kennedy Center of the American College Theatre Festival.
Govich understands that her stage and teaching career will someday come to an end. But all she has to do is pick up a current Playbill or turn on the TV to see that her work will live on for many years.
Govich now has four grandkids to wrangle. Two grandsons are in Minneapolis and a pair of granddaughters are here.
The widow of 16 years stays busy, even when she’s not.
Earlier this month, Govich played Miss Andrews in the Lyric Theatre production of Mary Poppins.
“She almost takes glee in administering the kids punishment,” Govich said of the nanny who briefly replaces Mary Poppins. “She’s more brimstone and cod liver oil.”
The performance meant more than most for Govich on a personal scale.
Lyric Theatre is known for bringing in accomplished performers from Broadway as well as using a mix of local talent.
The role of Mary Poppins was played by Lindsie VanWinkle, who had just finished a three-month run on Broadway in Nevermore – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe.
When the two met in pre-production meetings in Oklahoma City a big hug ensued.
VanWinkle is a former voice student.
“She’s just phenomenal,” Govich said. “We have a wonderful relationship and we stay in touch.”
The other Mary Poppins female lead is Melissa Griffith, also a Govich pupil.
“I feel so blessed to have been a part of their lives and part of their training,” Govich says of the countless students she has mentored. “I just hope I’ve had a hand (in their careers).”

Dr. Paul Jacob is helping Oklahomans like Janet Burks get back on their feet with near almost pain-free knee replacements.

by Mike Lee, Staff Writer

Janet Burks had reached the end of her rope.
At her doctor’s office, on crutches and in pain – the 54-year-old had had enough.
“I had been going to the same orthopedist for 18 years,” Burks said, unfolding her story.
“Through those 18 years I had received over 200 shots.”
That October 2014 day, Burks finally put her foot down when it came to the excruciating pain she had lived with in her right knee.
She wasn’t exactly the front office staff’s favorite patient of the day when she declared she wasn’t moving a muscle until she was sitting in front of a surgeon.
A few calls later, that surgeon turned out to be Dr. Paul Jacob and Burks had found an answer to her prayers.
“He’s been blessed greatly by God,” Burks said of her doctor.
You see, Burks’ right knee was bone-on-bone, with no cartilage in between, and a minefield of bone spurs that had popped up over the years.
Most rainy days her knee would completely lock. When it did release you could hear the pop across the room.
Her doctor had told her she was too young for knee replacement.
Dr. Jacobs took one look at the x-rays and asked her why she had waited so long.
Surgery came days later with Jacob telling Burks he would use a new non-opioid medication.
Two hours after surgery Burks was up walking around.
She declined pain meds after surgery and was back on Jacob’s table on December 18th to get the same procedure on her left knee. She was cooking Christmas morning.
Burks now takes spin classes. She takes her bike out to Lake Hefner for rides of several miles.
“I’ve gained back those 18 years that I’ve lost,” she said. “Within one week I was up going to the store with a crutch and going to church.”
Jacob said Burks’ results are typical. He believes he is the only surgeon in the metro using this procedure. Nationally renowned hospitals such as Cleveland Clinic, Memorial Sloan Kettering and Mayo Clinic are using this new pain management approach, and Oklahoma hospitals are following their lead.
Dr. Jacob was first introduced to the procedure during his fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic.
“I had a comparison to our pain control prior to using Exparel and our pain control after using Exparel,” Jacob said. “It certainly made my life significantly easier as a fellow because I had the majority of the rounding requirements and post-op pain control.
“I started getting significantly less calls from nurses on the floor. They had much less trouble controlling patient pain and it was really a big change for me.”
Typically narcotics are administered every few hours after surgery and begin to wear off, requiring more doses. The therapy Jacob uses slowly delivers medication to the tissue over a several-day period.
“It allows you to get out of that immediate post-op incision pain and agonizing pain oftentimes you wake up with after a surgery,” Jacob said. “The majority of my post-op hip and knee replacement patients are waking up with a pain score of somewhere between zero and two and it’s staying that way for the first two days or so. It’s not uncommon for my patients to not require a single dose of opioid pain medication the first two days.
Jacob is located in Edmond just off Kelley Avenue. Soon he will move into the new Community Hospital in November.
Construction is ongoing on the new Community Hospital North-which will be located inside the new HPI Broadway Mediplex. The Mediplex is located just north of Britton Road on the Broadway Extension in north Oklahoma City.
The facility, set to open in late 2015, will provide inpatient and outpatient orthopedic, spine and women’s surgical services. Physician’s offices and a state-of-the-art imaging center will also be located in the building.
For the first time Jacob will have his patients and his surgical suite under one roof. He’ll need it Burks has anything to say about it.
“I can’t praise Dr. Jacob enough for doing this type of procedure,” Burks said. “People who know me know that I’m not going to just say that. It was a miracle that I was able to get my life back.”

Dianna Lawrence wants seniors to know that wellness is much more than just physical health.

by Mike Lee
Staff Writer

Senior wellness is such a buzzword these days. But what does that actually mean?
Is wellness your physical health? What about your spiritual and emotional wellbeing?
As Vice President for Wellness for TouchMark – an operator of 11 full-service senior living communities in the U.S. and Canada – Dianna Lawrence is passionate about wellness.
In fact, she travels teaching on the subject and finding out what wellness means to individuals.
“Wellness to me is a process and it’s meeting people where they are on their path to health,” Lawrence said. “It’s also a mindset. It’s not simply the absence of disease. The reason we talk about dimensions of wellness is we want everyone to learn they can self-assess to find ways to enhance their own personal wellness.”
Lawrence is a certified Wellness Professional through the Wellness Council of America and Exercise Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine. She also is certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support, CPR, and Basic Life Support through the American Red Cross.
Lawrence is passionate about lifestyle and wellness and working with people to help improve their health and well-being. She is responsible for developing and supporting Touchmark’s Full Life Wellness & Life Enrichment Program and encouraging wellness among residents, health and fitness club members, and team members.
Seniors need to take their wellness in their own hands.
“Challenging your brain is probably one of the most important things you can do,” Lawrence said. “Give it a reason to function. Give it a fighting chance. Your brain likes to be challenged.”
That involves learning something new, an instrument or a game.
“You don’t have to have the right answer just the act of challenging your brain helps,” she said.
And don’t think you’re too busy to improve your health.
Lawrence says a single second can be used to sit up tall. Two more seconds can be used to stand up. While you’re up, smile.
“If you have 10 seconds you can tighten your ab muscles and if you have 15 seconds take four slow, deep breathes to enhance your wellbeing.”
Lawrence discusses the seven dimensions of wellness, which include emotional, environmental, intellectual, occupational, physical, spiritual and social well-being.
Before joining Touchmark in 2015, she developed and launched the employee wellness program at John C. Lincoln Health Network in Phoenix, Arizona.
Prior to that, she worked for 20 years in inpatient and outpatient cardiac rehabilitation at several organizations, including Lenox Hill Hospital and Winthrop University Hospital, both in New York. She has also worked as an adjunct professor at Phoenix College.
Lawrence received her bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy at Northern Arizona University and her Master of Science in Exercise Physiology at East Stroudsburg University. She has been a member of and served as an application reviewer for the American Association for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). She has also chaired the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk Committee and been a Mended Hearts speaker.
Lawrence also volunteered with the Arizona Small Business Association as well as the Phoenix fitPHX program, a citywide healthy-living initiative. She received the Silver Award for her work on that effort. An avid reader, she enjoys running, practicing yoga, and participating in most wellness-related activities. She has been a Girl Scout leader and has twice run the New York City marathon. She and her husband Peter have two daughters.
Touchmark has been serving people since 1980, when Werner G. Nistler, Jr. founded the company. Today he still leads the company as CEO, instilling his strong mission and values among nearly 2,000 team members who serve residents.
Locally, Touchmark at Coffee Creek is a full-service retirement community located off Covell at 2801 Shortgrass Road in Edmond. Touchmark at Coffee Creek is part of North Edmond’s Coffee Creek planned residential development, which includes 638 acres of homes, a golf course, recreational centers, and walking and biking trails.
“Everybody wants to know how they can improve their health and wellbeing,” Lawrence said. “I feel there is such an opportunity and there’s a lot of potential to positively affect people’s lives with wellness. Your lifestyle is so important and we need not to overlook the value it plays in your life.”

The Fountains at Canterbury group practices rowing technique after loading into the dragon boat.

Residents of The Fountains at Canterbury, located in northwest Oklahoma City, recently visited the Boathouse District to participate in dragon boating. Associates, residents and members of The Club, a full service fitness center at The Fountains at Canterbury, joined together to form a rowing team to try their hands at something new, different and exhilarating.
Located on the Oklahoma River, an official U.S. Olympic and Paralympic training site, dragon boat rowing is one of numerous activities offered in the Boathouse District. Paddling to the beat of a drummer, rowers learn the basic commands and paddle strokes then venture out to enjoy the water. According to the Boathouse District, dragon boating is the world’s fastest growing water sport and children, adults and seniors can all enjoy.
“It was just wonderful,” said Sue Leary, member of The Club at The Fountains at Canterbury. “The dragon boats are a fun group activity, the weather was great and it’s in a really beautiful location in downtown Oklahoma City.”
Dragon boating is one of numerous activities and adventures that residents of The Fountains at Canterbury participate in throughout the year. They regularly take trips across Oklahoma and surrounding states, enjoy live performances on and off campus, participate in community service, enjoy theme dinners, take a variety of classes on site and are active in the arts, including participating in a national calendar art competition. Maintaining an environment where people thrive is a top priority of The Fountains of Canterbury community life director Becky Strong.
“Seeing our residents partake in such an unusual, active event was thrilling and we can’t wait to go back,” said Strong. “The joy our residents experience when they try something new and fulfilling is what The Fountains is all about.”
“This was fun,” said Marv Groschen, member of The Club at The Fountains at Canterbury. “It was a really good workout, this was the first time I’ve been here and I’d love to come back to do it again.”

The Fountains at Canterbury group practices rowing technique after loading into the dragon boat.
The Fountains at Canterbury group practices rowing technique after loading into the dragon boat.

“My favorite animal is a horse.  I used to ride an Indian pony named ‘Snap.’  He was the best horse ever.” Richard Gann

“My favorite animal is a dog.  I had a beagle named ‘Dandy.’  I had him for 13 years.” Bill Maxwell

“I have a Cocker Spaniel named ‘Lacie.’ Joan Renfro

“I have a Yorkie named ‘Stolie.’  He is 8 years old. Marie McClure

St. Anthony Hospital and Turner Construction were joined by physicians, employees and community leaders recently for a topping out ceremony for the new Pavilion construction project on the St. Anthony campus. In construction, a topping out ceremony – one of the industry’s oldest customs – is celebrated when the last beam is placed at the top of a building. The hospital’s beam featured signatures from physicians, staff and volunteers along with an evergreen tree and a U.S. flag.
The Pavilion, located south of 10th Street between Dewey and Walker Avenue, will house a new emergency department, intensive care units, and inpatient care areas. The 111,000 square foot, four-story facility project is slated to be complete in May 2016. The expansion represents the crowning point of the $220 million campus development plan that began 11 years ago when the hospital decided to remain in its Midtown location.

Celebrating their 45th anniversary of acceptance into Baptist Memorial Hospital School of Nursing are longtime friends a.k.a. The Dirty Dozen. Standing in front of a picture of James L. Henry (President of the hospital when the nurses started in 1968) L-R Lenora Beckwith, Connie Furrh, Lou Berry, Melanie Hemry, Beverly Botchlet, Linda Jackson, Janet Jamison, Laura Denwood. Not pictured- Norma Williams, Carol Neal and Terry Thurston. Evannah Esadoah (deceased).

by Vickie Jenkins

I had the privilege of interviewing some wonderful ladies that were celebrating their 45th anniversary of receiving their caps. What an exciting time for these 8 women that reunited at Integris Baptist Medical Center. It was the summer of 1968 when these women were accepted into Baptist Memorial Hospital School of Nursing. They all lived in the dorm on the hospital campus except the ones that were married.
At the time, it was a diploma nursing program and their class was small because Baptist was phasing out the school which was then morphed into the nursing program at Central State College (now, University of Central Oklahoma). In the summer of 1969, the 12 nurses were sent to St. Louis, Missouri State Mental Hospital for their psychiatric training. They graduated on June 5, 1970.
Interviewing the women that gathered for the reunion was a pure delight. The conference room at Baptist Hospital was full of hugs, smiles and laughter as each woman shared memories. “It was Dr. John Donnell, a cardiologist that gave us 12 nurses the nickname of The Dirty Dozen,” one woman said. Since then, The Dirty Dozen have held major reunions every five years, getting together whenever possible. In addition to reunions, they also stay in contact by Facebook, email and texts. A few send cards and letters.
After some fun and fellowship, here are some interesting answers from outstanding women telling us what their life is like now.
Melanie Arnold Hemry, RN-“Why did you become a nurse?” “I felt it was a wonderful career and a great way to serve others. It ended up giving me great features for my writing.” Hemry is now a freelance writer and has written for Guideposts and other magazines. She has written more than 50 books.
Laura Bliss Denwood, RN- Describing herself in three words, she says, “Friendly, empathetic and optimistic.” Denwood traveled from St. Croix, Virgin Islands, where she still lives. She is happy to see all of her friends again plus enjoyed taking a tour of Baptist Medical Center.
Janet Pomplun Jamison, RN, Clinical Research Nurse- “What is your favorite memory from the past while working at Baptist Hospital?” “There was a supportive nursing staff and several mentors. The progressive acute care experiences were great.” Jamison worked in Cancer Research at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC before working at the National Institute of Health and the Food and Drug Administration. She resides in. Delaware.
Beverly Botchhlet, RN, MS-“What was your favorite thing about the reunion today?” “Being a member of a group who are totally nonjudgmental and have only love and support for each other.” Bachlet became a nurse in 1970 and is still going strong. Bachlet earned her Master’s Degree and continues to teach nursing.
Connie Blackburn Furrh, RN-“What is your life like now?” “I work with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and work full-time at Oklahoma Spine Hospital.” “Do you stay in contact with the other nurses?” “Absolutely. I consider them my sisters. Time melts away when we come back together again.” Blackburn also helped build the Renaissance Women’s Centers.
Lou Berry, RN-“Describe yourself in three words.” ‘Full of energy!” Berry said her favorite memory of the past is working in the Surgery Center. She spent years teaching nursing.
Lenora Schoenhals Bechwith, RN-“What is your life like now?” “I’m a retired Hospice nurse, mother of two and grandmother of two. I go to Hospice Circle of Love, Enid, OK when needed. Bechwith says she was four years old when she received a nurse kit from her cousin one Christmas morning.
Linda Gossman Hazard, RN- “What is your life like now?” “I am retired and life is good!” Jackson worked at OU Health Science Center in NICU.
Unable to attend the 45 year reunion were Terry Thurston, Norma Aycock Williams, RN, Carol Neal, RN. Evannah Esadoah, RN (deceased)
After catching up on just a glimpse of the past years, the women planned on taking a tour of Integris Baptist Medical Center. A big thank-you to these fine women that have given their time and dedication to helping others provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support.
Perhaps, one of the women at the reunion summed up the countless hours of nursing the best. “When did you become a nurse?” I asked. she answered, “1970”. “When did your nursing end?” I asked. “Never!” she replied. I am sure The Dirty Dozen will meet again.

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak wants to help seniors fight back against fraud.

by Mike Lee, Staff Writer

Seniors are one of the biggest targets when it comes to insurance scams.
That’s why Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak wants to arm Oklahoma’s senior population with the information necessary to fight back and make sure they don’t easily part with their hard-earned money.
The Oklahoma Insurance Department’s Medicare Assistance Program is hosting a series of free events to help seniors fight fraud.
The Senior Fraud Conferences are ongoing and will be held through July.
“Crooks target seniors because they think they’re an easy target,” Doak said. “The scams have gotten more sophisticated, with crooks using social media and the Internet to find out where you live, where you work and who you’re related to. “Once they have that information, it’s easier for them to steal your money.”
Remaining conferences will be held July 14 in Lawton, July 16 in Norman and July 22 in Poteau.
“Seniors are prime targets for crooks because they usually have a healthy bank account,” Doak said. “Thieves also think seniors may be vulnerable because of their age. But in many cases, these scammers are very good at what they do and anyone can fall victim to the scam, regardless of age. But if you know which red flags to look for, you can easily protect yourself from these types of crimes.”
Experts will provide fraud information relating to Medicare, home repair, telemarketing, identity theft, banking, prepaid funerals, current scams and more. Each conference is free for senior adults and includes breakfast. Insurance professionals who attend the event can earn four hours of ethics Continuing Education (CE) credit for $30.
Doak’s office has been very aggressive in fraud prevention, with the Anti-Fraud Unit actively investigating and pursuing charges.
Last year a Tulsa insurance agent defrauded a Muskogee couple out of nearly $300,000 after convincing the 80-year-old husband to withdraw the money from annuities and invest it in a bogus company.
That agent pleaded guilty to exploitation of the elderly.
Another former agent was sentenced to two years in prison for defrauding seniors at investment seminars across the state. He convinced them to cash in their life insurance and annuity products in exchange for gold. But instead of buying the gold, he took the money and fled to Florida.
“I am very proud of the work we have done and continue to do to protect Oklahoma consumers,” Doak said. “These events are designed to empower seniors by showing them the tricks of the trade used by crooks.”
According to the FBI, senior citizens especially should be aware of fraud schemes for the following reasons: * Senior citizens are most likely to have a “nest egg,” to own their home, and/or to have excellent credit—all of which make them attractive to con artists.
* People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up the telephone.
* Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’t know they have been scammed. Elderly victims may not report crimes, for example, because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.
* When an elderly victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses. Con artists know the effects of age on memory, and they are counting on elderly victims not being able to supply enough detailed information to investigators. In addition, the victims’ realization that they have been swindled may take weeks—or more likely, months—after contact with the fraudster. This extended time frame makes it even more difficult to remember details from the events.
* Senior citizens are more interested in and susceptible to products promising increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, anti-cancer properties, and so on. In a country where new cures and vaccinations for old diseases have given every American hope for a long and fruitful life, it is not so unbelievable that the con artists’ products can do what they claim.
The Senior Fraud Conferences are funded, in part, by the Administration on Community Living’s Senior Medicare Patrol grant.
Seniors are asked to register online at map.oid.ok.gov or by calling 1-800-763-2828

Photography and Text by Terry “Travels with Terry” Zinn  t4z@aol.com

Many seniors find that a packaged tour offers the best in time and treasure management. A package tour is pre designed to offer the ease of small group travel and the expert knowledge offering the highlights of a particular itinerary. Package tours take the worry out of exploration, as the operators know the area offered and the fastest way to experience the survey of an area. For first time visitors, it gives an over view of the best of the area, and if the traveler finds that time at an attraction is not enough, it is a good reference point for a follow up visit. As you can tell, I find an expert package tour is a convenient holiday experience.
Adventures By Disney is a relatively new group tour operation. Disney does it right, whether it’s movies, theme parks or group tours. Recently I experienced Nashville the Disney way, with many insider and backstage visits not available to other tours and certainly not by solo travelers. Several years ago I visited Nashville, but after my tour with Adventures By Disney, I have a complete Nashville experience with many Disney extras that are memorable, educational and fun. Every day our energized and informative tour guides, Kelley and Paola, offered extras and surprises that got us spoiled as we visited from venue to venue. Just when we thought the venue or day was complete we’d hear our guides say, “And then there’s more!”
The Hermitage, located near Nashville, was the home of President Andrew Jackson. Adventures By Disney arranged for Andrew and his wife to greet our bus, and welcome us at the traditional entry to the homestead, which is not offered for other visitors. We had an after-hours visit, complete with a guided grounds and house tour, and then there was more. We had a period dance instruction with Andrew and his wife joining in, as others in the group enjoyed wine and vintage Andrew Jackson bourbon. And then there was more. We had a hands on instruction in simple biscuit making by expert, Maryann Byrd, and then enjoyed our creations baked just for us at a catered sit down dinner in an a joining air conditioned venue. Walking back in the dark to the bus we were all more than satisfied as our departure was enhanced with a spectacle of fireflies.
Recently Nashville has added notoriety with the popular ABC television drama of the same name. Disney enhanced our Nashville adventure with a bus tour of filming locations, and a very special private concert luncheon at the famed Blue Bird Cafe. The essence of Nashville’s established and rising performers was exhibited by the intimate hour long plus performances by Leslie Satcher and Walker Hayes. We were all moved by the stories they told that inspired the creation of the songs they sang for us. This example of sincerity and the universal experiences of life, is the real Nashville sound. The clear voices and rhythmic songs were true examples of craft being raised to the level of performance art. Beyond the flash and country glamour of Nashville, the Blue Bird Cafe experience reaffirms the essence of America’s indigenous music.
A visit to Music City would not be complete without a tour of the historical Ryman auditorium and of course Disney gave us a special private tour and a chance to stand on that stage which was inhabited by the founders of country music. We entered through the stage door entrance in an alley adjacent to a bar/lounge famous as a haunt of music pioneers. And while the Ryman is a must, the new Grand Ole Opry venue is as impressive when you are able to visit the famous back stage dressing rooms, and wall of fame. But there was more!
We had a pre-show dinner in the broadcast studio where many Nashville shows were filmed which included the sound stage where the popular Hee Haw show was once produced. A catered sit down meal with wine was only briefly interrupted when instruction in line dancing was included. And to top off all of this VIP experience, we had VIP seating at that night’s Grand Ole Opry show, with a special treat for me, hearing a couple of songs by Vince Gill, a fellow Oklahoman.
The more continued with hands on poster making at Hatch Show Print, a mock station ID recording at the legendary WSM 650 AM radio station, admission to the expansive Country Music Hall of Fame, and a private visit to Music Row’s RCA Studio B recording studio where Elvis along with other legendary artists, recorded their songs beginning in 1957. We were entertained with insider stories, and with many rehearsals under our belts, we recorded our own group singing a well-known Elvis favorite, and was later presented with our own special CD of our performance.
All along our days of adventures all admission charges were taken care of by our hosts as were most meal times. We ate at Merchants’ Restaurant where we customized our own BBQ sauce, and had breakfast at popular Puckett’s Grocery. There was even a little free time for us to explore downtown Nashville sights on our own. I took this opportunity to reserve my spot for lunch at the Southern Steak and Oyster restaurant, and then took a stroll up to the historic Hermitage Hotel and the Capitol Grille, where I took in a beverage and tales of this famous watering hole.
If you couldn’t tell I was impressed with the services and thoughtfulness of the Adventures By Disney experience. Some Disney tours are for adults only while most welcome the whole family. Documents and itineraries are sent to you well in advance of your departure and should you have added questions they are easily answered by phone from your personal travel concierge. Besides state-side destinations, the company offers tours overseas and cruises as well. Tempt your travel lust by exploring: www.adventuresbydisney.com

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Mr. Terry Zinn – Travel Editor
Past President: International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association
http://realtraveladventures.com/author/zinn/
http://www.examiner.com/travel-in-oklahoma-city/terry-zinn
www.new.seniornewsandliving.com – www.martinitravels.com

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