In Bowling Green, event attendees can walk through a sinkhole simulator. In Newport, meeting groups can tour a bourbon distillery or watch a cooking demonstration.
And in Berea, attendees can meet in a century-old historic hotel that was built by students at Berea College. These Kentucky venues offer planners and their attendees a wide range of interesting spaces and group activities.
Historic State Theater Complex
The State Theater in downtown Elizabethtown opened in 1942 with an Art Deco facade lit by a tall, glowing, neon marquee. Forty years later, the theater closed its doors — with “E.T.” as its last showing.
Efforts to save and restore the theater began in the 1990s, and the city eventually bought it, working with the Elizabethtown Tourism Commission to return it to its former glory and expand it for future use. It reopened in 2009.
Work included new seating for 650 and audiovisual components, and “the core of the theater was brought back to life as it looked in 1942,” said executive director Zach Humphrey. “Artists came from New York to restore the two [painted] art goddesses on either side of the stage.”
“A lot of effort went in to make it look like it did originally,” he said.
The neon sign was also restored, and now it once again glows over downtown.
“It’s an awesome sign,” Humphrey said. “It really stands out and makes the downtown what it is.”
In the early 2000s, an addition was built next to the theater. At roughly 3,500 square feet, the WesBanco gallery can seat up to 200 for meals and has an adjoining foyer and kitchen.
A local troupe uses the State’s small black-box theater, but that space could also be available for events depending on the theater group’s production schedule.
Historic Boone Tavern Hotel and Restaurant of Berea College
The city of Berea has a backstory unlike any other community. It was founded in the mid-1800s by abolitionists looking to create an interracial community. Berea College was a key piece of that vision. The school was founded in 1866 and admitted black and white students, male and female students, all free of charge.
The wife of the college president built Boone Tavern in 1909 as a guesthouse and restaurant to receive and host college visitors, guests and dignitaries, and it later became a hotel.
All the bricks and mortar — everything for the building — “was made here, on-site, by Berea students,” said hotel sales manager Patrick Huston. “Most of the furniture and also some artwork in the guest rooms were made by students.”
Berea College is still tuition free today and targets low-income students with high academic potential. And “because they have free tuition, they all have labor assignments, so they work at the hotel and around town,” he said.
The 63-guest-room hotel underwent a massive, multimillion-dollar restoration for its centennial and reopened in 2009 as the state’s first Gold LEED-certified hotel. Last fall, the hotel also opened its new Boone Tavern Event Center on College Square. The 2,800-square-foot center seats up to 150 for banquets.
The hotel has several other function spaces, including the often-used 48-person Skylight Room and the 80-guest Coyle Gathering Room. The hotel can also provide guided tours of the hotel, if requested.