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Camp Lucy and Tillies

A Texas Hill Country Destination Gem

The vision was simple. Create a modern-day oasis where there had been none before. That was the task Kim and Whit Hanks set out to accomplish when they decided to open a resort in Central Texas.  What the Hanks ended up constructing was Camp Lucy, a luxurious resort near Dripping Springs that looks to rival larger metropolitan hubs anywhere in the state.

“Our goal originally was to create an ‘escape destination’ at Camp Lucy,” said Whit Hanks. “We were hoping that both our staff and the brand-new visitor would feel a sense of relief, safety, and excitement when arriving at our place. That’s where the ‘Camp’ in Camp Lucy came from—the idea that we would engender the same feelings youngsters have when they go off to summer camp with new friends, new experiences but the certainty of a safe and creative environment.”

Dripping Springs is called the “gateway” to the Hill Country. The resort offers a relaxing experience for visitors to the state or area residents looking to get away from the hectic pace of everyday life.

“We hope they will say they had an unexpected experience,” Hanks said. “We hope they feel well-traveled no matter how far they have journeyed to find us. In other words, we would like them to feel like they have traveled around the world to experience our particular style of architecture, food and beverage, and quality service. As Kim and I travel around the world, we’ve come to realize that the quality of the staff is really the differentiator when it comes to a first-class experience.”

Before the Hanks turned Camp Lucy into an exotic resort, it was a weekend getaway for Whit’s parents. But it slowly evolved into more, starting in 2008 when Ian’s Chapel was imported from Ninh Bihn, Vietnam.

The chapel was a Catholic church in Vietnam that was scheduled to be demolished.   However, Whit had other plans. He purchased the structure and transported it back to Texas where it was reassembled piece by piece.

That chapel became the foundation and starting point for Camp Lucy. The resort is now home to five event venues (Ian’s Chapel, Sacred Oaks, Stedman Hall, Whit’s Inn, and the Vineyard), each with its own special features.

“Over time it evolved. First as a wedding venue and now it is now clearly more than that. We offer fine-dining, lodging, guided activities, a resort-style swimming pool, as well as group events and services for weddings, corporate retreats, and leisure travelers,” Hanks said. “With the addition of the Camp Lucy Spa and associated lodging next year, we should complete the transition to a destination resort. While we plan to continue to host weddings and corporate events, our vision is really to offer a place where anyone can come to recharge and have new experiences. We are about halfway through with the original buildout plan approved by Dripping Springs more than 10 years ago.”

The design aesthetics don’t stop with the handmade elements Camp Lucy is known for. Once guests walk out the front door of the resort, Whit Hanks encourages them to take in the natural beauty outside as well.

“Visitors describe it as entering an unspoiled Garden of Eden. I think that spirit of relief, safety, and excitement is achieved partly by the geography,”.  Camp Lucy is on a plateau overlooking Onion Creek and one of its tributaries, and there’s a sense of protection being on top of the hill. I think our building various parts of the property at different times creates a more authentic experience than could be achieved if everything had been built at once to a master plan. Even the Vietnamese buildings contribute to the same emotional experience. We’ve had to bend to the structures’ requirements when we adapted them from their 19th-century origins. Think of what stories they could tell.”

No story is complete without tales of savory meals and libations surrounded by family and friends. Whether it’s an intimate setting for a couple marking their 20th anniversary or a wedding party celebrating the newly tied nuptials, Camp Lucy has the bases covered with their in-house restaurant Tillie’s or banquet-style dining.

“I have had the great fortune of traveling to many different places around the globe,” Kim Hanks said. “What these experiences ignited in me was the great love of different foods. Austin has become a melting pot of different cuisines from around the world because let’s face it, Austin is the new and hot place to open a restaurant.”

Andy Knudson is the Executive Chef at Tillie’s. His résumé includes stops at restaurants from Las Vegas to Paris and New York, and he has an obsession for cooking on a live fire and smoking meats.

Tillie’s menu features the American Nouveau concept, which is a cuisine that borrows from cooking traditions and techniques from all around the world to create something new and exciting. From the Louisiana Swordfish to the Texas Caviar & Salmon to the Yellow Peach Sundae, it offers diners an eclectic culinary experience.

“Creating a completely new menu was fun. However, it comes with its own challenges,” Andy said. “After leaving NYC during the pandemic and moving to Dripping Springs, you can imagine there were a lot of differences. I was now working with a completely different ‘food scene.’ I decided to embrace that change, go back to my roots a bit, and create dishes that I wanted to eat that would be exciting and unique yet approachable by a new audience here in Texas. That is what the team and I focus on daily.”

Meredith Shaffer is the Banquets Executive Chef at Camp Lucy. The former Hollywood Events Chef and Los Angeles transplant wants to transform each wedding and event into an extravaganza.

“Creating a fun food environment is key,” Meredith said. “Having live-action stations, chef attendants, high-class serving styles, and an extremely professional staff is what makes our experience next level. It is more than just the food. It’s how you feel when you are experiencing it.”

With Andy and Meredith spearheading the gourmet journeys, Camp Lucy can transport diners with a variety of cuisines. That includes food and wine festivals Kim has planned for the coming years.

“We have an amazing Executive Chef, Andy Knudson, who gives us the confidence to run an amazing yearly event. So, it makes sense to take Andy’s knowledge of food festivals along with his connections from more than 20 years in the industry and bring a new kind of food festival to the Texas Hill Country at Camp Lucy,” according to Kim said. “Camp Lucy is planning a Food and Spirits Fair coming by 2024 or 2025. The experiences will focus on trying some of Austin’s best foods and drinks, not queuing in lines all day as you would at a festival. It will also have a vintage or old-fashioned feel to it. This will be created by our design aesthetics and because of the handmade not commercial nature of good food done right.”

Kim envisions the festival taking place over two days and becoming a staple event that will showcase the resort, the staff, and all the amenities the Hill Country has to offer.

“We will feature guest chef takeovers of our kitchens and our chefs hosting a tented dinner party in our vineyard. Many Austin-popular food trucks will be featured at the main location which will be in our vineyard,” Kim said. “Along with our food offerings, there will be bars featuring Texas spirits and wines. We will also offer wine tasting. Highlights will feature cooking and cocktail demos, plus opportunities to meet the chefs. We will offer transportation throughout the venue including to our spa. I also imagine we will have an acoustic performance at the end of each night. During the day there will be a shopping bazaar and food trivia games with prizes. There’s so much more in my mind, so this is just a taste.”

Despite everything Camp Lucy offers its guests, Kim and Whit Hanks have much more planned as they continue to grow and expand into the oasis they have envisioned.

“We are just beginning to develop our vineyard experiences, including grape harvesting and wine tastings,” Hanks said. “And we still have a whole other section of development called ‘The Lodge’ that will come to fruition in the future. That area will undoubtedly have more lodging options available, and we will also be incorporating other services for the complete retreat experience. Our goal is to be the most well-regarded destination resort in the Southwest.”

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