What unbelievable fact does Gakita the gorilla, flying cockatoos, and Wayne Newton have in common?

Dave and Denise Hamer at the conclusion of their magnificent flying birds illusion.

Dave and Denise Hamer at the conclusion of their magnificent flying birds illusion.

Gakita the gorilla, flying cockatoos, Wayne Newton, and much more are all part of the fun and excitement of Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show in Branson, Missouri. In a town with shows of just about every type, Hamners’ Unbelievable Varity show is truly a magical experience where birds appear, people fly, and voices soar!

Particularly important with this show, because of the perception some could get that it’s primarily for children, is the audience reaction to the show. The performance that I saw on July 26, 2015, was just about sold out and was composed of nearly equal numbers of adults and children. I was seated about half way back and got to see, as well as sense, the audience’s reaction to the show. It was just amazing the way people of all ages reacted throughout and how everyone, kids and adults alike, really seemed to be involved in the show and having fun.

During intermission, I talked with Dennis from Grandville, New York, who was attending the show with his wife. He was in the 50 plus age range and said that he thoroughly enjoyed the show and would recommend it for others in their age group. At the other end of the spectrum, I had a chance to chat with the four Manning children from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, who ranged in age from about seven to 13 years old. Collectively, they said that the show was awesome but, interestingly, each of them had a different favorite part, except for the youngest, Miss Mollie, who liked everything.

Many shows say they have “something for everyone,” but this show has “lots for everyone.” From its magical opening introduction to its spectacular inspirational and equally magical 911/Veteran’s finale, this show has it all…great illusions, close-up magic, high flying “silk” acrobatics, an amazing strength adagio act, comedy, musical impersonations, vocals, dancing, and ventriloquism. The scope and variety of this show and the way everything smoothly transitions from one act to another is simply Unbelievable!

The centerpiece of the show is the magic and illusions of Dave and Denise Hamner. One could talk about the venues they have appeared in, from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and the awards they’ve received, including the prestigious Magic Masters Award by their peers in Las Vegas, but nothing compares to just watching these two masters of illusion perform their unbelievable magic as they entertain and interact with their audience. That’s not an illusion, it’s purely magical!

From among many, their signature, one-of-a-kind bird act with flaming swords, coins, and beautiful Macaws and Cockatoos appearing and flying out over the audience, their unique version of “Origami,” and a beautiful woman being transformed into “Gakita” the gorilla right before my eyes, were three of my favorite illusions.

The cast of Hamners' Unbelievable Variety Show Ken Brown (L), Brenda Hahne, AJ Heard, Dave Hamner, Jeff Brandt, Mariya Serykh, Tamra Tinoco, and Vadim Serykh.

The cast of Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show Ken Brown (L), Brenda Hahne, AJ Heard, Dave Hamner, Jeff Brandt, Mariya Serykh, Tamra Tinoco, and Vadim Serykh.

If the magic of the Hamners was all there was, that alone would make it a fabulous show, but it isn’t; there’s a virtual cornucopia of talent, excitement, and entertainment including:

Jeff Brandt, who while performing vocal impressions with Wayne Newton in Las Vegas, was given the nickname The Voice; after seeing and hearing him perform, you’ll know why. His incorporation of the different impressions of Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. into his performance of “My Way” was, to say the least, remarkable and some, might even say, Unbelievable.

Vadim & Mariya Serykh, a father and daughter team, amaze the audience with their eloquent and beautiful strength and balancing adagio act. Mariya rises high over the audience and performs a beautiful acrobatic “silk” routine.

Tamra Tinoco, has produced and performed in a number of Branson shows, including The Magnificent 7, in which she and her husband Joe star. Her performance of “Are You Ready for a Miracle” during the show was beautiful.

Brenda Hahne, the shows ventriloquist, and her loveable “Aunt Ruth” appear magically and add an element of humor to the show as Aunt Ruth and her “niece” Brenda interact with each other.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention AJ Heard, the show’s choreographer, who also dances in the show with Ken Brown, and Mariya Serykh. Their dancing, whether introducing an illusion or as part of some other act, adds an element of grace, elegance, and beauty to the audience’s enjoyment of this Unbelievable show. Their interaction with Tamra Tinoco during her performance of “Feeling Good” is but one example.

From beginning to end, one word describes this show, “Unbelievable,” in terms of its combination of magic, variety, and its ability to simultaneously entertain all ages. For additional information or tickets for Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

Meet Tyler Hunter- one of the stars of Branson’s amazing new hit show “Million Dollar Quartet”

Tyler Hunter as Elvis Presley in "Million Dollar Quartet."

Tyler Hunter as Elvis Presley in “Million Dollar Quartet.”

The Million Dollar Quartet is not only one of Branson’s newest shows, but one of its most popular, and for good reason. It’s a spectacular production based on one of the greatest jam sessions in rock n’ roll history. The impromptu  jam session took place on December 4, 1956, in the Memphis storefront recording studio of Sun Records. What makes it so special is that it   included four young recording legends-to-be, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

The show recreates that moment not only with its fabulous music, but with a dramatic story line that entertains the audience as much as the music. It takes an exceptional performers to not only perform the music of these legends, but present the drama and excitement of the moment in a manner that keeps the audience excited, involved, and having fun throughout. Tyler K. Hunter as Elvis Presley, Cliff Wright as Johnny Cash, David Brooks as Jerry Lee Lewis, and Brad Waters as Carl Perkins are those performers!

Recently, I interviewed Tyler K. Hunter who plays Elvis Presley in the production. Tyler was born in 1990 in Lincoln, Nebraska and became interested in becoming an Elvis Presley tribute artist at the early age of 11 as a result of seeing Elvis tribute artist Bill Chrastil perform and being mentored by him. His first performances as an Elvis tribute artist was in high school talent shows.

Hunter turned professional in 2010 after he came to Branson and competed in the Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest™ at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre. After performing a number of gigs, including a fill-in roll for Elvis in the Legends in Concert Show in Las Vegas, he answered a casting call for the Million Dollar Quartet in 2012, and the rest is history. He opened with the show at Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas in January 2013, left to travel with the national tour of the show in September of 2013, and when he heard there was going to be production of the show in Branson, immediately decided to come. He said, “It was a no brainer, it’s close to my family, and I knew I was coming to God’s Country.”

When asked what he likes most about performing in the show Hunter said that it’s the opportunity to recreate that special moment in rock n’ roll history when four guys, who were friends and shared a special bond, “sat down for a while, just jammed and had a good time.” He also likes being able to go beyond the music of Elvis and present him as “a real person, with emotions just like you and me.”

As one who has seen the Million Dollar Quartet, I can testify to the fact that the outstanding performance of the cast, music everyone knows and loves and a great storyline all combine to create an incredible unique entertainment experience, for the whole family, that shouldn’t be missed.

Branson Up-Close and Personal with the illusionist who pays tribute to Michael Jackson

Michael Knight in his Michael Jackson tribute role.

Michael Knight in his Michael Jackson tribute role.

Legends in Concert, “the world’s greatest live tribute show,” and one of Branson’s most popular shows, is constantly changing its acts to provide the audience with a fresh new entertainment experience. Michael Knight, who is currently performing his tribute to the legendary Michael Jackson during the summer season, describes himself as an illusionist as much as a tribute artist. He recently took time to share a little bit about himself and his career in a “Branson Up Close and Personal” interview.

“Branson-Up Close and Personal,” is a service of the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) and is intended to provide readers with an unprecedented look at a Branson celebrity or personality. The interview with Michael Knight (MK) was conducted earlier this week for BTC by Gary J. Groman, a 29 year resident of the Branson area, local columnist, and freelance writer, and is presented in a Question and Answer format:

BTC: When were you born?
MK: 1985

BTC: Where?
MK: Woonsocket, RI

BTC: How do you prefer your act to be categorized?
MK: Tribute Artist, but I am also an “Illusionist” because my objective, from costuming, to make up, vocals and dance, is to create the illusion of Michael Jackson.

BTC: Were you singing and dancing before you first became interested in Michael Jackson?
MK: Although I had dabbled with singing and dancing I didn’t really get serious about it until I became interested in Michael Jackson.

BTC: When did you become interested in Michael Jackson?
MK: When I was about 14 years old.

BTC: What was it about him that caught your interest?
MK: When I first saw Michael Jackson perform he just blew me away. I loved what he and his music stood for, peace, love, and unity at a time when a lot of music was gangster rap. It had a positive impact on my life from the way I dressed to the way I lived my life.

BTC: When did you first perform Michael Jackson publically?
MK: I remember it clear as day. It was an impromptu performance of “Billie Jean” at a 7th grade middle-school dance and I was wearing a vintage grey Fedora.

BTC: How did you get to see Michael Jackson perform?
BK: On TV and on videos that I had taped from VH1 and watched over and over. My first performance was based on watching part of the miniseries, “The Jacksons: An American Dream,” and a performance that I memorized.

BTC: How long have you been performing Michael Jackson professionally?
MK: I started doing private parties and stuff like that in 2006, but the demand for Michael was very low at that time and didn’t pick up until after his death in 2009.

BTC: Have you participated in any Michael Jackson Contests?
MK: Yes. In 2009 I won the “Best Michael Jackson Contest” in Providence, RI. As a result, I got hooked up with a manager and my career really got rolling.

BTC: There is an Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. Is there a similar contest for Michael Jackson Tribute Artists?
BK: Not yet, but I am waiting and hoping.

BTC: How long have you been performing Michael Jackson for Legends in Concert?
BK: This is my first gig with Legends in Concert; I just started with them on May 21st. What’s really cool about this was that, in 2002, I was watching the “Michael Jackson Fan Club” and it had clips about E’Casanova, a Michael Jackson Tribute Artist who was performing with Legends in Concert. I said to myself, “Oh my God, I have to join Legends in Concert, wow that is just amazing.” Fast forward about 13 years and here I am!

BTC: Many have commented on your dancing skills and ability to make the Michael Jackson moves. How did you learn them?
MK: When I was 14, I learned how to “Pop and Lock” and “Moon Walk,” from my uncle Bob, who was a great Break Dancer in the 80s. It was after perfecting those basic steps that I started watching Michael and applying them to his moves.

BTC: Outside of videos and the initial help from Uncle Bob, what additional help or training have you had that has prepared you for this role?
MK: I have actually had the opportunity and privilege to meet with and work with people who actually worked with Michael Jackson. Among others, I have worked on his mannerisms with Majestic the Magnificent, a close friend of Michael’s, and had a one month “boot camp” on his choreography and style with Travis Payne and Stacie Walker, who were the two main choreographers for Michael’s “This Is It” video.

BTC: How long does it take to get your makeup on?
MK: It takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

BTC: Is this your first time performing in Branson?
MK: Yes.

BTC: When you found out you were coming to Branson for the first time, what did you expect?
MK: I had no idea of what to expect.

BTC: What is your first memory of Branson?
MK: The diversity of people.

BTC: What do you like best about performing in Branson?
MK: The audiences and working with this cast. I feel very blessed.

BTC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?

MK: Just being a tourist and taking in what Branson has to offer.
BTC: If you could perform or meet with any entertainer/person (living or deceased), outside of Michael Jackson who would it be and why?

MK: James Brown because his soulfulness was such a huge influence on Michael’s life.

BTC: Do you have a favorite hobby or activity and what is it?
MK: I like to draw and sketch and go to movies.

BTC: Do you have a little known fact about yourself that you think our readers would enjoy?
MK: I have love for magic and circuses.

BTC: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you in front of an audience?
MK: The time my wig came off while I did a spin. I knew something had happened, but the audience thought it was part of the performance.

BTC: What is your favorite Michael Jackson song and why?
MK: “Billie Jean.” It’s magic in the sense of that’s where you see the “Moonwalk” and the “Glove.”

BTC: What is your favorite non Michael Jackson song and why?
MK: “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars because of its story and up-tempo.

BTC: Anything else you want our readers to know?
MK: I really appreciate the support of those coming to the show. It means so much.

BTC: What’s the date of your last current Branson performances?
MK: On my 30th Birthday, September 8.

Jeannie Horton, General Manager of the Legends in Concert in Branson, said that they plan to have Michael Knight back next year and are working out the details, not only of his return, but exciting new additions to his set. Michael said that he is really excited about the changes, and that although he can’t be more specific at this point, he could say, “Think Jackson 5 and the old songs the old fashioned way.”

 

 

27th Annual Fiddle Festival to be an amazing Branson Grand event at new venue

Wayne Massengale, renowned Branson fiddler, will host the competition.

Wayne Massengale, renowned Branson fiddler, will host the competition.

When the bow glides across the strings of the first fiddler in Branson’s 27th Annual Fiddle Festival, it will be the beginning of a Grand new era. Formerly held in either historic downtown Branson or at Branson Landing, basically under outdoor weather-dependent conditions, the Festival, running from August 28-30, will have a new home this year at the Grand Country Music Hall, located in the middle of the famed Branson Strip.

Mike Patrick, General Manager & Producer of the Grand Jubilee and the other shows performing in the Grand Country Music Hall, will be producing the Festival. Patrick said, “We are so honored and excited about hosting the Fiddle Festival. It just seems so neat that Grand Country, the home of the world’s biggest fiddle and Branson’s Fiddling Sweethearts, Wayne Massengale and Melody Hart, will be hosting this event. What a great weekend of fun, fiddling, and competition it promises to be!

Patrick points out that the actual competition will be conducted in the Grand Country Music Hall, the home of all Grand Country’s shows, and will be hosted by noted Branson Fiddler Wayne Massengale, widely known for his showmanship and fiddle playing skills; he won Branson Fiddler of the Year five times, as well as the Arkansas State Championship, and the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Association (SPBGMA) Most Promising Fiddler award.

The Fiddlers will be competing for cash and the coveted title of Mid-America Fiddle Champion. The preliminary rounds will be held on August 29th with the Division Finals and the Championship Round Robin Competition to crown the overall Champion on Sunday, August 30th.

The schedule for the Festival, subject to change, is:

Aug. 28 – 5:00 PM: Anything Goes Contest!

The fun-filled weekend kicks off with this get-ready-for-anything “open-mic” event being held in Grand Country’s parking lot. Here, Cross-tuning, Trick, and Fancy Fiddling is allowed, and the applause meter will decide the four winners of the $50 to $300 prizes that will be awarded.

Aug. 29 – 9:00 AM: Mid-America Fiddle Preliminary Rounds

Competition begins in the Grand Country Music Hall featuring six different divisions of competition with awards and the opportunity to advance to the Finals.

Divisions include:

Pee-Wee (10 and under): 6 places awarded ($15 – $100)
Junior (11 – 16): 6 places advance to Finals.
Accompanist: 5 places awarded ($50 – $300)
Senior (60 & over): 3 places awarded ($100 – $300)
Adult (17 – 59): 5 places advance to Finals.
Open: 6 places advance to Finals.

The winners of the Pee-Wee, Accompanist, and Senior Divisions are awarded cash prizes while those making the top six in the Junior, Open and the top five in the Adult Divisions all advance to the finals.

Aug. 30 – 1:00 PM: Mid-America Division Finals and Championship.

Junior (10 – 16): 6 places awarded ($50 – $400)
Adult (17 – 60): 5 places awarded ($100 – $600)
Open: 6 places awarded ($100 – $800)

The top three will advance to Round Robin Competition at 4:00 PM to compete for the overall title of Mid-America Fiddle Champion, an additional $1,000 prize and a Championship Belt Buckle.

“It’s great to see the continuation of this event that celebrates our Ozarks history and heritage,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “The new venue at Grand Country, with all its live shows, central location on the Branson Strip, and production capability, will make this great event even more fun and exciting for the competitors as well as for those attending,” she added.

For more information about the Fiddle Festival, or registering to become a contestant, please call Grand Country at 417-335-3535.

A dozen things you will absolutely not want to miss in Branson during August 2015

Youth Baseball National Championship Aug 19-22, 2015.

Youth Baseball National Championship Aug 19-22, 2015.

“There’s always something that’s fresh, fun, and exciting to do in Branson,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Here’s a list of a dozen exciting things happening in Banson during August, along with our Featured Show and Featured Event for August,” she added.

Featured Show: The Hits starring Collin RayeCountry music, at its core, is all about stirring the heart and healing the soul, and nobody does both better than the irresistible Grammy Award-winning Collin Raye. He has had over 20 Top Ten hits, including “Love, Me;” “My Kind of Girl;” “In This Life;” “I Can Still Feel You,” and many more.

Featured Event: Youth Baseball Network National Championship – Some great baseball will be featured during this inaugural championship that will include the 2015 12U Champions from AABC, AAU, CABA, Dizzy Dean, and NABF.

Aug 1-Sep 19: The Hits starring Collin Raye
Aug 1-29: Forever Young
Aug 4-8: ALL FRETS Convention
Aug 6-8: Shepherd of the Hills Super Summer Cruise
Aug 5-14: Prince Ivan
Aug 8: Rock The Spectrum
Aug 15: KidSTYLE Fashion Camp
Aug 19-22: Youth Baseball Network National Championship
Aug 21-23: Branson Balloon Festival
Aug 27-Sep 7: Southern Gospel Picnic Festival at Silver Dollar City
Aug 28-30: 27th Annual Fiddle Festival Presented by Grand Country
Aug 29: Kansas

For additional information on these events, or 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 by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

Presleys’ Country Jubilee Is A Branson Treasure Not To Be Missed!

Steve, Scott, Gregg, and John Presley performing  "Midnight Special".

Steve, Scott, Gregg, and John Presley performing “Midnight Special”.

From the time you walk into the theatre until the curtain goes down, a night with the Presley family at Presleys’ Country Jubilee is an unequalled Branson entertainment experience! As you enter one of the most home-like theatre lobbies in Branson, you’ll hear the sounds of gospel music drifting down from the pre-show gospel sing-along in the loft; smell Glazed Almonds and Pecans made from a secret recipe developed by Cecil, a.k.a. Eric Presley, and begin to realize that you and your family are in for a special evening.

Every time I enter the Presleys’ Theatre, I am overcome by a feeling of warmth and friendliness that, to me, just radiates the special spirit that is Branson. For example, there’s no line waiting to get into the theatre so they can take a picture of you and try to sell it to you later; however, there is a Presley cutout and Presley costume jackets provided so you can take a picture with your own camera. What a joy it was for me to see people having so much fun; not only taking pictures of their own family, but helping others to do the same, allowing whoever’s been holding the camera to get in on the family photo!

Then, as the curtain rises, you become part of a Branson phenomenon as Branson’s first show on the now famous Branson Strip, Presleys’ Country Jubilee, does what it has been continually doing since 1967…wowing audiences with its unique combination of music and comedy, presented by some extraordinarily talented vocalists, musicians, and comedians.

Vocalists Ambrus Presley, Kimberly Barber, and Devonna Wickizer

Vocalists Ambrus Presley, Kimberly Barber, and Devonna Wickizer

From their all-cast opening medley featuring “Gonna Have A Party,” to their stirring finale, “America,” the music in this show, while definitely having a country flavor, has something for everyone, including gospel, rock and roll, and more, all performed by some of the best musicians and vocalists on any stage in Branson. The show’s vocalists are Ambrus Presley, Kimberly Barber, Devonna Wickizer, Jay Wickizer, Tim Gregg, Chuck Crain, Scott Presley, and Bruce Haynes. A few of my personal favorite vocal highlights, from among many, would be Kimberly Barber’s performance of Tammy Wynette’s, “Stand By Your Man;” the performance of the Gospel Quartet composed of Jay Wickizer, Tim Greg, Chuck Crain, and Bruce Haynes; and Ambrus Presley’s performance of “Over The Rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz. The laser lighting used to accent her performance makes an inspirational and beautiful performance even more so.

The show’s band is comprised of Steve Presley, drums; Scott Presley, guitar; Greg Presley, harmonica; John Presley, piano and keyboard; Bruce Haynes, bass guitar; Dean Holman, steel guitar and banjo; and Cortland Ingram, fiddle. They do a great job in not only supporting the vocalists, but as musicians in their own right. Some of the instrumental highlights, for me, would be Cortland Ingram’s performance of the “Devil Went Down To Georgia;” John Presley’s version of “Chopsticks,” which is not only unlike any version I’ve ever heard, but displays his tremendous talents as not only a musician, but as an arranger and composer; and Greg Presley’s performance on the harmonica is simply amazing! It’s as exciting to watch him play as it is to hear him play.

"Cecil" and "Herkimer" during one of the comedy skits.

“Cecil” thinking if over before responding to “Herkimer.”

I just have to believe that one of the secrets to the long term success of Presleys’ Country Jubilee is not only the type and quality of its comedy, but the way it’s continuously and strategically woven into the show to give the audience an entertainment experience unlike any other. Since the Presleys’ opened on the Branson strip, Gary Presley, known on the stage as “Herkimer,” has been making the show’s audiences laugh ‘til they hurt! In combination with his son, Eric, “Cecil” in the show, their comedy is a unique blend of Ozark humor, one-liners, action, and skits that always seem to be relevant to current events. Their performance keeps the audience, kids and adults alike, laughing and wondering what to expect next!

Jay Wickizer, one of the show’s vocalists and its emcee, acts as the straight man or go-between in much of the comedy. I must confess that all I have to see is Herkimer and Cecil together and I start laughing; not only at what they’re saying or doing at the moment, but in anticipation of what they’ll do next…they’re just two really funny guys! One thing is for sure in this year’s show, you’ve never seen a punch line like Cecil delivers when he and Herkimer add their own comedic meaning to Muhammad Ali’s iconic statement, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Every time I see Presleys’ Country Jubilee, I feel like I’m witnessing a Branson treasure. Alone, its origin, and the faithfulness of four generations maintaining the traditions and heritage of that origin, make Presleys’ Country Jubilee special. The spirit and the talents of the Presley family and the other cast members, combined with the musical variety and the uniqueness of the humor, blends together to create a show that flows seamlessly from one entertaining segment to another. With this formula, there can only be one result…a special, unforgettable Branson entertainment memory that should not be missed!

For additional information or tickets for Presleys’ Country Jubilee or 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 by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

“Branson-Up Close and Personal” with Shoji Tabuchi

Shoji Tabuchi playing "Listen to the Mocking Bird."

Shoji Tabuchi playing “Listen to the Mockingbird.”

For over three decades, four words – fiddle, production show, and incredible – have been synonymous with the name Shoji Tabuchi and his show. The show has become a Branson icon, not only because of the talent of its star, but because of its production, choreography, costumes, leading edge special effects, and its supporting cast that includes Shoji’s very talented daughter, Christina, and great live band.

“Branson-Up Close and Personal,” is a service of the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) and is intended to provide readers with an unprecedented look at a Branson celebrity or personality. The interview with Shoji Tabuchi (ST) was conducted earlier this week for BTC by Gary J. Groman, a 29 year resident of the Branson area, local columnist and freelance writer, and is presented in a Question and Answer format:

BTC: What came first, the violin or the fiddle, and whichever it was, how did you learn to play it like you do?
ST: As I have said many times on stage, they are both the same instrument, it’s just how you fiddle around with them. My mother started me playing the violin using the “Suzuki method” when I was seven years old.

BTC: What caused you to start fiddling around with the violin?
ST: I started fiddling around with the violin when Mr. Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys came to Japan and did a concert that I went to out of curiosity. It included “Listen to the Mocking Bird,” played by fiddler Howdy Forrester that just knocked me out. It was that song and the music and encouragement of Mr. Acuff that inspired me to start fiddling and come to the United States.

BTC: How did your mom feel about your change to fiddling around instead of playing the classical violin?
ST: My mom was a little questionable, but she was open about it. I had a problem with my violin teacher because initially she, “Wasn’t buying it.” Eventually however, they both came around.

BTC: When did you come to the United States?
ST: A long time ago – 1967.

BTC: How did you end up in Branson?
ST: I was working in and out of Nashville, as well as all over the country performing concerts. A friend of mine told me about Branson. It sounded really interesting so I decided to come and visit. I fell in love with the beautiful surroundings and with the warmth of the people who live here.

BTC: What is your first memory of Branson?
ST: The great fishing! I just loved the warm water fishing for bass in Table Rock Lake and being able to fish for trout in Lake Taneycomo.

BTC: How long have you been Performing in Branson?
ST: I have been performing in Branson for about 34 years, of which, 27 have been in my own show.

BTC: Why did you build your own theatre?
ST: Dorothy and I had a vision of the kind of show we wanted to present. There was not an available existing theatre in Branson at the time that would enable us to fulfill that vision, so we built our own.

BTC: The Shoji Tabuchi Show became the de-facto standard for a musical production show in Branson. How did that evolve?
ST: The theatre was specifically designed for a production show but, in addition, it is thanks to the vision, planning, and production of my wife Dorothy that we enjoy our reputation in that regard.

BTC: Your theatre has been recognized nationally because of its extravagant and unusual restrooms. How did they evolve?
ST: They were Dorothy’s idea. I was initially against the idea, but WOW, am I ever glad that she didn’t listen to me!

BTC: Who in your family is involved with the show?
ST: My daughter Christina sings and dances in the show and, along with my wife Dorothy, co-produces the show.

BTC: Recently you became a grandfather to a beautiful granddaughter. What is her name and the story behind how she got the name?
ST: Yukie Bailey-Jae. “Yukie” was my mom’s first name.

BTC: What do you like best about performing in Branson?
ST: The audiences, and being able to have my own theatre, which allows me to perform my show the way that I want to and permits me to give them the very best show possible.

BTC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?
ST: I just love spending time with my family.

BTC: If you could perform or meet with any entertainer/person (living or deceased) who would it be and why?
ST: I would love to have seen and met Jascha Heifetz when he was alive. He was truly such an exceptional master of the violin.

BTC: In your career, of all the performances you have made and you have been in, no matter how big or small, which one personally meant the most to you and why?
ST: The performance that has meant the most to me personally was the first time my mom and dad came from Japan and saw me perform in my own theatre in Branson.

BTC: Do you have a favorite hobby or activity and what is it?
ST: I used to fish, fish, and fish; now, I golf, golf, golf, and do a little bit of fishing.

BTC: Do you have a little known fact about yourself that you think our readers would enjoy?
ST: I absolutely love to paint and also enjoy landscaping.

BTC: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you in front of an audience?
ST: It wasn’t funny at that moment, but is now. It’s one of those situations that can happen any time when you have a live show. In the Finale of the show, the first four pickup notes were in the same key of the previous segment that I played, which was a gospel number. My wife Dorothy, daughter Christina, and all of the cast were on stage ready for the finale and I started playing the gospel number again. The band did not know how to follow me and I fumbled around playing until I finally got back on track with the correct song. I don’t think that many in the audience noticed anything was wrong, but we certainly did!

BTC: What part of your current show do you enjoy performing the most and why?
ST: I love talking with the audience and the variety of music we play which runs all the way from Michael Jackson and Led Zeppelin to rock-n-roll, western swing, Gospel, and a lot in-between.

BTC: Of all the songs you have played in your Branson shows, which is your favorite and why?
ST: “Looking Through the Eyes of Love” from the movie “Ice Castles” because it’s such a beautiful melody and story.

BTC: Anything else you want our readers to know?
ST: Our goal, each and every year, is to have our guests come see the show and walk away saying, “I didn’t think it could get any better, but it has!” Making our guests feel, at all times, from the time they drive into the parking lot to the time they leave, that they are very special and deserve the very best. That is our daily goal. We want our guests to know that our dream of having our own theatre would never have been possible without their support. We would like to say a great big thank you!

For additional information or tickets for the Shoji Tabuchi Show or 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 by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Five things kids will absolutely love doing in Branson

Silver Dollar City's new $8 million" Fireman's Landing" has ten rides and attractions for the younger kids to enjoy.

Silver Dollar City’s new $8 million” Fireman’s Landing” has ten rides and attractions for the younger kids to enjoy.

“Branson is packed with shows, attractions, shopping, and other activities for families to enjoy together,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services. “That said, we thought it would be interesting to see which of those activities people thought would be of the most interest to children between 8 and 10 years of age,” she continued.

To get the answer, BTC turned to those participating in their social media channels, particularly BTC’s Facebook page, and asked the question, “If you were bringing an 8 to 10 year old child to ‎Branson, what is the #1 attraction, show, or activity you would want them to see?” Dozens of Branson shows, attractions, and activities were named. Here’s the list of the five most popular things people thought 8 to 10 year olds coming to Branson would like to see:

1. Silver Dollar City: The number one activity was Branson’s oldest and most popular paid attraction, Silver Dollar City. It is constantly adding new reasons for families to come to the park and create special family memories that will last a lifetime. This year it added “Fireman’s Landing;” it contains 10 new rides and activities that families can share together; most of which are perfect for children between 8 and 10 years old.

2. Dixie Stampede: One of Branson’s most popular shows, Dixie Stampede offers families a wonderful feast, a great show featuring horses, pageantry, and action along with a friendly competition that appeals to all ages.

There's nothing quite like the thrill of a "Duck Splashdown." in

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of a “Duck Splashdown.”

3. Ride The Ducks: This extremely popular attraction is a boatload of fun for the whole family aboard a WW II style amphibious DUKW, a.k.a. “The Duck.” During the 60 to 70 minute adventure, you will enjoy a tour narrated by a U.S. Coast Guard licensed Captain, who is every bit as good at entertaining as they are at being a driver and captain. You’ll especially enjoy the big Splashdown into either Table Rock Lake or Lake Taneycomo. After the Splashdown, there is an opportunity for the kids to drive the Duck in the water. The area covered by the tour and the lake of the Splashdown depends on whether you board Ride The Ducks at Branson Landing or their Highway 76 location.

4. White Water: With over 13-acres and 2 million gallons of water, White Water is a wet, tropically-themed, wonderland of fun and adventure for the whole family! Whether it’s Splashaway Cay and Coconut Grove for the smaller children and toddlers, the excitement of sliding down the seven story Kalani Towers, or the thrill of the drops and speed of rides such as KaPau Plummet, Pipeline Plunge, or the Raging River Rapids, there is an adventure for every member of the family at White Water.

5.  The Track Family Fun Parks: Go karts, water bumper boats, and miniature golf were mentioned quite a bit as a favorite activity for this age group. The Track Family Fun Parks offers each of those activities in a variety of forms. In go-karts alone, they offer rides all the way from Kiddie, Classic, and Rookie go-karts, to the four-story high steel and concrete Heavy Metal High Rise.

For additional information on these and other Branson attractions and shows, please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Why the Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center is such a great place to stay

Entrance to Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center

Entrance to Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center

The Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center (Inn) is a locally owned and operated hotel and conference center that has been serving Branson visitors for over 20 years. It’s known for its Ozarks hospitality and the quality of the facility.

Earlier this week, the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), interviewed Kristine Maples (KM), the Co-Manager of the Inn about what they have to offer Branson visitors. The results of that interview are very enlightening and are presented below in a Q & A format:

BTC: How many rooms does the Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center have?
KM: 206

BTC: Is the Inn open year round?
KM: Yes

BTC: What are the major types of rooms you have?
KM: The majority of our rooms are Two Queen Bed and Single King rooms. We also have some King Comfort, which have a single king bed, but are larger than our Single King rooms and Queen Jacuzzi rooms.

One of the spacious "Two Queen Bed Rooms."

One of the spacious “Two Queen Bed Rooms.”

BTC: Do you have any Suites?
KM: No, but we have several of our Two Queen Bed rooms that are adjoining with a connecting door that opens into both rooms.

BTC: How often are the rooms renovated?
KM: The rooms are upgraded and renovated on a scheduled basis. Most recently all the mattresses and TVs were replaced.

BTC: Do you have an outdoor pool?
KM: Yes, and it is one of the largest outdoor pools in Branson.

One of the largest outdoor pools in Branson.

One of the largest outdoor pools in Branson.

BTC: Do you have an indoor pool?
KM: Yes we do and it is colocated with our hot tub.

BTC: Are you a smoke-free facility?
KM: Yes.

BTC: Do you permit pets?
KM: No.

BTC: Do you have a business center?
KM: Yes, we have a complimentary computer and printer for our guests to use.

BTC: What room amenities do you offer?
KM: Just about anything you would expect in a hotel room including free internet, hair dryers, cable TV, coffee makers, etc. We also have free coffee and cookies in the lobby during its hours of operation.

BTC: Do your rooms have microwave ovens in them?
KM: No, but there is a microwave available in the Guest Laundry Room.

BTC: Why should someone on vacation in Branson pick the Honeysuckle Inn and Conference Center?
KM: We have been serving Branson visitors for over 20 years, and are a locally owned, family oriented hotel that is clean, friendly, safe, and has a staff that is always willing to give that little bit extra for our customers.

BTC: How do you maintain quality control when cleaning rooms?
KM: First the Housekeepers, who are very good at what they do, clean the room. Then the room is inspected by the Head Housekeeper to ensure it meets our standards. If it doesn’t then the process is repeated until it does. The end result is a clean room that we are proud to offer our guests.

BTC: What kind of breakfast do you serve?
KM: We serve a hot continental style breakfast including biscuits and gravy, sausage, boiled eggs, make-your-own waffles, cereal, breads, and more.

BTC: Is there a fee to park?
KM: No.

BTC: Of all the amenities your property offers, what is your personal favorite?
KM: Our combination of a large separate outdoor pool and the indoor pool because it permits our guests, absent lightening, to enjoy a pool in just about any weather. They are also something our guests really use and enjoy.

BTC: How are you set up to handle conferences and groups?
KM: We have two different rooms for conferences and groups. One is a room for small conferences, groups, and family reunions which can comfortably handle about 24 in a social setting. Our large conference room can accommodate up to 120 with theatre style seating, and about 80 in a social setting. It has a kitchenette with a refrigerator, microwave, and counters. We also offer onsite catering, audiovisual aids, and just about anything else needed to have a successful meeting, conference, or reunion.

BTC: What do you think about the location of the Inn?
KM: Its location on Branson’s Red Route, near its western intersection with Highway 76, is ideal for getting to and from the Inn and just about anywhere else in Branson one would want to go using an alternate route to avoid Highway 76, and yet, we are seconds away from it when you want to use it. We are within walking distance of the IMAX Complex, and near the Shoji Tabuchi, Pierce Arrow, and Hamner theatres, and numerous restaurants including Golden Corral, Red Lobster, Casa Fuentes, and many more.

BTC: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about the Honeysuckle Inn?
KM: Although we are located right off a major road, our hotel is set back from the road amid four and a half beautifully landscaped acres, providing our guests with a quiet, relaxing lodging experience, including our unique water garden located near the porch by the lobby.

BTC: Is the Honeysuckle Inn and Conference Center a member of Branson Tourism Center’s Lowest Rate Lock Program, and what does that mean?
KM: Yes. It means that we work in conjunction with BTC in guaranteeing that the price our guests pay for lodging through BTC will be the lowest rate available. If they find a lower price offered for the same room on the same dates anytime between when they book their room and when they arrive in Branson, BTC will match the lower rate.

For additional information or reservations for the Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center, at the lowest guaranteed rates, please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

What are Branson’s most popular shows?

 

The Presley family and Presleys' Country Jubilee have continuously been Branson favorites ever since they opened the first show on the Branson Strip in 1967.

Presleys’ Country Jubilee has continuously been one of Branson’s most popular shows ever since the Presley family  opened the first show on the now famous Branson Strip in 1967.

“One of the questions our Branson-based Travel Planners are frequently asked is, ‘What are the most popular shows in Branson?'” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services and sellers of over four million Branson show and attraction tickets. “The answer to that question is subjective, illusive, and depends on many factors, but based on our marketing relationships we feel certain that the following are some of the most popular shows in Branson,” she added.

The following lists divide Branson’s most popular shows into two main areas, Resident Shows, those who perform throughout the majority of the Branson season, and Limited Engagement Shows, those who perform in Branson for a limited period of time during the season. In both lists, each entry contains a link to the show’s schedule, description, pricing, pictures, video, and other information, as available. The Resident Shows, list is sorted alphabetically while the Limited Engagement Shows list is sorted by the date of their first performance; it also contains the dates they will be performing:

BRANSON’S MOST POPULAR RESIDENT SHOWS

Acrobats of China
Amazing Pets
Andy Williams Christmas Show
Billy Dean in Concert with Jarrett
Branson Country USA
Buckets N Boards
Christmas Wonderland
Clay Cooper’s Country Express
Comedy Jamboree
Daniel O’Donnell
Down Home Country
Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies
Grand Jubilee
Hughes Brothers Christmas Show
Illusionist Rick Thomas
it starring the Hughes Brothers and their Families
Jonah
Legends in Concert
The Lettermen
Million Dollar Quartet
Moon River and Me
New Jersey Nights
New South Gospel
Ozark Mountain Jubilee
Paul Harris & The Cleverlys
Presleys’ Country Jubilee
Puttin’ on the Ritz
Shoji Tabuchi
SIX
Spirit of the Dance
Sunday Gospel Jubilee
The Haygoods
The Texas Tenors

Branson Tourism Center’s Wood points out that it is interesting to note that the list of Branson’s most popular Resident Shows covers a wide spectrum of entertainment, paralleling that covered by Branson shows in general. “It has everything from magic to acrobatics, music of every genre, comedy, concerts, and full production shows demonstrating the full breadth and quality of the live entertainment offered by Branson shows in general,” she said.

LIMITED ENGAGEMENT SHOWS

The Hits starring Collin Raye (Jul. 8-Sep. 19)
Ray Stevens (Sep. 12)
The Hits starring Mary Wilson (Sep. 21-30)
Bill Engvall (Sep. 26)
Boot Daddy Presents Rhonda Vincent (Oct. 2-4)
Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers (Oct. 16-17 & Nov. 5-8)
The Hits starring the Osmonds (Oct. 19-31)
Boot Daddy Presents Gene Watson (Oct. 20-22 & Dec. 3-6)
Boot Daddy Presents Jimmy Fortune (Oct. 26-27 & Nov. 16-17)
Boot Daddy Presents Dailey & Vincent (Oct. 28-29 & Nov. 19-21)
Eamonn McCrystal (Nov. 2-9)

For additional information on any of these shows, or on how to save money by packaging, or bundling, shows with lodging, please contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.