PETOSKEY, Mich. - More than 200 Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians attended the June 20 opening ceremony of the tribe's new Odawa Casino Resort.
The day started off with a Sunrise ceremony at which pipe carriers were present. Later in the morning, drum group Spirit Lodge sang an opening song. Speakers included Tribal Chairman Frank Ettawageshik and Vice Chairman Bill Denemy Sr. Both talked about the changes they've seen over the years and recalled the days when the people were so poor and the tribe struggled for reaffirmation in 1994. Now, with casino profits, education, health care and programs for the elders have all come about.
In July 1999, the tribe opened its first casino. Many hurdles were overcome when the doors to Victories Casino opened briefly and then reopened in February 2000. The tribe had to overcome legal challenges to its gaming compact with the state of Michigan.
Today, the new Odawa Casino Resort has an additional 517 employees, which makes it the second-largest employer in the area. The gaming floor boasts 1,500 slot machines, 30 table games and six poker tables. In addition, the grand opening of a new nightclub - The O Zone - took place June 28.
''O Zone is definitely a special nightclub; it resembles the type of club that you would find in a major city like Miami or Los Angeles,'' said Matthew Mingrone, marketing director of the Odawa Casino Resort.
The interior is done in all white and has a space age feel to it. Wait and bar staff will don new uniforms in black dress apparel, and will perform choreographed dance routines and some flair bartending.
The casino offers three restaurants for the customer's dining pleasure. The Waas-no-de' Buffet seats 350 people and serve everything from Asian-style cuisine, to pasta and roast beef with all the fixings. Also included is a dessert bar. The Copper Cafe has a full coffee bar available. There's also an assortment of sandwiches, pastries and other beverages available. The Sage Restaurant is home to fine dining. Here, chefs prepare nightly specials and delicacies from various parts of the world.
The casino's formal grand opening was held July 25.
For more information on Odawa Casino Resort, visit www.odawacasino.com.