About six months ago, I spoke to the representative at Casino Rama Resort in Orillia,  Ontario, about the possibility of doing a media weekend to see Charley Pride and experience their beautiful resort with my parents.  At that time my 80-year-old father was recently diagnosed with metastasized bone cancer, and I wanted to do something for him that was special and different than the norm.  Casino Rama was gracious enough to accept my proposal. The story begins there.

It has taken me two weeks to write this article.  Why you ask?  Because this wasn’t just a media trip.  I also gave my parents a dream come true (which I didn’t realize the extent of it until we were experiencing it first hand).

The Makings of a Fun Weekend at Casino Rama

I was in Gaspe to bring my parents up to Ontario for their annual Winter stay with us.  Dad had an appointment to see his oncologist, who was in Rimouski about five hours east of Gaspe, so we had to make a pitstop there.  Well, the pitstop became an overnight adventure (if you want to call it that).   He found out that his prostate cancer had metastasized into his rib cage.  He would be required to do hormone therapy and take a pretty potent drug for one month.  At that time we assumed that he could do the hormone therapy here in Ontario so we were going to keep going until my Dad made us aware that it would probably cost them $1,200 per shot out of pocket.  STOP THE CAR!  Long story short, we were able to get the drug ordered and administered the next day.

The following day was a blinding snowstorm, so the awkwardness of our heavy hearts and the snow made for some pretty tense moments.  I started talking to Dad about country artists I have seen in the past, who was the best, and who I’d love to see again. Alabama being tops on the list.   He mentioned that once he had an opportunity to see Charley Pride but was disappointed that they never seized the opportunity.  According to my Dad, he is the best country singer of all time.

So that night, in another hotel room, I searched to see if Charley Pride was playing ANYWHERE in Ontario during the next three months.  The only venue was Casino Rama and I put my plan in motion at that time.  I didn’t care if I had to spend $1,000, we were doing it.  But thanks to Casino Rama, this whole journey was covered by them and I can guarantee you that this one is probably the most memorable and sentimental.

His performance was on March 24th at 8PM.  Two days before my Dad’s 81st birthday.  What luck!!

A joyous Christmas Morn

Casino Rama Orillia Charlie PrideI have really tried to be more present during events as I tend to spend more time taking picture.  So, unfortunately, it was one of those ‘being present’moments because I was so excited to see the look on his face!  I highly regret not taking a photo of my Dad opening his gift.   He was a little stumped for a moment because I made an 8×10 promotional flyer and wrapped it in a gift box.

Well much to my ‘chagrin,’ my Mom was just as excited as my Dad was.  So we had three exciting months to wait until the big day.

As the days got closer, my Dad started listening to Charley Pride’s new album, ‘Music in my Heart,’ and  older tunes.  Thankfully, the treatment that was given to him helped keep  his levels down and he wasn’t feeling any side-effects whatsoever.

Charley Pride, Good Food and Fun at Casino Rama

Charley Pride at Casino Rama Orillia

The day arrived and my Mom and Dad were ready to go.  Mom got her hair done just in case she got to meet Charley Pride (and I tried so hard to make that happen, but it didn’t.  I’m just not that savvy obviously).

Casino Rama Deluxe SuiteWe arrived around 3pm on March 24th.  Casino Rama provided two single suites with a king-sized bed, fireplace, full bathroom, and living area.

My parents were in awe.  “I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in anything so luxurious,”  said my mother.

There you go, this getaway was something they’ve never experienced amidst all the chaos and worries of cancer, aging health, and living so many miles away from family the majority of the year.  This experience just turned epic.

My mother and I went to get our tickets, while my father had a nap.  He knew he’d be whipped otherwise, so we let him be.

St. Germain’s Fine Dining at Casino Rama

Tuna St. Germains Casino Rama Orillia

Amazing service and fine cuisine are available at St. Germain’s at Casino Rama.  Being strict on calories, our server was very attentive to my needs and wants.  I did indulge with a French Onion Soup (we’re on a vacation so…)  He suggested the tuna that was on special that night.   The tuna was perfectly cooked and the serving, along with the soup, was plentiful.

Mom and Dad had lobster bisque and grilled Cornish game hen as a main dish.  It was a lot of food for them, but so delicious all the same.  For East Coasters, they gave the lobster bisque a solid ten.  My husband had the 12 oz. striploin, lobster tail and mushrooms.  Overall, the meals were delicious and filling.

Being a whiskey girl, I stuck with my signature Forty Creek and Diet Coke, while my parents and husband had a bottle of Peller Estates Chardonnay.

Entertainment with Charley Pride at Casino Rama Resort

Anticipating the arrival of an 84-year-old legendary Country singer can be worrisome.  Is he going to perform well?  Will he sound the same?  Well, Charley Pride did not disappoint the sold-out audience of 5,000 that night.  From ‘The Happiness of Having You’ to his encore song ‘Cotton Fields’, Charley Pride was everything I remembered when my parents would play his songs on 75 records.   How is that for amazing???

I noticed that Casino Rama Resort are very aware of their demographic and people with disabilities.  There were wheelchairs available and the staff was so compassionate and caring to their guests as well.  The walker parking at the show was hands down impressive and super organized.  Their hospitality towards my Dad gave me the peace of mind that allowed me to worry less about him.  If something went awry, I know someone would be there to help not only him, but anyone.

It was the best family experience I think I’ve had in my life.   I think you learn to appreciate your parents so much more as you age and can relate to the angst of young children, seeing your kids leave the nest and just day to day typical triumphs and struggles.  But Charley Pride was something I could relate to with them because they brought me up listening to his music.  What a gift for both them and myself!

For those interested, Charley Pride’s set list went something like this.

The Snakes Crawl at Night (instrumental before introduction)
The Happiness of Having You
Whole Lotta Things to Sing About
Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone
Just Between You and Me
Crystal Chandeliers
Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger
All I Have to Offer You Is Me
Me and Bobby McGee – (Kris Kristofferson cover)
Wonder Could I Live There Anymore
Mississippi Cotton Pickin’ Delta Town
Wings of a Dove – (Ferlin Husky cover)
Someone Loves You Honey
You’re My Jamaica
You Win Again, Love Sick Blues, Roll On Mississippi
Mountain of Love – (Harold Dorman cover)
Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy
He’ll Have to Go
The Race Is On
He Stopped Loving Her Today (Only a blip of the song)
God’s Coloring Book, I’ll Fly Away, Little Brown Church in Vale, I Saw the Light, Will the Circle Be Unbroken
New Patches
You’re Still in These Crazy Arms of Mine
Except For You
America the Great
Kiss an Angel Good Morning
Kaw-Liga – (Hank Williams cover)

Cotton Fields – (Lead Belly cover)

Additional Fun at Casino Rama Resort

After the show, I took my parents back up to their room. Suffice to say, my 76-year-old Mom was still ready to dance and party.  And boy, did she dance the night in front of the stage.  My Dad as well was overjoyed and we closed the night off with a drink.

My husband and I proceeded to spend some time at the casino, where I won $101.00.  Happy Day as Lady Luck was on my side.

The next morning, we took my parents to breakfast at the Weir’s Restaurant, located within the resort, checked out and taught them a little about slots.  My Dad came out ahead with $26.00 and was quite pleased.

They were so amazed at the attention to detail and wood carvings throughout the hotel.    My Mom even took in a little shopping.

Casino Rama Resort Charley PrideOverall, from beginning to end, we had an amazing weekend.   To learn more about Casino Rama Resort and how to create the ultimate “Parent’s Surprise Weekend”, visit their website.  Don’t forget to reserve early, if you’re planning on going to St. Germain’s Restaurant!  We almost missed out because of me.

Making Great Memories

Four days after our Casino Rama Resort experience, we took my parents back to their hometown of Gaspe Quebec.  There is a lot of snow and the carpet rolls up around 7PM in this town. So returning home was bittersweet.  So giving my parents a luxurious dream come true weekend was not only a gift for them but to me as well.  Our parents won’t be around forever.  Many of us plan milestone birthday or anniversary parties to celebrate.  Admit it, most of the time its egg sandwiches, old friends and squares (lots of them).

It took me a while to write this article because this experience meant more to me than a simple media plug and a few pictures.  It meant the world to me to entertain my parents and I know it meant the world to them to have a little fun in the midst of what life has thrown at them.  If you can do anything for your parents this year, make it more than egg sandwiches and a rented hall.  Make it an experience that will make their heart soar!  Places like Casino Rama  that offer full services without the worries of what to do and where to go, do just that.

Thank you, Casino Rama Resort.  My husband and I will be back – next time on my terms.  ZZ Top on August 18th it is!!

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