|By Judy Newman, The Wisconsin State
JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 23, 2011--Lake Lawn Resort held a grand reopening celebration Friday, signing in its first overnight guests in seven months.
The Lodges at Lake Lawn, with 220 rooms, opened to visitors and the Frontier restaurant was set to start serving dinner Friday night.
It's been a whirlwind of activity at the 133-year-old Delavan area resort, especially since storms earlier this month toppled more than 40 trees and snapped branches off another 100, said Jim Drescher, who headed the investment group that bought the resort in May for $9.5 million.
"One-hundred-year-old oak trees came down like toothpicks," Drescher said. Then, earlier Friday, weather again interfered with preparations as a storm dumped 3 inches of rain on the area.
Drescher said about 60 rooms were rented for Friday night.
Past guests and newcomers who have heard about Lake Lawn's rejuvenation have enthusiastically responded, resort manager Dave Sekeres said.
"I can honestly say the phones are ringing off the hook. We're taking in hundreds of calls a day for future reservations," he said. "It is quite exhilarating."
Another building at the resort, Woodlawn, with 60 guest rooms, is still getting renovated and will open next year. Drescher said renovations so far have cost about $300,000.
Sekeres was part of the management team when a group of banks, led by Madison's AnchorBank, took over the property and closed the resort in December. He said many of the 130 employees Lake Lawn has hired so far were also working there before.
Seeing customers come back makes it "a very gratifying day for them," Drescher said. "It's beyond a job for them. They take a lot of pride in today." By next year, employment will be back up to 300, he said.
Lake Lawn's golf course has been open since late May, as well as its boat slips and boat rentals. The Lookout Bar and Eatery also opened earlier.
"Lake Lawn Resort is a huge economic engine for the city of Delavan, bringing in visitors from around the region. On behalf of the city of Delavan, I am thrilled to see Lake Lawn back in business," Mayor Mel Nieuwenhuis said in a statement.
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