Every fall when the leaves begin to change, Lake Ouachita’s crystal clear waters reflect back a blaze of crimson, gold and orange. No matter how many times you’ve seen it, it will take your breath away. This year the change couldn’t come at a more perfect time. For fall 2018, predictions say Lake Ouachita leaves will “peak” the around November 12. Nature will still be putting on her finest display the next weekend when we gather for Mountain Harbor Thanksgiving 2018.
Fall color isn’t the only sight that makes the area even more gorgeous than usual. November is also when the weather begins to mellow into crisp nights and cool days. It finally starts to feel like fall. Wildlife seems more willing to venture from shelter and shade to be seen by Harbor guests. Stars blaze brighter in a cold night sky. Visitors can wrap up in fuzzy blankets, curl fingers around warm mugs and build a fire with the wood stacked next to their cabin fireplaces.
Thursday -- Legendary Thanksgiving Buffet
Every year we have a mix of familiar faces and new friends as some families experience a time-honored tradition and others start a new one. The Thanksgiving buffet at Mountain Harbor sells out every time because it’s an unforgettable experience you can’t find anywhere else.
Every year we decorate the Lodge from end to end with garland and fall foliage. We trim the Holiday trees in ribbon and lights. Thursday morning we serve breakfast from 7-9, then we lock the doors. We set the tables with Mountain Harbor’s finest, covering them in crisp white tablecloths and fall colored linens. With great anticipation our staff creates festive holiday centerpieces of bright cranberries and fall foliage. We light the candles and the fireplace. The space that always serves as a family-friendly gathering area fills with festive formality and rustic elegance.
Whatever your Thanksgiving favorite, you’ll find it at Mountain Harbor. Here are just a few of the items you’ll find on our extravagant Thanksgiving buffet:
- Turkey – smoked, baked and turkey legs
- Ham – smoked, baked and honey
- Specialty salads – crab salad, Waldorf salad, pasta and vegetable blend salads
- Traditional salad bar
- Bread – buttery homestyle baked rolls, wheat rolls, flaky croissants and more all piled into a mountain of warm, fresh deliciousness
- Sweet potato casserole
- Green bean casserole
- Broccoli cheese and rice
- Traditional cranberry sauce
- Pies – pumpkin, coconut, pecan, chocolate meringue, apple and cherry
- Cheesecakes – traditional, pumpkin cheesecake, sugar-free cheesecake plus Mountain Harbor’s sensational lemon berry mascarpone cheesecake
- Medley of fresh fruit and assorted cheeses.
- Other desserts – Italian cream cake, assorted cobblers, other sugar-free desserts
Food and Beverage Manager Chris Barnes’ Absolute Favorite Dish
When we talked to Chris in early October, he said they were already prepping for the big day. Mountain Harbor serves the traditional “grandma’s southern style” cornbread dressing, but you can’t make 150 pounds of it from start to finish the day before the event. He says kitchen staff is already baking cornbread in batches and freezing it so they’ll have plenty.
Chris says everything is delicious, but his favorite Thanksgiving dish is the dressing. The recipe came from Mountain Harbor employee Phyllis Goodner, and there’s not a single other person who can make it like she does.
Phyllis is retired now, but she still comes on Thanksgiving to make the dressing. Other staff might help with roasting the chickens for it, pulling the meat and chopping vegetables, but Phyllis works the magic.
Why We Only Use Traditional Recipes
Chris’ recipe for sweet potato casserole gets it just right, with a lot of cinnamon, pecans (although nut-free options are available), salt and pepper, heavy cream and a few secrets he won’t divulge. He tops it with marshmallows and serves it just like it should be.
The green bean casserole is like grandma used to make it with cream of mushroom soup, fried onions and the addition of cheese to make it a little creamier.
Chris says in the past sometimes Harbor offered non-traditional items like butternut squash or oyster dressing, but the guests didn’t like it. Now they stick to tried-and-true.
The Best Part – The Family
First-time Thanksgiving guests often wonder how they’ll feel not celebrating the day at someone’s home. Every single time they’re astonished by how celebrating at Mountain Harbor has the feel of a family gathering, only bigger.
Guests bring their loved ones, so they’re surrounded by the people for whom they’re most thankful. They also find themselves breaking bread and giving thanks with strangers that during the course of a meal become friends. When you gather to give thanks for the things that really matter, that spirit of togetherness and gratitude creates a deep bond.
Really, that family feeling starts with the staff. A traditional family holiday includes preparations that begin months ahead. The frenzy, work and anticipation builds. Finally, the cooks gather in the kitchen while others trim the tree.
When you, our guests arrive, our hearts swell. It’s deeply meaningful to be able to share the day with you, to have you gather here. You’re what we’re thankful for.
The Thanksgiving Feast is only available to those with reservations, and each time spot is already filling up. Seating times are as follows:
- 11:30 am
- 1:15 pm
- 3 pm
To make a reservation call 870-867-2191 or toll-free at 800-832-2276.
Friday -- Mountain Harbor’s Lighting Ceremony
We don’t just prep ahead for Thanksgiving, in September we start getting ready for the Lighting Ceremony. By Friday, we’ll have strung 2.4 million lights all around the resort.
The kitchen staff goes home Thursday night, but Friday morning they’re here baking cookies like you’ve never seen.
After the entire Harbor staff is invited together for Thanksgiving leftovers, the Lodge Restaurant crew will return to their cookie-elves work of baking chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookies, but they don’t stick to tradition here. You’ll also find choices like cranberry white chocolate chip, pretzel caramel chocolate chip, lemon icebox and Heath toffee cookies, which mingle perfectly with hot chocolate and apple cider.
The Christmas festivities will begin at 6 p.m. in front of the main Lodge area. For those of you wanting to squeeze in some final orders from the Lodge Restaurant, they will be open until 7 p.m.
The free event includes live music, face painting, hayrides, a photo booth and pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Make plans now to attend!
Saturday – Spaghetti Dinner and Auction
Bill Barnes started the all-volunteer Joplin Fire Department more than 30 years ago. The group has always been funded through donations and grants. Many Mountain Harbor staff members also volunteer at this on-property fire department.
On Saturday, guests have a chance to attend their biggest annual fundraiser. All the spaghetti noodles, garlic bread, and salad are prepared by the Lodge Restaurant, while each of the volunteer firefighters bring in their favorite, homemade spaghetti sauce. It’s all you can eat!! The money raised from donations, Saturday’s auction, and the raffle, will go to fund the maintenance and expenses of the Joplin Volunteer Fire Department. Volunteers pull the firetrucks out of their bays and line the room with tables. The seating is picnic-style and guests mix with Mt. Ida residents and Mountain Harbor staff.
The spaghetti is always delicious and followed by both a silent and live auction, as well as a raffle drawing for a large 52” inch flat screen. Get a jump on your Christmas shopping with items like the following:
- Local art from the artist’s guild
- Flatbottom boat donated by Waco Manufacturing.
Avoid Black Friday crowds and contribute to a good cause. We’ll have the game on our big flat screen, so you won’t miss a thing.
Make Your Mountain Harbor Thanksgiving Plans Now
It’s a packed weekend filled with food, fun and family. Book your lodging online or give us a call to reserve your seat at the Thanksgiving Holiday Buffet. We can’t wait to see you for Mountain Harbor Thanksgiving 2018!