Posted 3/4/2013 12:00 am
Nearly two decades before Old World pretensions found their way to Boone County, construction of Lacey Michele’s Castle was in motion. This mom-and-pop tourism destination lies about six medieval French leagues to the west as the crow flies from the Ozark Medieval Fortress.
Shelby Ravellette, proprietor of Lacey Michele’s Castle and overseer of its 70-acre domain, isn’t surprised the ambitious fortress project didn’t last long.
He questioned the wisdom of building such a mammoth structure in the Ozarks without the benefit of modern stabilizing components such as steel and reinforced concrete footings.
“I told them, ‘You’re nuts. It won’t work,’” Ravellette said. “After that, we were archenemies, and they said they were going to run me out of business. I told them, ‘We’re a charity. How are you going to put a charity out of business?’”
Ravellette began laying rock for his fanciful interpretation of an Arkansas castle in 1991. His low-overhead nonprofit operations, supported by overnight guests and visitors, pay the bills and then some. Ravellette’s modest castle generates enough money for do-gooder activities such as providing $50 to $100 annually to each graduate at Omaha High School.
“Now, you realize we’re only talking about 17 to 22 graduates per year,” he adds.
Helping young people is a meaningful way for Ravellette to keep alive the memory of his late daughter and castle namesake.
Located on Cricket Cutoff Road a mile west of the U.S. 65 pavement, Ravellette’s castle features a fully furnished kitchen and other modern niceties to accommodate temporary residents. Outdoor attractions include more than five miles of wooded hiking trail and gardens and greenery supported by a handcrafted water conservation system.
Ravellette said he will miss the bigger budget marketing efforts of the Ozark Medieval Fortress, which became known locally as the medieval tourist trap.
“The first year they opened was the best year I ever had,” he said. “Sometimes people would show up at my place looking for the wrong castle, and I’d point them in the right direction and send them on their way.”