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on location: midwest ❖

sue arko

BRANSON AT THE CENTURY MARK This Missouri group favorite celebrates its 100th year in 2012 The Branson Landing Fountains, on the Taneycomo lakefront in historic downtown Branson, feature sound, light, fire cannons and 120-foot geysers.

K

nown as the “Live Music Show

Near the turn of the century, minister

Capital of the World,” Branson

Harold Bell Wright traveled to the

has been welcoming guests to the

Ozarks for health reasons. He

Ozarks for 100 years. With more

stayed at the homestead of John

than 50 live performance theaters,

and Anna Ross, who became the

three pristine lakes, 12 champi-

characters Old Matt and Aunt Mol-

onship golf courses, a theme park,

lie in his best-selling novel The

dozens of attractions and museums,

Shepherd of the Hills, published in

and a historic downtown district, plus shopping, dining and hotels for every

When Ozark Beach Dam (also called

This vintage scene from the 1940s, looking west onto Main Street and downtown Branson, shows the old bridge over Lake Taneycomo.

Powersite Dam) was built in 1913, Lake

100th birthday and in celebration, 100

ational activities. Branson was incorpo-

became popular with outdoor enthusi-

Days with 100 Ways to Celebrate will

rated as a town on April 1, 1912, but the

asts who came to fish, boat, swim, hunt

take place April through July to show

history goes back more than a half cen-

and enjoy the rugged beauty of the

groups a good time and ignite spirit and

tury before that. The first family attraction

Ozark Mountains. In 1959 the comple-

hope for the next century.

to draw visitors was Marvel Cave, de-

tion of Table Rock Dam created Table

scribed by geologists in the 1860s and

Rock Lake, also renowned for bass fish-

explored in the 1880s by adventurers

ing and water sports.

budget, it is a long-time favorite with tour groups. This year marks Branson’s

Photos Courtesy of Branson/Lakes Area CVB

1907.

Highlights of the Early Years Early settlers were lured by the beauty of the Ozarks and outdoor recre18 February 2012

who lowered themselves on ropes 200 feet into the main chamber.

Taneycomo was created, and the area

The area first gained national attention in the entertainment industry in 1954


when legendary country singer Red

service and the lighting of an eternal

Foley moved to Springfield, Mo. from

flame that will burn year-round to remind

Nashville, Tenn. to host Ozark Jubilee,

every museum visitor of those people

one of the first successful network tele-

who were onboard the ill-fated liner.

vision shows. Shortly thereafter in 1959,

As the whole world remembers, the

the Mabe brothers began performing

Titanic Museum Attraction allows visitors

popular country music and Ozark moun-

to experience what it was like to walk the

tain music along with a dash of comedy twice a week in downtown Branson. In 1969 they became known as the Baldknobbers and built a theater on Highway 76, making their act the longest continuAn international element flavors Branson’s varied entertainment scene, from Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff to the Acrobats of China and the Liverpool Legends, a rousing tribute to the Beatles and their music.

ously running show in Branson today. The Shepherd of the Hills, an outdoor pageant based on the novel, began in 1959 and has grown into one of the nation’s most popular outdoor historical dramas. It boasts a cast of more than 80 actors, dozens of animals, pyrotechnical displays, and authentic props and sets. The Sons of the Pioneers perform in a

hallways, parlors, cabins and Grand

chuckwagon dinner show on the Home-

Staircase of the Titanic while surrounded

stead grounds.

by more than 400 artifacts from the ship

In 1960 Silver Dollar City began op-

and its passengers. They can touch a

erations as a small, old-time Ozarks vil-

real iceberg, walk the Grand Staircase

lage atop Marvel Cave, offering an

and third class hallways, stick their

1880s steam train ride, demonstrating

hands into 28-degree water and try to

craftsmen, themed shops and music. By

stand on the sloping decks.

1963 Silver Dollar City was Missouri’s

Another anniversary taking place in

top tourist attraction and in 1967 re-

2012 is Andy Williams’ 75th year of en-

the world. It is a perfect fit for Branson,

ceived national exposure when the pop-

tertaining. The Moon River Theatre will

which already has such entertainers as

ular Beverly Hillbillies television show

feature guest stars Dick Van Dyke, Jack

the Acrobats of China, Twelve Irish

filmed five episodes at the park.

Jones, Pat and Debby Boone, and many

Tenors, Shoji Tabuchi, the Liverpool Leg-

more.

ends and Yakov Smirnoff. During the

100 Years Later In addition to Branson’s centennial,

festival, other Branson venues will highSpecial Events Rule in Branson

light their own cultural origins or a culture

2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the

See the World in Branson, the an-

sinking of the RMS Titanic. On the night

nual month-long Ozark Mountain spring

A highlight of See the World in Bran-

of April 14, a century ago, a lookout in

event, highlights the vast amount of in-

son is MusicFest at the Welk Resort on

the crow’s nest shouted, “Iceberg right

ternationally inspired entertainment, at-

April 25-26, 2012. A Marketplace Tent

ahead,” and the famous ship sank

tractions, and cuisine available to

features over 40 booths representing 30

early on April 15. The Titanic Museum

groups. Guests enjoy cultural experi-

countries. Guests receive passports and

Attraction in Branson will honor the

ences without having to travel abroad.

get them stamped inside the Market-

they find interesting.

2,208 passengers and crew members

Produced by the Branson Area Re-

place throughout the two-day event. See

with an ongoing series of special events,

ceptive Association, the event will take

the World Music Showcase includes

activities and ceremonies throughout the

place April 1-May 6, 2012, with theaters,

over 20 Branson entertainers performing

year. On April 14 and 15, a two-day trib-

hotels, restaurants and retail venues

in two music showcases. Guests meet

ute ceremony will include a candlelight

representing countries from all around

the entertainers, take up-close photo-

LeisureGroupTravel.com

February 2012 19


on location: midwest ❖

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: See the articles on Missouri Civil War attractions at http://leisuregrouptravel.com/p?=26290 and St. Louis historical sites at http://leisuregrouptravel.com/p?=26217.

graphs and get autographs.

Kenyan Sarakasi Acrobats, world-

See the World in Branson coincides

renowned acrobats from Nairobi, Kenya

with Silver Dollar City’s WorldFest,

• Russian Academic Band • Ireland’s premier harpist, Dearbhail

billed as “America’s Largest International

Finnegan

Festival,” which takes place April 12-May

Branson is also known for America’s

6. Entertainment will include:

• La Bella Musica in Red Gold Her-

largest Veterans Day celebration. Veter-

itage Hall showcases classically trained

ans Homecoming Week salutes veter-

operatic tenor Aaron Caruso, who

ans and active-duty Armed Forces from

recently performed at Carnegie Hall. The

Nov. 5-11 every year. This seven-day

show also features soprano Melanie Go-

tribute includes many special events that

erlitz and World Accordion Champion Cory Pesaturo

honor our military’s service, commitment Electro Spin is one of many rides at Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson, Mo.

and ultimate sacrifice. While this event

comes to life with Italian flag throwers,

members from Mexico, Cuba, Samoa,

duty personnel are appreciated in Bran-

living vines and statues, stilt walkers and

Argentina, Colombia, Honduras and

son every day of the year.

a colorful costume parade.

more.

• Viva Italia - Red Gold’s Courtyard

lasts only a week, veterans and active-

This same warm hospitality and VIP

• Mariachi Divas, a Grammy Award-

• Traditional Hawaiian Country Music

service awaits tour groups. Branson

winning, all-female music ensemble with

Show starring four-time Grammy winner

continues to roll out the red carpet and

George Kahumoku

offer new and exciting performances, at-

Obtain Missouri visitor guides and itineraries and contact group-friendly suppliers directly at leisuregrouptravel.com/instant-info

20 February 2012

Peruvian Yawar Chicchi Sissor

Dancers.

tractions and events. Plan now to join the celebrations in Branson in 2012. LGT

LeisureGroupTravel.com


Branson  

This Missouri group favorite celebrates its 100th year in 2012 Highlights of the Early Years Early settlers were lured by the beauty of the...

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