How Devil’s Den Became A Marble Marvel On Its Way To Becoming Branson’s Silver Dollar City

Looking back toward the top of the Marvel Cave.

Looking back toward the top of the Marvel Cave while descending into the cave.*

The tourist destination of Branson, Missouri has been evolving for over 115 years into the wonderful place that enables millions to be entertained, have fun and create special family memories that will last a lifetime. Today Branson visitors have a marvelous choice of attractions, live shows and activities, all surrounded by pristine lakes and the beauty of the Ozark Mountains, that is unrivaled anywhere. Yet, it wasn’t always that way and started its evolution from the place the Osage Indians called “Devil’s Den.”

Osage legend has it that the name came about when a young bear hunter and a bear fought on the edge of a great hole and fell into it one evening. When they came back the next day all they saw was blackness and a hole that seemed to have no bottom, hence legend says, the name “Devil’s Den.” Legend also speaks of early Spanish explorers exploring the cave, but the first recorded record of the caves exploration was in 1869 as the result of an expedition lead by Henry T. Blow, of St. Louis, who was involved with lead mining.

At that time, as it had been since the days of the Osage and before, the cave’s access was through a big sink hole through which those exploring the cave were lowered. Although they did not find lead, they thought they had seen “marble” in the ceiling of the cave and named it “Marble Cave.” A “bat guano” mining operation developed along with the very small town of “Marmaros” near the mouth of the cave, but the mining operation had ceased and the town had burned down when William Lynch, along with his two young daughters, Genevieve and Miriam, purchased it and began operating it as an Ozark tourist attraction in 1894.

Lynch, ran the cave with his daughters until his death in 1927. The name of the cave was changed to “Marvel Cave” shortly after his death and his two daughters operated the attraction until leasing it to the “Herschend family,” Hugo, Mary and their two teenage sons, Jack and Peter, in the mid 1950’s. The Herschend family has operated it continually since.

“After signing a 99 year lease, the Herschends made many improvements to the cave, but wanted something for people to do up on the surface while they were waiting to tour the cave. Hugo’s vision was to have Ozark craftsmen demonstrating their crafts. That vision, along with some insight about Marmaros were the seeds which were planted and nourished by the Herschend family and blossomed into an 1880s themed town named “Silver Dollar City,” located at the entrance to the cave, which opened May 1, 1960.” The rest is history.

Tours of Marvel Cave, a National Natural Landmark and Branson’s oldest continuously operated attraction, are still conducted daily and are actually included in the price of admission to Silver Dollar City. The 60 minute walking tours depart every half hour and are guided by trained cave guides who take visitors over 500 feet below the surface into the “wet limestone cave” via a combination of stairs, trail and ramps. Once at the bottom, cave visitors get a half mile ride back to the surface via a unique “cable train” installed in 1957.

For additional information on Silver Dollar City, Marvel Cave, or other Branson shows and attractions or Branson lodging please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center by either calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

* Pictures courtesy of Silver Dollar City

Six reasons making Branson absolutely the place for your family’s amazing Spring Break

The green of spring and Table Rock Lake provide a magnificent sight  for riders on Silver Dollar City's "WidFire" coaster.

The fresh green of an Ozarks spring and Table Rock Lake provide a magnificent sight for riders on Silver Dollar City’s “WidFire” coaster.

“With six inches of snow on the ground and temperatures ranging from a low in the teens to a high in the lower 30s, spring seems kind of distant,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Yet, in reality, it and “spring breaks” are just around the corner,” she added.

Wood points out that Branson is a great place for families to shake the “winter blues” and share an amazing and memorable “spring break” together and from many, she suggests the following six reasons she believes that is so:

1.  Silver Dollar City and its new $8 million Fireman’s Landing – Silver Dollar City, the international award winning 1880s styled theme park, is Branson’s oldest and most popular paid attraction. In addition to its shows and practicing crafters Silver Dollar City offers over 40 exciting rides from world class coasters such as its new Outlaw Run® wood coaster to the thrills of its iconic WildFire® coaster to milder rides the family can share together such as the rides in the “Grand Exposition.” New this year is the $8 million “Fireman’s Landing” with ten new rides and attractions featuring “FireFall,” an exciting 8 story fire tower free fall and rides and attractions for the smaller members of the family.

2. There are “spring breaks” and there is a “Branson spring break” – When some think of “spring break,” the thing that they envision is the raucous, alcohol filled, thinly clad body situations normally shown on TV in association with college students celebrating spring breaks at other destinations. Interestingly, although a lot of college students do celebrate spring break in Branson, it is for the same reason that families celebrate spring break in Branson, to enjoy the wholesome family atmosphere that permeates Branson’ shows, attractions and activities and defines what Branson is.

3. The Natural Beauty of Spring in the Ozarks – Everywhere one turns in Branson they are surrounded by the unique magnificent beauty of the Ozark Mountains that surround it as they awaken to the freshness of a new year amid a beautiful show produced by “Mother Nature.”

4. Branson’s Spectacular Live Shows – The majority of Branson’s shows will be open with their new 2015 shows providing the quality and breadth of live entertainment for which Branson is noted. From the Branson’s first show on its famed “Branson Strip,” Presleys’ Country Jubilee to the Grand Jubilee; it starring the Hughes Brothers; SIX, Acrobats of China, The Haygoods and dozens more, Branson is unrivaled in the variety of live entertainment it offers with something for everyone and, perhaps, more importantly, something that the whole family can enjoy together.

5. Attractions and Activities Galore – From the excitement of a “voyage aboard” the Titanic Museum Attraction, to the magnificence of the great cats at the National Tiger Sanctuary; Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Dicks 5 & 10; the Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery, College of the “Ozarks Ralph Foster Museum,” called the Smithsonian of the Ozarks; Ride the Ducks, great golf and many more, Branson has a remarkable choice of attractions and activities. When that is combined with great shopping and everything else Branson has to offer it’s hard to imagine a “spring break” destination that has more to offer than Branson.

6. Value – Compared to other destinations Branson is a great value in terms of the prices for lodging, shows, attractions and other activities. Recently Trivago.com announced Branson as the number two city among “the 50 Best Value Cities for the coming year.” Wood points that it becomes even a better value when lodging is “bundled,” packaged, with shows and attractions and offers the assistance of the Branson Tourism Center in that regard by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com

In addition, Branson offers an intangible that very few, if any travel destination can offer. It has been Branson’s privilege to entertain tourists for over a century. Spring break or any other time of the year, it is a community dedicated to serving its visitors with an attitude and spirit of appreciation, service and “what can we do to make sure you have a great Branson experience.” Why not shake the winter blues and celebrate spring break with our family in Branson this year?

 

Ellen Petersen’s amazing faith deeply contributes to her American Idol experience

Member of the Petersen's Family Bluegrass Band and top 48 contestant on American Idol ,Ellen Petersen .

Ellen Petersen, member of the Petersen’s Family Bluegrass Band and a top 48 contestant on American Idol.

When the top 48 American Idol performers take the stage for “Showcase Week” at the Los Angeles “House Of Blues” to perform before their first “live audience” Ellen Petersen, who performs in Branson with her family in the Petersen Family Bluegrass Band, will be among them. Although the audience was “live”, the show was taped and will lead into the selection of the final 24 that America will vote on.

I had a Valentine’s Day that was special in that I got to take my “Valentine” to see the Petersen show; meet the Petersen family, the “kids,” Ellen, Katie, Matthew and Julianne, and their mom and dad Karen and Jon and interview Ellen. I will be writing about the show in a week or so, but to see this amazing family perform and interact with each other and their audience was a joy.

After the show I had a chance to interview Ellen (EP) on behalf of the Branson Tourism Center (BTC):

BTC: How long have you been singing?
EP: I have been singing “all of my life.” When we were young we used to learn Christmas carols, with all the parts and harmonies, and go around singing in nursing homes and churches.

BTC: What’s your favorite part of this show [Petersen Family Bluegrass Band]?
EP: Interacting with my family members; it’s really fun to play music with the people that you love. We have such a good time interacting on stage, it’s different every show and you never know what’s going to happen.

BTC: Have you always had a pink banjo?
EP: No, I got my pink banjo for my 16th birthday instead of a car.

BTC: Is that what you wanted?
EP: It’s what I got and I love it!

BTC: What led you to try out for American Idol?
EP: The “Bus Tour” was coming through Branson, people had suggested that I try out for it and a friend suggested that I not only try out for it, but that I yodel and play the banjo. I thought it was fun idea because you don’t see many girls trying out for American Idol yodeling and playing a banjo, so I learned “I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart” and used it for my auditions in Branson and Kansas City.

BTC: How did that work?
EP: I auditioned in Branson and got a “Golden Ticket” to the Kansas City auditions which is what led to the opportunity that got me in front of the judges and on live national TV.

BTC: So, you are in front of the judges, sing “I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart” and get a “Golden Pass to Hollywood” and, like thousands of contestants before you, head for the exit. Then something happened. Could you give us some insight on that?
EP: I had just received my “Golden Pass,” was excited and was pushing open the door to leave when Keith Urban asked me if I could play the “Beverly Hillbillies Theme Song.” Although I had played the song once, about four years ago, as part of our “Character Camp” at the “College of the Ozarks, I just prayed, “God, please help me remember these chords,” said “Yes” and marched my little-self back out there. They must have sensed my nervousness because Harry [Connick Jr.] said that he’d sing it with me, Keith joined him and it was a really funny moment.

BTC: Was Hollywood Week as much pressure as it seems like when you are watching it on TV?

EP: The whole premise of Hollywood Week is to put the performers under a lot of pressure and they have to cut over 200 performers down to 48. I think I slept six hours total that whole week.

BTC: What’s your most memorable part about Hollywood Week?
EP: My brother Matthew and sister Katie came out to Hollywood with me. They stayed up with me and supported and helped me throughout the whole week. Just having them there was really special and meant the world to me. In a family like ours we stick together and support each other. That’s what they did for me and it was awesome. That’s what got me through it.

BTC: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about trying out for American Idol?
EP: Go for it. Regardless of what the outcome is of my American Idol journey I have learned so much, not only in terms of my preparation, but the advice you get along the way from the judges and the shows staff.

BTC: What is one of the major ways it has impacted your life?

EP: God has used it to open my eyes to music and how it can be used to reach people emotionally and on a level that few other things can. Regardless of how American Idol turns out, just being able to play with my family and being able to have a positive impact on people’s lives is amazing.

BTC: Putting American Idol aside for a moment, you are a very busy young lady. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

EP: I graduated from the “College of the Ozarks” in May of 2014 with a major in chemistry; work in Oklahoma City for the University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center as a lab technician in a pathology lab with a professor researching breast cancer and drive back to Branson on Friday night of each week, practice with the band on Saturday morning, do the show Saturday night, go to church with my family on Sunday and then drive back to Oklahoma City.

BTC: Has Branson been supportive of your American Idol journey?
EP: I have just been blown away by Branson and how supportive everyone has been. It’s an awesome humbling experience.

It was a pleasure to interview this young lady, who is enjoying the moment while fully realizing who is in control of her journey and has blessed her with her amazing talent, personality, looks and family. During the Petersen’s show, Ellen’s mom is featured in various numbers with her mandolin. The crowd urges her on by saying, “Get it momma.” I would paraphrase that and encourage Ellen, as she continues her American Idol journey with the admonition, “Get it girl! Godspeed.”

How many of these 12 plus events on this exclusive March 2015 Buzzing in Branson List do you know about?

The "Bell Tower: being lifted atop Station #3" at "Fireman's Landing in January of this year.

The “Bell Tower: being lifted atop “Station #3″ at “Fireman’s Landing in January of this year.

“Buzzin in Branson” is a concise and easy to read list of the major events taking place in Branson, Missouri during the month being “Buzzed,” which is March of 2015 for this issue. Each issue of “Buzzin in Branson” contains the “Branson Buzz of the Month” and a list the major special events, shows and activities for that month,

Branson “Buzz of the Month for March 2015

The opening of “Fireman’s Landing.” When Silver Dollar City opens its 2015 season on March 14 it will premiere of its $8 million dollar Fireman’s Landing, with its ten new family rides featuring “Fire Fall,” an 8-story fire tower free-fall drop ride.

The following list of special events, shows and activities in March is sorted by event date and contains pertinent and timely comments and contact information, through either a link or phone number, that can be used to obtain additional information:

Feb 27 – Mar 1: Edgewater USAG Woman’s Artistic Gymnastics Classic
Mar 1 – Mar 31: Annual Irish Celebration Month at Titanic Museum Attraction
Mar 1Puttin On The Ritz premiers in Branson
Mar 1 – Following shows start first full month of 2015 season: Dublin’s Irish Tenors and the         Celtic Ladies, Haygoods, Legends in Concert, New Jersey Nights and SIX.
Mar 4Acrobats of China start 2015 season in new venue, the Yakov Smirnoff Theatre
Mar 7 – Presleys Country Jubilee, Branson’s 1st show on the Branson Strip opens its 2015 Season.
Mar 11 – Mar 17: NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship
Mar 13 – Jonah starts final Branson season.
Mar 13 – Billy Dean Live starts 2015 season.
Mar 13 – Clay Cooper’s Country Express opens its 2015 Season
Mar 14 – Silver DollarCity starts its 2015 season and premiers Fireman’s Landing
Mar 14 – Spirit of the Dance The Encore Tour premiers in Branson.
Mar 17 – St Patrick’s Day
Mar 19 – Branson Praisefest 2015
Mar 20 – Mar 22: Marriage Getaway Weekend
Mar 24 – Crossing Over With John Edward
Mar 27 – Mar 29: 9th Branson Elvis Festival and Branson Ultimate Elvis Tribute Contest
Mar 28 – Junior Auxiliary of Taney County 2015 Trivia Challenge
Mar 28 – Mar 29: Young Christians Weekend at Silver Dollar City

“Buzzin in Branson” is produced monthly by the Branson Tourism Center as a service to its customers and others interested in what’s going on in Branson. If you have any further questions about these events or want information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions or lodging please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website www.BransonTourismCenter.com .

Branson Tourism Center welcomes new Branson Chamber and CVB CEO

Jeff Seifried, the new President/CEO of the  Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB.

Jeff Seifried, the new President/CEO of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB.

“We extend a warm Branson welcome to Jeff Seifried, who has just recently been announced as the new President/CEO Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB,” said Tammy Johnson, the General Manager for the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services. “Seifried was named the new President/Chief Executive Officer of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau, according to Randy Brashers, Chairman of the Board of Directors. Seifried is leaving his position as the Manager of Regional Development for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce [which he has held since July of 2007] and will begin the Branson job on March 2, 2015.

“Mr. Seifried’s professional career has largely been spent in the area of Economic Development. In July, 2007  he joined the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and had direct oversight of initiating business recruitment and marketing strategies for the Springfield region.

“Seifried is a graduate of Drury University and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration, with a minor in Global Studies and is also a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute.”

At the time of his selection Seifried was serving on the city council of Springfield, Mo and was the “Mayor Pro Tem.” Upon resigning from the council it was reported that one of his fellow council members, Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky, described Seifried as being thoughtful, intelligent and independent and willing to stick his neck out to come up “with creative solutions.”

Your exclusive behind the scenes look at the production of a “Legendary” Branson show

Dancers, band and Jennica McCleary, center with mike, "loading in" one of the numbers for her Bette Midler set sans costuming, and while lighting adjustments are being made in the background.

Dancers, band and Jennica McCleary, center with mike, “loading in” one of the numbers for her Bette Midler set sans costuming, spotlights and while lighting adjustments are being made in the background.

Branson’s Legends in Concert will be starting their 2015 season on February 6 with an all-star cast of talented look alike tribute performers including Todd Bradshaw as “Kenny Chesney,” Dave Lawrence as “Lionel Ritchie,” Jennica McCleary as “Bette Midler” Lori Russo as “Ann-Margret” and Ted Torres as “Elvis.” In preparing this exclusive story for the Branson Tourism Center, I had the opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at how the talent of all these great artists is melded together, with dancers, a live band, lighting, videos, special effects, sound, costuming and choreography, into the spectacular entertainment spectacle that is known worldwide as the “Legends in Concert.

In talking with Robb Horton, the shows Production Manager, he pointed out that the artistry involved in producing the show extends from the individual tribute artists to the dancers, musicians and the lighting and sound personnel. He pointed out that although each tribute performer has their own routine that has been developed over years of practice, study and devotion to their craft, the success of Legends in Concert is to showcase that talent as part of an overall production combining everyone’s collective artistic talents to present a unique spectacular entertainment experience not available anywhere else.

In terms of doing that, he broke the shows production down into six major areas beside the tribute artists themselves, dancers, choreography, costuming, band, lighting and sound. I was afforded the opportunity not only to see people working in most of these areas, but to talk with many of them as they were doing it.

Each show is broken into a “set” for each tribute artist which becomes a mini-show in itself with its own choreography, dancing, costuming, live music, lighting and sound. The shows dancers Stephanie Young, Dance Captain and dancers Cindy Dardas, Larry Miller, Aaron LeMoine, Desta Pritchett and Kenya Wilhite, with Pritchett and Wilhite also performing as back up vocalists, are featured in a variety on numbers throughout the show.

Dance Captain Stephanie Young, has been performing with Legends in Concert for 12 years. She points out that the choreography for the show comes in from the Las Vegas office of Legends in Concert on a DVD along with the costuming. She learns the choreography, teaches it to all the dancers, “sets the stage” and works it around each of the different tribute artists.

Dancers refining a routine that is featured in the set.

Dancers refining a routine that is featured in the set.

I had the opportunity to watch the beginning of the process as they worked the dancing into the set of Jennica McCleary as “Bette Midler” who was working with them at their first rehearsal together. It is a multistep process beginning with the tribute artist performing their vocals which are observed by Young and the dancers.

Then gradually, sometimes it seemed on a move by move basis, the choreography, dancing and backup vocals are worked into the performance. When one number in the set is done they go to the next and when they get the whole set down they practice it time and time again.

It should be pointed out that this is all being done simultaneously in conjunction with the shows live band composed of Kevin Allen, Band Leader and Lead Guitar; Eddie Howard, Drums, Lyman Clark, Keyboards and Brian Zerbe, Bass Guitar. Sound and lighting adjustments are also being made both on and off stage.

Heidi Jarret, facing out with paper in hand, working with the cast during the rehearsal.

Heidi Jarret, facing out with paper in hand, working with the cast during the rehearsal.

Although there is adequate lighting during the rehearsal, the lighting seen throughout the show was absent the vast majority of the time. It was almost surreal seeing the performers perform with no spot lights etc. The amazing thing to me was the way the dancers, band and choreography started to come together even in the few hours that I was there. What a pleasure to watch these consummate professionals work together and to see a small part of what will be the final result.

Young pointed out that they do what they are doing now, “load the show,” get it ready for their audiences, four times a year now, May, September and in November for their Christmas show. In May, September and November she is the one who, in addition to her dancing duties oversees “the loading” of the show. The first show of the year is “loaded by” a representative of corporate.

When asked what the toughest part for her was, in terms of getting each new show ready, she said, “From May 1st to the end of September we do two shows a day with Wednesdays off. When we are loading in the new shows the rehearsals take place between and after the shows making for very full days. When asked what she wanted people to know about the dancers in the show she said, “We work our tails off, but we do it because we love it and every single person up there has a passion for it and giving our audiences a great performance.”

Different props and elements are slowly added as the "set" is "loaded" into the show.

Different props and elements are slowly added as the “set” is “loaded” into the show.

Although Legends in Concert has state of the art lighting and sound systems it is artistry of how the output of those systems is interwoven into the show that adds immeasurably to the experience the audience receives. Timothy Young, the shows Lighting and Video Director points out that unlike the show’s choreography where corporate furnishes a DVD that can be followed, he uses the equipment to custom design the lighting for each performer and number in each show. He said, “I kind of go with what I feel the music is saying and what I feel it should look like.” Most of the original programming that he does is done after everyone has gone home and into the wee hours of the morning as he listen to the music and programs the lighting and video accordingly.

Russell Bullock, the shows Technical and Sound Director points out that, like the lighting and video, the sound has to be tuned and levels adjusted for each performer and number that they sing during the show. Even as the rehearsal was going on he was on stage checking levels and making adjustments.

Heidi Jarrett, a choreographer and consultant for On Stage Entertainment, the producers of Legends in Concert, who came in from Los Angeles, was doing the “Load In” for the first shows of the year. She said, that Legends in Concert is unique in that, corporate wide, its shows are changed every three months and that corporate sends someone out to “load” the first shows of the season. She has been “loading” the first performances of Legends in Concert in Branson for about 12 years

She said that from a show production stand point Branson’s Legends in Concert is wonderful to work with. They have already received the choreography, Stephanie has it “set” and ready to go and all she has to do is help put the finishing touches on it to allow it “to develop into the beautiful flower that it is.” It was a joy to watch the way she interacted with everyone on the set to implement the “finishing touches” and to see the first budding of “the beautiful flower” that Branson audiences will experience when Legends of Concert opens its 2015 season on the evening of February 6.

For additional information or tickets for the Legends in Concert show or for information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

Insider tips about you having a great Branson golfing experience

The beautiful Top of the Rock Par 3 Course with the sun setting over Table Rock Lake.

The beautiful Top of the Rock Par 3 Course with the sun setting over Table Rock Lake.

Whether its lakes, live entertainment, attractions or shopping, Branson, Missouri is known for both the quality and variety of all it offers. On any given day during the season Branson visitors have a choice of almost 100 live shows of every kind and, in similar fashion, on almost any day of the year that weather permits, they have many choices of places to tee off for a great round of golf. Here’s five tips that we hope will help lead you to a great Branson golfing experience:

  1. Golf is available year round – Weather permitting, golf is available on the vast majority of Branson’s golf courses year around. On many days, even in January and February, Branson’s comparatively mild winters permit play. That has especially been the case this winter. Of course starting March and running through early November, the weather the vast majority of days is ideal for golfing.
  1. Branson Has two par 3 courses – With the increasing popularity of par three golf it should be noted that Branson offers two par three courses. The “Don Gardner Par 3 Course” is a nine hole course with holes ranging from 82 to 182 yards in length that is operated by the city of Branson and is open year round. The “Top of the Rock Par 3 Course” is a nine hole championship course with holes ranging from 117 to 202 yards in length, depending on which set of tees are used, operated by Bass Pro Shops at its Big Cedar Resort. It became the first par 3 course ever used in an official tournament when 36 holes of the 54 hole “PGA Champions Tour Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge Tournament” was played on it last year. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, said, “If there was ever a Par-3 course worthy of PGA Tour tournament play, Top of the Rock is it.”
  1. Branson has six 18 hole golf courses – There are six conveniently located 18 hole golf courses These include “Holiday Hills,” “LedgeStone Country Club,” “Pointe Royale Golf Club,”” Payne Stewart Golf Club,” Thousand Hills and the “Buffalo Ridge Springs Golf Course,” formerly known as “Branson Creek.”
  1. Two of Branson’s 18 hole courses have been on “Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play in Missouri List – The Payne Stewart Golf Club was the No. 1 course in Missouri on “Golfweek’s 2013 Best Courses You Can Play List” with “Branson Creek” as No. 2. Although Branson Creek has undergone substantial renovation and has been renamed the “Buffalo Ridge Springs Golf Course,” it is a PGA Championship course used in the “PGA Champions Tour Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge Tournament.”
  1. All this great golf is located minutes away from all that Branson offers – Although all these courses are within a 20 minute drive of the Branson Strip, four of them “Pointe Royale Golf Club,”” Payne Stewart Golf Club,” “Thousand Hills” and “Don Gardner Par 3 Course” are within five minutes from the Branson Strip providing the ultimate flexibility to combine an ultimate golfing adventure with everything else Branson offers into a truly unique and memorable experience.

For more information on golfing in Branson, lodging located on the edge of course fairways, or Branson shows, attractions and other activities, including tickets and reservations, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com .

A list of 12 reasons why you and your family should consider Branson for a truly amazing vacation

Silver Dollar City's record setting wooden coaster ,"Outlaw Run," is one example of the fun and excitement Branson offers.

Silver Dollar City’s record setting wood coaster ,”Outlaw Run,” is one example of the fun and excitement Branson offers.

Curious about what Branson means to those who have visited it or heard about it; the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, asked the following question on its Facebook Page this week:

“Based on what you have seen, experienced or heard about Branson, what one word would you use to describe what Branson means to you?”

We believe that the following one word responses, from the dozens received, describe the ideal place for a family to have an amazing vacation filled with the excitement, fun and adventure that will provide wonderful memories for years to come and are presented without further embellishment:

1. Family
2. Memories
3. God loving
4. Fun
5. Happy
6. Fantabulous
7. Entertaining
8. Exciting
9. Comfort
10. Home
11. Relaxing
12. Enjoyable

While we are at it, let’s make it a “Baker’s Dozen:”

13. Wholesome

If this sounds like the type of place you might want to share with your family and you want more information about what Branson has to offer please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550 and talking with one of their Branson based Vacation Planners. There is absolutely no charge for this service. To get an excellent overview of all that Branson has to offer on line visit www.Branson.Com

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What everybody ought to know about Hollywood waxing Branson

 

King Kong presents an excellent photo opportunity.

King Kong presents a “gripping” photo opportunity.

“The term ‘waxing’ can mean a lot of things, but when it comes to Hollywood ‘waxing’ Branson it can mean only one thing,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “The opportunity to see some of your favorite Hollywood stars such as Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson and dozens of others, as you ‘share the spotlight’ with them posed in the ‘sets’ that made them famous, at Branson’s Hollywood Wax Museum.”

You know you are in for something exciting when you walk by “Jack Nicholson” standing in front of a huge fierce looking face of “King Kong.” Of course when you look a little closer you will realize that he has his hand out and cupped for you and your family to step in and have a what used to be called “a Kodak moment.” The result will certainly be one of the most unique pictures your family has ever taken.

From there its one wonderful realistic wax creation after another on your self-guided tour through the museum. Whether it’s a monster or a star, each is featured in a realistic set relating to what made them famous. As you start your Hollywood Wax museum adventure one of the first stars you will meet is Tom Hanks as “Forest Gump” sitting on a bench with, you guessed it, a box of chocolates. Each of the sets has an “information plate” containing information about the figure, fun facts, awards they have won, “pet peeves” or some other little known “factoid.” Many of the exhibits have sound to enhance the experience such as the “Rocky Theme” near the Sylvester Stallone “Rocky” exhibit.

Guest interacting with Joe Black.

Guest interacting with Jack Black.

One really interesting feature of most of the exhibits is the ability to share the spotlight with the stars by posing with them. As illustrated in this photo, provided by the Hollywood Wax Museum, of Jack Black in a “pose” from his comedy “Nocho Libre,” the results can be quite interesting and entertaining.

Some of the “stars” you will meet on your tour include among others are Judy Garland, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Harrison Ford, Clark Gable, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Jackson, Nicholas Cage, Barbara Eden, Eddie Murphy, Marlon Brando, “The Terminator” and many more. Two of my favorites were the “Star Trek” set with William Shatner, Lenard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley waiting for Scotty to beam them up and the diner scene with Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean and Elvis Presley serving up ice cream.

As you go to the second floor you will be given the opportunity to take a short “Hollywood Trivia Quiz,” shoot in a shooting gallery, or try a variety of coin operated amusement machines. Then you enter the monster area with Frankenstein, Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, Elvira, Hannibal Lecter and others. There is a “Monster Bypass” for those who do not want to see the monsters.

After experiencing meeting a number of your favorite Hollywood stars your tour comes to an end in the museums fully stocked gift shop containing Hollywood gift items. For additional information on the Hollywood Wax Museum please call the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com

“it” starring the Hughes Brothers, is an amazing show that will be totally enjoyed by you and your family

The Hughes Family during their touching  performance of "Happy Together."

The Hughes Family during their touching performance of “Happy Together.”

On the evening of January 17 I had the opportunity to see “it,” feel “it” and hear “it.” I absolutely loved it starring the Hughes Brothers and their families. When you weave the talents of the Hughes Brothers, their wives, children and a great five piece live band into a magnificently choreographed, colorful, high energy and fast paced production, the result is a magical inspiring cornucopia of great singing, instrumentals, comedy, dancing and entertainment, covering everything from pop, classical, country, gospel, patriotic and more that is truly one of Branson’s ultimate entertainment experiences.

The evening started with dinner in the theatre’s balcony dining area which was a delightful three course meal prepared on the premises by Chef Laurie and served by Philip. The meal started with a dinner salad composed of fresh crisp mixed greens, onions, tomatoes and croutons and with Ranch Dressing. The entrée consisted of a marinated honey glazed barbecue chicken breast and roasted pork topped with a honey Dijon sauce accompanied by oven roasted potatoes, fresh green beans and a dinner roll. The portions were more than adequate and it was topped off with a dessert of White Chocolate Champagne Cake lightly drizzled with raspberry sauce that was out of this world and just melted in your mouth. It was easily one of the best “show” meals I have ever eaten, both in terms of the quality of the food and the service. It should be pointed out that the show may be purchased separately from the meal.

The Hughes Family is billed as the largest family performing together on stage. The Hughes Brothers, Marty, Jason, Adam, Ryan and Andy are the stars of the show which also prominently features their very talented wives Cindy, Vikki, Carina, Myra and Becky along with about 32 of their children and a live five piece band consisting of Band Director Ray Harris who also plays keyboards and trumpet; Randy Luna, keyboards and arranger; Steve Habour, guitar; Marty Wilhite, Bass and R.J. Jacob, Drums.

That said, one thing should be made perfectly clear, every element of this show is a polished entertainment gem. It’s not just a matter of putting kids in a show. These kids are good! Some of my favorite performances were the boy’s high energy performance of “Seize The Day” from Disney’s “Newsies,” “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” from “Annie” and the children singing “I Am A Child of God” during the gospel segment.

Another of my favorite performances by the “kids” was the violin/fiddling performance by Kristina, the oldest performing Hughes child at 22, who is also a violin instructor, along with William, Hannah and Jacob Hughes. The set starts off with Kristina eloquently playing a violin solo of “Simple Gifts,” a Shakersong written and composed by Elder Joseph Brackett in 1848 after which she was joined by the others as they performed a medley consisting of Aron Copeland’s “Hoedown,” “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” “Turkey In The Straw,” “Barber of Seville,” “The Sabre Dance,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” It sure was a wow moment for me!

There’s a reason this is worth stressing. I think it can be safely said that all Branson shows, in terms of content, are “kid friendly,” but very few are “kid enjoyable” throughout the majority of the show. Still fewer simultaneously entertain kids and adults at the same time and level throughout the majority of the show. Simply put, this is one of the few that does and they do it ever so well.

When the Hughes Brothers sing together, their familial harmonies are just a joy to hear. Two of my favorite numbers, from among the many they sang were “Pure Imagination” and their acapella version of “America.” If all they did was sing that would be enough, but in addition, they kind of “MC” the show as they maintain a constant relaxed interaction with the audience through their comedy and sharing of information about themselves and the family as the show moves from one entertaining element to another.

Adam Hughes during his acoustical guitar performance.

Adam Hughes during his acoustical guitar performance.

That “element” may be another of my favorite sets in this show, the acoustic guitar performance by Adam Hughes as he performs a medley including “Recuerdos de Alhambra,” “Leyenda” and “Malaguena;” their wives performing the “Sunshine medley;” the brothers performing “How Deep Is Our Love” with their wives or the absolutely beautiful and touching performance of the whole family performing “So Happy Together.” The production and presentation of the shows gospel segment is one of the most unique, beautiful and inspiring I have ever experienced.

The thing is, whether it’s the Hughes Brothers singing or entertaining, their wives or the kids doing one of their sets the show is a constantly evolving carousel of some of the best entertainment on any Branson stage. The quality of the choreography dancing, singing, costuming, overall production and flow of the show makes it one of the most entertaining shows I have ever seen in Branson and, in the last 28 years, I have seen a lot of them.

“It’s,” a wonderful show that should be shared by families together as they are simultaneously entertained and inspired as the Hughes family shares their family and talents with yours creating a special family memory that will not soon be forgotten. I just have to believe that if you and your family see “it,” feel “it” and hear “it” that you will absolutely love “it” as much as I did.

For additional information or tickets for it starring the Hughes Brothers or for information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.