By Jane Irwin
The year 2009 was a remarkable year at Walker’s Bluff, filled with a multitude of projects, activities, and events.
Topping them off, in October, the Legends Restaurant was dedicated in a grand opening ceremony held on the highest point on property purchased over eighty years ago by the Grandparents of the present owners.
Cynde and David Bunch welcomed family, friends, the architect, decorators, builders, craftsmen, suppliers, and well wishers to a unique celebration of pride and accomplishment!
In these words from her speech, Cynde welcomed everyone to Walker’s Bluff and thanked them for joining in to celebrate the grand opening of Legends!
She likened this to the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” or the “ Legend of Jesse James.” She expanded on what, so far, it has taken to make this “Legend” begin.
“It took two people eighty years ago to buy the rolling, hilly property on the Big Muddy River which happens to act as a “heat sink” and is nearly 9 degrees warmer than the surrounding area on those freezing cold nights for which Southern Illinois is famous”
“It took my Father to unselfishly provide for me and my sister our inheritance while he is still living.”
“It took my cousin, who is the best excavator there is, to remove thousands of pieces of old farm equipment and buses and tires and to see the natural swell of the land and create the beautiful Lake Jewell. This same cousin works hour after hour building roads and spreading, to date, 158,000 tons of gravel, which was carried in truck load by truck load.”
“It takes an Uncle who loves this land and only believed its use was for cattle pasture. But he was brave enough to try to put in a vineyard. 1700 posts, 20 miles of wire and 4000 plants later we have the only vineyard west of California that produced Italian Barbera and French Shriah Grapes this year”
“It takes men who have not studied or gone to school in thirty years to spend several weeks in class studying Japanese Beetles, mold and curly leaf disease and successfully obtain their licenses to buy spray and maintain our own vineyard”
“It takes a builder and eighty plus men working sixty plus hours a week for five and one-half months”
“It takes a stone mason and his crew and 250 thousand pounds of stone and an electrician and 30 miles of wire”
“It takes 33 thousand square yards of concrete”
“Over 400 mums, trees and shrubs and nearly a ton of grass seed”
“It takes a son-in law, armed with a cell phone and a knowledge of welding to build our amphitheater”
“It takes my 72 year old father and two men mowing fifty-three acres and weed eating all week, every week”
“It takes a bank believing in a vision for Southern Illinois that a balance sheet may not support”
“It takes two designers, 500 yards of fabric, hundreds of gallons of paint, days of shopping”
“It takes architects, engineers and draftsmen to guide us from the flood plain”
“It takes accountants and lawyers to set in order the business of business”
“It takes fifty plus servers and culinary staff with willing hearts and great attitudes to serve alfresco dining while dodging mud puddles and rain drops”
“It takes a young intern fresh out of college partnered with the best ad agency in the tri-state area to bring people to visit from Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Taxas, and all of Illinois”
“It takes a girl who was a college star softball player to put on her best high heels and shulk through the mud carrying food to tables all the while smiling from ear-to-ear, worrying if our night’s entertainment got lost again on Reed Station Road”
“It takes a retired stage director twenty plus hours a week searching for talent that is affordable as well as entertaining”
“It takes our children who, every time they are called upon to answer the call with a willing heart; and who have not yet ‘locked us up’ every time they see another rock truck ‘dumping their inheritance”
“It takes grandchildren who are always ‘on stage’ and willing to run food or lanterns to tables”
“It takes great friends who offer an encouraging words and helpful suggestions”
“It takes a husband who can fix anything and does not necessarily hate being away from his boat”
“It takes a God who cared enough about His people to change the destiny of us all…..to have good jobs in a time of ‘economic downturn’…..to have hundreds of men working side-by-side; day after day, with hardly a cross word…..to see young men who have not had training or much education work hard and well side-by-side others who are teaching them a vocation”
“Everyone is so amazed that we have built a Legend in less than six months!”
“When we look back at what it took to build this Legend, I am telling everyone- Just Hold on Because with the Team we Have, It is only the Beginning!”
I was there at this grand opening ceremony and was completely impressed. As the mother of the general contractor, I was also very proud. I’d visited Walker’s Bluff just after my son built the beautiful gazebo for Cynde. At that time, she was so kind as to give me a tour of the Keeper’s Cottage that was just being finished. I continue to be amazed as each step of the Legend comes to fruition. Eagerly, I follow the progress and watch the website for information of events and activities.
I’ve followed the progress of Walker’s Bluff as have many, many Southern Illinoisans and all are excited, delighted and awed at what is coming together there!
We thank God for the good fortunes he has bestowed upon Cynde and David Bunch through their hard work and perseverance. We thank them for their vision and courage in bringing such a venue to our area. So many people’s lives have already been made better through so many different avenues.
Building the General Store
After a Legend
Speech by Cynde Bunch at the Grand Opening of the General Store on April 22, 2011
Following the May 8 storm I had an early morning visitor. Mrs. Nettie Jenkins came to tell me that we needed to buy this property from her because Walker’s Bluff needed a front door.
On May 8, Mrs. Jenkins’ home of 56 years was reduced to a pile of rubble, and out of that rubble she gave us the idea to build the face of Walker’s Bluff.
With Legends we developed the heart of Walker’s Bluff; with the General Store we have made our face. The General Store will serve as our front door, our welcome center. It will serve as a neighborhood grocery, our deli café, provisioning for picnics and camping, a full service fuel station as well as a great place to stop and eat ice cream and feed the fish on a beautiful afternoon.
We want to take this opportunity to give a special thank you to the people of Cambria who have extended such a warm welcome, our nearby neighbors who have been so welcoming, despite all our construction-noise and lights. And especially to Williamson County Government Officials who have truly made business here a pleasurable partnership.
As with Legends, building the General Store required hundreds of people working thousands of man hours – designers, contractors, craftsmen, merchandisers, chefs, sales people, landscapers, vendor partners, and of course our dedicated Walker’s Bluff staff.
Doing what a lot of people said would be impossible; we have truly made a beautiful face for Walker’s Bluff and another jewel for Southern Illinois.
The Tasting Room & Wine Cave Grand Opening
Speech by Cynde Bunch
Welcome and thank you all for coming to the Grand Opening of The Tasting Room and Wine Cave of Walker’s Bluff. The fourth of eight venues planned for this premiere destination of the midwest.
Dave and I are so proud of this latest completion – out of this facility will flow our Walker’s Bluff wine. Wine that until we began eight years ago preparing soil, bench grafting plants and undergoing back breaking toil to plant and listening to the most discouraging of viticulture officials tell us why superior wine grapes would not grow in Southern Illinois.
Well I’m happy to report the experts were wrong! You see those vineyards- Vinifera, Barbera, Temprenillo, Sangiovese, Pino Gris, Syrah and our newest variety Sagrentino. And from this facility we will process, barrel, age, bottle and sell our own estate grown Walker’s Bluff wine.
That’s an amazing milestone for any project, but for one this size and with so many barriers, little things – like – no city water, sewer, power, roads…no hospitality-trained staff – simple things like ironed linens, building our own laundry and training staff to produce those services.
We have endured the May 8th storm, record floods of 2010 and 2011 and all the normal obstacles presented by a state that is known as “not so business friendly” – But, we are half way there!
As one often does, these past few months, I have reflected on our vision – and many times asked is this the right vision? One day in late September I was reading reviews in Trip Advisor. I read a review from a gentleman in San Diego, CA – he was visiting the area and came to Walker’s Bluff and had dinner at Legends – Besides the normal dining critique, he added several observations and questions about me and Dave. He asked why would we spend tens of millions of dollars in an isolated area in Southern Illinois where there is so little hope to ever return our investment.
After many days of truly seeking this answer in ourselves I have to say I don’t know the why…but, I know the who!
The who are the hundreds of construction workers who have labored the last five years to get us halfway – The who is the designers and architects who design and redraw. The power company; Egyptian Electric, who brings power across fields – get easements from farmers, water commissioners who help and devise new lines to supply our needs. The who is electricians who tirelessly “pull more wire,” the landscapers who plant, move and replant as the plan changes.
The who is the hundreds who work here tirelessly, not always knowing where are going next or how to get there – but, always willing and with a happy heart.
The who is our guests who have come and come through flood waters, mud, gravel roads, not perfect service nor always exquisite food, but they come! And most of all our who is God.
A God who I know listened to all of those praying Mothers, Grandmothers, Great Grandfathers, all those people who came before, who wanted more for our children and grand children, a God who loves us so much He has taken our hearts and heads and made us develop Walker’s Bluff.
Today we give the people the newest of our venues-The Tasting Room and Wine Cave.
Everyone rest and enjoy your weekend and Happy Easter!
For those who work here and those who are watching and waiting- remember we are only half way through.