The same fellow from Guinness that had come and certified Banning’s climbing wall as the highest in the world last year had returned to confirm that the resort and nature conservancy’s Screaming Eagle zipline canopy tour is the longest in the world. As he and I chatted about the uniqueness of Banning and the drive of the Holders, my mind wandered to a time six years ago this week when it seemed all at Banning had been lost, destroyed by a horrible fire that swept through the main lodge on Thanksgiving Day 2006. After eight years of building, Mike and Donna and their family and staff (pretty much the same thing) were faced with the daunting prospect of starting over again.
Professionally, of course, it was a huge loss to the county’s tourism industry as Historic Banning Mills’ cabins, trails and emerging ziplines had just begun to take off as a premiere attraction, bringing in people from all over the state, country and the world.
On a personal level, it was a devastating blow to the Holders as they truly had devoted their lives for years to developing and growing Banning. As it turned out, thankfully, both professionally and personally, this setback turned out to be only a temporary one. With thanks to God that no one was physically hurt and with the support of the community, the Holders went to work again, rebuilding what was lost and improving upon it.
The new lodge was bigger and more beautiful than the old one had been and housed a Banning historical museum and new meeting/event spaces. The ziplines were expanded, the trails were expanded, the world’s highest climbing wall was built, more cabins joined the existing ones. Property on either side of the existing facilities was added. Travel media from all over the country have helped tell Banning’s story and in the process helped tell Carroll County’s story as a destination to the world. It is no exaggeration to say that people from all across the globe have come to Banning and continue to do so in ever-increasing numbers. And now, Banning has earned two world records.
Comparison to the story of the phoenix rising out of its own ashes to soar again has never been more appropriate than in the case of Historic Banning Mills. As the sixth anniversary of Banning’s new beginning rolls around this Thanksgiving, I want to extend my deepest professional and personal congratulations to Mike and Donna, their family and their staff, for all they have accomplished. Keep flying high, Banning Mills!
(Dorsey is executive director of the Carrollton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the official destination marketing organization for Carrollton/Carroll County.)