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Singing Nashville's praises: Team Lab's trip to 'Music City' was a mix of fun and work--but mostly fun

Inside the Grand Ole Opry. Team Lab Office Manager Kelsey McCombs said visitors can take pictures on the famous stage, make a musical recording of themselves, or peruse pieces of country music history in the Opry’s museum. Exhibits include a suit worn by Elvis, an outfit of Loretta Lynn’s, a guitar belonging to Brad Paisley, and much more. The items were all left behind by the performers after they played a show at the Opry. Submitted Photo1 / 5
Nashville is most often associated with country music, but its scope has broadened widely to include live music venues of just about every genre. It’s also becoming known as a ‘foodie mecca’ with its long list of trendsetting restaurants. Submitted Photo2 / 5
Gail Bonstetter, a guest on the Team Lab's trip to Nashville, and Connie Oak, who works for the company in accounts receivable, share a happy moment in the 'Music City.' Submitted Photo Submitted Photo3 / 5
Visitors of Nashville are able to find rare deals on cowboy/cowgirl boots. Many of the Team Lab employees took advantage of a buy two, get one free sale while they were there. Submitted Photo4 / 5
The John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, an iconic Nashville landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a 3,150-foot-long pedestrian truss bridge that spans the Cumberland River. The large red sculpture to the left is artist Alice Aycock’s Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks, a 100-foot-tall artwork designed to convey a sense of the area’s evolution from an industrial working river to a place for recreation and entertainment. Submitted Photo5 / 5

Team Lab employees always look forward to their annual company trip.

Every January, the 20 or so office workers and sales consultants from the Detroit Lakes-based specialty chemical company travel somewhere special for a long weekend of work and play. They'll soon be heading for the warmth and sun of Arizona for this year's trip. Last year, they lived it up in 'Music City'—Nashville, Tenn.

"I don't know if you can top Nashville," said Team Lab Office Manager Kelsey McCombs. "It was really fun."

McCombs helps plan the annual trips along with Michelle Maier, who co-owns Team Lab with her husband, Terry. Over the years, the company has brought its employees and their spouses to Florida, Texas, Las Vegas, Puerto Rico and other popular vacation spots.

On every Team Lab trip, there's typically a dinner and awards ceremony in recognition of the company's top sellers and other successes for the year, along with a sales meeting and then plenty of free time for people to explore their surroundings, socialize and have fun.

In Nashville, McCombs said, the Team Lab group of roughly 30 travelers stayed at the downtown Sheraton hotel, which was within walking distance to a number of attractions, shops, restaurants and bars.

Visiting the Grand Ole Opry was a highlight for many in the group, while for others, it was shopping in The Gulch, an upscale neighborhood known for its indie boutiques and trendsetting restaurants and hotels. The Johnny Cash Museum was another favorite spot.

Cheryl Chivers of Travel Travel in Detroit Lakes, who books the annual trips for Team Lab and went along with the group to Nashville, called the city a "great destination," with tons of things to do. There's the Country Music Hall of Fame, for example, or the historic home of President Andrew Jackson. There are also tours of Southern plantations, and of course all the "great music venues on the Broadway strip downtown, with the best BBQ you can find."

McCombs said exploring the local food and music scene was the best part of the trip for her. She and her husband pounded the pavement of downtown Nashville during their free time, stopping in to various bars and restaurants to listen to live shows and talk to some aspiring musicians.

"Every place had a singer, and they just seemed to get better and better as we went," she said. "We just really enjoyed talking to people down there. Talking to a waitress or bartender, they all were there for music. They waitressed or bartended during the day and then played music at night. Every single person we talked to was like that... And down there, you don't get paid to play in a bar, like you do here. It's all tip-based. There's so much competition to get in the bars there, so they basically volunteer to play. They're all hoping to make it big."

Nashville's been making a name for itself as a hotspot for vacationers. Business Insider lists the city among its list of 33 Trips Everyone Should Take in the U.S. in 2018, largely due to its culinary scene. And Travelocity just named Nashville one of its Best Places to Travel in 2018, noting its foodie scene and calling The Gulch "the new epicenter of upscale cool."

"Music City is rising, so much so that you can hate country music and still have the time of your life," according to Travelocity.

"There is so much to see and do in Nashville, I want to go back to experience more," said Connie Oak, who works in accounts receivable at Team Lab.

Team Lab, or Team Laboratory Chemical Corp., has operated out of Detroit Lakes since 2003. It's located just east of town on Highway 34.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune as a reporter and magazine editor in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in Detroit Lakes with her husband, Dan, their 3-year-old son and baby daughter, and their yellow Lab.

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