As country music star Merle Haggard checked out of the Springfield Hilton on Tuesday, Oct. 7, hotel manager Barry Brady was looking forward to the celebration that evening, commemorating the hotel's 25-year history. Haggard would be a perfect addition to the celebration, so Brady tried to talk him into staying.
"I tried," Brady said.
Brady's been with the hotel 20 years, and many feel it's the hands-on management that's kept the Hilton going all these years.
"We have been the leader in this community," Brady said, attributing the success to location, the dedication of employees and support from the owners, Neil Coakley and Fred Williams.
Jan Davis, a graduate of Lee High School along with Brady, sees his management style as a great contribution. She is a native Springfield resident and now the owner of Jan Davis Entertainment, which supplied the Uncle Sam, fortune teller and robot to the celebration.
"It's Barry Brady. He's probably one of the most incredible people I've known," Davis said. "The leadership here has kept it what it is. It was built a Hilton and remained a Hilton."
Bob Heittman is the transportation guru in Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) office. He's been involved with the transportation elements that affect the Hilton, including the Springfield Interstate Interchange program, which surrounds the hotel. The hotel is part of Springfield's revitalization efforts as well.
"It was a keystone," Heittman said. "It's been a magnet for downtown Springfield."
At first, Brady looked at the highway project as a threat to his business, but instead of moving on, he worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation, Kauffman's office and the Springfield Chamber of Commerce to make it feasible with businesses in the area.
"He had no intention of packing his bags and going away," Heittman said.
Joan Clark, also part of Kauffman's office, administers the Transportation Around Greater Springfield (TAGS) bus program, which has always had a stop at the Hilton. The buses shuttle people to and from the Metro station as well as around central Springfield. TAGS has been in existence since 1999.
"Barry Brady's dedication to the public" is the secret, Clark said.
Eve Mattheny has been at the Hilton for seven years, traveling from Manassas to her job in the Blue Parrot, the lounge at the Hilton. It's a long way, but she feels the hotel is worth it.
"It's like working with your family," she said.
Mattheny's had a few brushes with stars there as well. Dennis Quaid and David Crosby were there recently. One night, she was leaving at 3 a.m., while Crosby was getting on the elevator.
"He just kind of waved," she said.
Other brushes with greatness at the Hilton were various Redskinettes through the years, Tommy Dorsey and the Glen Miller Band, Jefferson Starship, Nazareth, Richie Blackmore and Britney Spears.
"This hotel has been a landmark for a long, long time," Brady said.