Before “Branson” or the “Baldknobbers” there was the “Bald Knobbers”


Scene from the "Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama" with the  Bald Knobbers burning cabin. Notice the outline of their distinctive masks.

Scene from the “Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama” with the Bald Knobbers burning a cabin. Notice the outline of their distinctive masks.

Almost everyone coming to Branson either knows or quickly finds out, that the “Baldknobbers” was Branson’s first show, “the show that started it all.” Yet long before there was a Baldknobbers Jamboree or the city of Branson was incorporated on April 1, 1912, the “Bald Knobbers” had already become infused into the history and legend of the Ozarks and the area that has become one of the most popular family tourist destinations in America, Branson, Missouri.

As often happens, something good ended up going horribly wrong. In 1883 a group of men, led by Nathaniel Kinney formed a group to protect Taney County citizens against the actions of the “outlaws” who had come into the area. They got their name, “Bald Knobbers” because they met on the bald area on top of one of the areas mountains and were known for the distinctive masks they wore. They accomplished their initial objective and as a result, gained a lot of, what these days we call “political power”. Unfortunately, along with that power, they became a law unto themselves even to the point where Kinney shot one of the “anti-Bald Knobber” leaders in “cold blood” and it was deemed “self-defense.”

Their vigilante tactics lost them public support and the original Taney County Bald Knobbers were dissolved under the supervision of the Missouri Governor’s office. Ironically, even though the Bald Knobbers he started had been disbanded, Kinney himself was assassinated by an assassin hired by an “anti Bald Knobber” group and his assassin was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense.

All this might have been a little noted spot in history, but for Harold Bell Wright’s landmark novel “Shepherd of the Hills” which was published in 1907 and featured the Bald Knobbers as the villains. It could be said that book and the tourists it brought to the Branson area to see the areas mentioned in the book were the initial “sparks” of tourism for the Branson area that over the years, has evolved into the Branson of today, with all it has to offer.

In 1959, Harold Bell Wright’s novel was brought to life in an inspirational and spectacular fashion in the Shepherd of Hills Outdoor Drama, conducted on the very land where Wright wrote his novel. This action filled, inspirational drama has a cast of almost 100; is performed on an outdoor stage that is almost the size of a football field; has galloping horses, a buckboard, and the “Bald Knobbers” actually burning a cabin every night and will complete its 55th season with its Oct. 25, 2014 performance.

Original  Baldknobbers case Bill-Mabe-Bob-Mabe-Delbert-Howard,-left-to-right-back-and-front-left-Jim-Mabe-Lyle-Mabe-Chick-Allen.

Original Baldknobbers cast –  Bill-Mabe-Bob-Mabe-Delbert-Howard,-left-to-right-back-and-front-left-Jim-Mabe-Lyle-Mabe-Chick-Allen.

In 1960, the Mabe family decided to start a show to provide evening entertainment for the tourists who were coming to the Branson area as a result of a new theme park that had just opened, Silver Dollar City, and the completion of Table Rock Dam with its resulting 43,000 plus square acre Table Rock Lake. Bob Mabe, one of the original members of the group said that he came up with the name “Baldknobbers” and that it “was chosen from the book.” Anecdotally, he said, “I wished afterwards that I had said the “Mabe Brothers” instead because of the four of us brothers [Bill, Bob, Jim and Lyle].”

The Baldknobbers Jamboree has been continuously entertaining audiences ever since and is acknowledged as Branson’s first show, but before there was a “Shepherd of the Hills,” novel, a “Branson” or a “Baldknobbers Jamboree” there was the “Bald Knobbers.”


BTC Preferred Event presents a unique opportunity for Neal McCoy Fans

Country music legend Neal McCoy.

Country music legend Neal McCoy.

“Attending the Neal McCoy show is two hours of nonstop fun, entertainment, humor and music presented by one of the most personable and talented entertainers around,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center (BTC). “Although it’s hard to imagine how attending his show could be any more of an entertainment experience, some of those who are attending the Neal McCoy show on Nov. 13, and have purchased their tickets through the Branson Tourism Center, will have an exclusive opportunity to enhance that experience by meeting with Neal prior to his 3:00 p.m. show.

This exclusive BTC Preferred Event is just another of many value added features that makes doing business with BTC such a pleasure. The exclusive free event is limited to the first 75 people purchasing tickets to the Nov. 13 performance of the Neal McCoy show from BTC and registering for the event. It starts at 2:30 p.m. and will be conducted in a private room at the theatre.

Neal has received the Entertainer of the Year award twice, won Video of the Year, has three Platinum Albums, one Gold album and nine number one hits. He is one of the legends of country music; yet, in responding to the question, “What one thing do you want potential Branson audiences coming to your show to know about the show,” he said, “We want the folks who come to our show to know that we’re here to entertain them. I’m not coming to show you how good I can sing or how good my band is. We’re here to make sure you’re part of the show and that you have enjoyed yourself when you leave.”

What better way to start enjoying yourself and becoming “part of the show” than by meeting and interacting with this country music legend during this unique exclusive Preferred Event. Wood reminds those that might want to take advantage of this special opportunity that it is limited to the first 75 who register for the event after purchasing tickets from BTC to the Nov. 13 performance of Neal’s show. She suggests making reservations as soon as possible.

For further information on this special event, tickets for the Neal McCoy show, or any other Branson show, please feel free to call the Branson Tourism Center at 800-785-1550.

Did you know this about fly fishing in Branson?

River Run Drift Boat

River Run McKenzie style drift boat coming out of early morning fog.

Many fishermen are aware of two of Branson’s Tri Lakes, Table Rock Lake and Bull Shoals Lake because of the great world class bass and crappie fishing they offer. Still others, although not nearly as many, are aware that Lake Taneycomo, flowing 23 miles from Table Rock Dam to Powersite Dam, before forming the headwaters for Bull Shoals Lake, offers great Rainbow and Brown Trout fishing. Still fewer know that, in terms of numbers of trout and accessibility, it is one of the finest trout fisheries in the country and that it offers, year round, great fly fishing.

Although, all 23 miles offer great trout fishing using a variety of methods, it is the area that the locals call the “Trophy Area,” starting with the “tail waters” just below Table Rock Dam and running for three miles downstream to the opening of Fall Creek that is generally considered the prime fly fishing area on the lake. That results from its topography, which, particularly when they are not running water through the dam, is shallow enough and has enough public access to permit excellent wade fishing.

“It’s an awesome Tailwater fishery,” said Carolyn Parker, the co-owner of River Run Outfitters, who operates a full service fly shop and the only Orvis Endorsed Guide Service in Branson. How awesome? In 2006 out of all the Orvis Outfitters in the nation, River Run won the “Orvis Outfitter of the Year” award over many of the excellent “Orvis Outfitters” located throughout the United States and has been a finalist the last four consecutive years. That says a lot about the quality the experience their customers have in their fly shop; while on guide trips, primarily using non-motorized McKenzie style drift boats, and the quality of the fly fishing on Lake Taneycomo.

Being a Tailwater fishery, Lake Taneycomo is dramatically impacted when water is being run through the dam to generate electricity. When they are not generating electricity, the lake, particularly the first two miles offers great wading. When they are generating electricity, usually preceded by the blowing of a horn, the water level and speed of the current increases quickly in proportion to the amount of water they are releasing. This makes it, for all practical purposes, accessible only to boat fishing if they are generating at a rate of much more than 1300 cubic feet (cfs) per second.

From a safety perspective, the best advice, if wade fishing and the horn blows, is to get out of the water as quickly as possible and assess the situation. Calling 417-336-5083 will provide information on the current generation conditions including how many cfs they are running.

The "CQ" Streamer is a great fly to use on Lake Taneycomo Trout.

The “CQ” Streamer is a great fly to use on Lake Taneycomo Trout.

Typically the “hatches” that other trout fisheries are noted for do not play a big part in fly fishing on Lake Taneycomo. On a day to day basis, midges such as the P & P, Copper Dunn, Black Zebra and others in sizes 12 through 20, depending on how much water is being run, fished under an indicator, catch a lot of fish. When using an indicator normally 6x fluorocarbon is sufficient, but on sunny days in shallow water with no wind 7x wouldn’t hurt.

For those who like to strip “streamers,” the size 12 olive CQ or Wolly Bugger would be a good place to start. Both come weighted and un-weighted. My favorite method of fishing is to attach a 7 foot, 1.5 ips, sinking Rio Versi leader with about 5 feet of 5x Trout Hunter tippet to one of those flies and have at it. I use this system because it permits me to both indicator fish and streamer fish with the same rod and line simply by changing the loop to loop leader and adding a few feet of tippet.

The good news is that there are two excellent fly shops on Highway 165 just south of the entry to the hatchery that will be delighted to give you the very latest information on what is working. They are “River Run Outfitters” and “Anglers and Archery Outfitters.”

In terms of places to stay, the fishery is within ten minutes of the vast majority of hotels and resorts in Branson. One of the closest full service resorts is the Welk Resort, located just across the street from the Pointe Royale Golf Course, which has an indoor water park and a complete slate of activities that the non-fishing members of the family can enjoy.

“And there’s one other thing that fly fishing in Branson offers, that virtually no other trout fishery in the nation can offer,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center; “the shows, attractions, shopping and other fun filled exciting things that Branson is noted for, all within a ten minute drive of one of the best fly fishing experiences in America.”

Branson visitors can count on the “big three” regardless of the weather

30,000 pound ship "sails" the stage and breaks up during the storm.

“Jonah’s” 30,000 pound ship “sails” the stage and breaks up in a storm during this spectacular production.

“As autumn fades into winter and weather has more of an impact on our outdoor activities one of the great things about Branson is that, regardless of the weather, there is always plenty of exciting and entertaining things to do” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Even from an outdoor perspective, the weather in Branson is often mild enough that people are able to enjoy golfing, hiking and fishing and other outdoor activities on a near year round basis, but Branson’s “big three,” its shows, attractions and shopping, are not weather dependent,” she continued.

Here’s a list of the “big three” and why Branson visitors can count on enjoying them regardless of the weather:

1. Branson Shows – With the exception of the Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Play, whose last 2014 performance will be Oct. 25, Branson’s legendary live shows are held inside modern environmentally controlled theatres, with comfortable seating, the latest sound and lighting equipment and are performed by some of the best entertainers around. From shows such as Sight and Sounds spectacular production of Jonah, The Acrobats of China, Legends in Concert and Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede to the comedy and country music of shows such as Presleys’ Country Jubilee, Grand Jubilee, Billy Dean and Clay Cooper’s Country Express or the excitement of the Haygoods, Shoji Tabuchi, Dublin’s Irish Tenors and the Celtic Ladies and Mickey Gilley, Branson’s major entertainment offering, its live shows, goes on regardless of the weather.

The Titanic Museum Attraction boards passengers for a unique "voyage" regardless of the weather.

The Titanic Museum Attraction boards passengers for a unique “voyage” regardless of the weather.

2. Attractions – Cold or snow, heat or rain, the vast majority of Branson’s attractions are not impacted by weather. Regardless of the weather Branson visitors can take an exciting and entertaining voyage aboard the Titanic Museum Attraction or one of Branson’s other attractions such as the “Hollywood Wax Museum,” “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” or the “Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure” to mention a few. There’s indoor miniature golf at Grand Country or Laser Tag, G-Force drag race simulator and arcades at the Track Family Fun Parks that have the added advantage, weather permitting, of some of the coolest go-cart tracks around.

3. Shopping – Branson is noted for the quality and variety of its shopping. From outlet malls like “The Shoppes at Branson Meadows” and “Tanger Outlets” to the over 100 retail stores, restaurants and attractions at “Branson Landing” and the specialty shops and galleries of the historic downtown Branson shopping district, Branson offers a variety of shopping that is unmatched by any travel destination anywhere near its size. Factor in unique stores such as the “Copper Coin” and the unique “Dick’s 5 & 10,” along with dozens of specialty and gift stores, crafters and studios such as “Crain Creations” and it becomes a shoppers dream regardless of the weather.

Obviously there will be a few days of the year when ice, snow or some other weather condition might impact the total Branson area, but on a day to day basis, three of the major things Branson is noted for, its shows, attractions and shopping, are available for the enjoyment, fun and entertainment of its visitors regardless of the weather.

Four great places to eat in Branson near where you might want to be

Some of the cast from the "Legends in Concert Show" "Celine Dion," Brigitte Valdez; "Johnny Cash, Paul Eve and "The Blues Brothers" Bucky Heard as "Jake Blues" and Justin Clark as "Elwood Blues" enjoying their meal at the Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill.

Some of the cast from the “Legends in Concert Show” “Celine Dion,” Brigitte Valdez; “Johnny Cash, Paul Eve and “The Blues Brothers” Bucky Heard as “Jake Blues” and Justin Clark as “Elwood Blues” enjoying their meal at the Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grill.

One of the major questions people ask about Branson is, “Where are the good places to eat?” Having lived in Branson the last 28 years, I can honestly say that there are good places to eat all over Branson and they have been feeding millions of locals and visitors each year. Here is a list of four Branson restaurants offering entirely different dining experiences that are conveniently located near places where you might want to be such as shopping or one of Branson’s Shows:

Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grill – Located inside the “Dick Clark American Bandstand Theatre Complex” this restaurant couldn’t be more convenient to those wanting to attend the Legends In Concert show or to eat lunch after the Bretts morning show. It offers a diverse menu “including everything from Tex-Mex fajitas to New England style pot roast. There’s a great selection of burgers, soups, and salads, or make a selection from the Top Ten sandwich list! And there’s a Bandstand Bar for a cocktail, beer, or glass of wine with your meal. You’ll also enjoy the diner decor that includes memorabilia from Dick Clark’s own collection.” One of my favorite menu items is their “Cuban Sandwich, a delicious combination of thinly sliced smoked ham and roasted pork, grilled on a baguette with Swiss cheese, and served with dill pickle slices and mustard.

Hours: Sun – Tues: 11a.m. to 10 p.m.; Wed: 1 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Fri  -Sat: 11a.m. to 11p.m.

Famous Dave's o  at Branson Landing.

Famous Dave’s at at Branson         Landing.

Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que – Located, in Branson Landing, a place where, every year, millions of Branson visitors visit and shop, Famous Dave’s serves up some of the best Bar-B-Que in Branson. “They specialize in made-from-scratch barbecued meats that melt in your mouth! The ‘pit masters’ are up at 4:00 a.m. to get their hickory logs smoldering for those carefully selected cuts of meat all hand-rubbed with fresh seasonings. There are several original sauces to choose from, and sides galore! Try the Build Your Own Barbecue (BYOB,) it’s a fun and unique way to create a great meal by choosing from unique toppings. Just two weeks ago I had their smoked brisket and chicken and topped it off with their fabulous Bread Pudding. Man was it good!

Hours: Mon – Thur: 11a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fri – Sat: 11a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sun: 11a.m. to 9 p.m.

La Piazza Ristoranti Italiano – One of Branson’s newest restaurants offering fine Italian dining and a location on Green Mountain Drive, Branson’s “Yellow Route” that is within a five minute drive of over a dozen Branson Theatres. La Piazza offers “authentic dishes prepared with the freshest ingredients to please the taste buds of even the most discerning Italian cuisine fanatics serving traditional carne, pollo, and pastas made with steak, lamb, chicken, and a variety of delicious vegetables, spices, and sauces made to satisfy your cravings and your budget.” Having eaten there on a number of occasions, as recently as last week, I can tell you that the food, presentation and preparations are fantastic. My favorite dish is their preparation of the classic “rib eye steak” called, “Bisteccalla Florentina.”

Hours: Sun – Thur: 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Fri – Sat. 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Paradise Grill & Steakhouse – Paradise Grill is located on the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway not a two minute walk away from the Piece Arrow and the Shoji Tabuchi shows. It “not only offers a wonderful menu of steak, country style dinners, and options for lighter, healthier eating,” but they also have two “food bars,”a dinner food bar and a soup/salad/fruit bar. “These ‘bars’ feature great food, thoughtfully prepared to please a variety of picky eaters.” I have eaten there a number of times and have always been impressed by their food and quality of service and just love their “food bars.”

Hours: Sun – Sat: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“Buzzin in Branson” buzzes for November 2014

Branson “Buzz of the Month”

The first week of November features Branson Veterans Home Coming Week, the start of Ozark Mountain Christmas, and the premiering of Branson’s 2014 Christmas Shows.

“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. It is in a concise and easy to read format that conveniently provides pertinent and timely comments, information and a list of the major special events, shows and activities for the month being “Buzzed” which, in this case is November 2014.


Veteran's Memorial Garden, located at the junction of Roark Road and Hwy. 76, provides  a special  welcome those attending Branson's Veterans Home Coming Week.

Veteran’s Memorial Garden, located at the junction of Roark Road and Hwy. 76, provides a special welcome those attending Branson’s Veterans Home Coming Week.

Branson’s Veterans Homecoming Week is a seven day celebration running from Nov. 5 through Nov. 11 of each year, is America’s biggest ‘Veterans Day’ tribute and, among many other events honoring Veterans, will feature the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall at the Welk Resort and one of America’s longest running Veterans parades, the 81st ‘Branson’s Veterans Day Parade,’ through historic downtown Branson starting at the 11th Hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Click here for more information and a schedule of most of the major events.

The  "Andy Williams Christmas Show" is just one of the spectacular Branson Christmas shows.

The “Andy Williams Christmas Show” is just one of the spectacular Branson Christmas shows.

Branson’s great live shows premier their Christmas shows during the first week of November. Except for those shows such as the Shoji Tabuchi Show, Andy Williams Christmas Show and Christmas Wonderland that are strictly Christmas shows. Most Branson Christmas shows will be a blend of highlights from their 2014 regular season show with a special Christmas segment that is generally presented during the second half of the show. These shows, especially those from the “family performed shows” such as Presleys, Coopers, Haygoods, Six, Duttons, Hughes Brothers, Gabriels and Dyers, to mention a few, are as unique as the families presenting them and are a special Christmas blessing. Click here for complete information, scheduling and prices for Branson’s shows. It should be noted that the Sight and Sound Theatre will be presenting its spectacular new show Jonah throughout the Christmas season.


Silver Dollar City lights up for its  "An Old Time Christmas" celebration.

Silver Dollar City lights up for its “An Old Time Christmas” celebration.

Ozark Mountain Christmas runs from November 1 through December 31, is a wonderful unique Christmas experience combining the very best of what Branson has to offer into a community wide traditional American Christmas celebration that is not available anywhere else. In addition to Branson’s Christmas shows, other highlights include Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas; millions of Christmas Lights and beautiful decorations throughout Branson highlighted by theBranson Area Festival of Lights and the Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights; great shopping and the celebration of the true meaning of Christmas highlighted by the 66th annualAdoration Lighting Ceremony and Parade,dedicated to “Keeping Christ in Christmas,” which will be held on December 7 in historic downtown Branson.

Some of the stars making Nov. Limited Engagement Appearances in Branson.

Some of the stars performing Nov. Limited Engagement shows in Branson.

The following list of major November events, limited engagement shows and activities is sorted by date and contains a link or other contact for further information.

Nov 1 – Dec 7: Dinner With Yakov
Nov 1 – Dec 31: Titanic Museum Attraction – Tribute to Musicians
Nov 1 – Dec 30: Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas Festival
Nov 1 – Dec 30: Branson Limousine Christmas Light Tour
Nov 1 – Dec 31: Branson Area Festival of Lights
Nov 1 – Jan 15: White Flight at The Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure
Nov 2: 24th Annual Branson Motorcycle Toy Run
Nov 4 -23: Limited Engagement Oak Ridge Boys
Nov 5 – Nov 11: Branson Veterans Homecoming Week
Nov. 5 – Nov 6: Limited Engagement Roy Clark
Nov 7: Limited Engagement – Charlie Daniels
Nov 8 – Nov 9: Limited Engagement Mollie B Christmas Show
Nov 9: Limited Engagement – Don Williams
Nov 12: Limited Engagement – Crystal Gayle
Nov 12 – Nov 13:Limited Engagement – Neal McCoy
Nov 13: Branson Tourism Center Preferred Event with Neal McCoy
Nov 14 – Nov 15: Limited Engagement – Johnny Mathis Christmas
Nov 16: Limited Engagement – Charley Pride
Nov 19 – Nov 20: Limited Engagement – Neal McCoy
Nov 21 – Nov 22: Sandi Patty Christmas Featuring 100 Voices Choir
Nov 25: Limited Engagement – Neal McCoy
Nov 27: Thanksgiving Day
Nov 27: Thanksgiving Brunch at Chateau on the Lake
Nov 27 – Nov 30: Tanger Mall Moonlight Madness Sale – Begins 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Night
Nov 30: Limited Engagement – Martina McBride

Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center points out that the month of November is one of the busiest, if not the busiest, month of the Branson season and suggests making advance reservations for shows and lodging to ensure not only availability, but the best seats and accommodations available. For information on any of Branson’s events or shows please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center at 1-800-785-1550 and talk with one of their Branson based trip planners who will be delighted to answer questions as well as  assisting with show ticketing or lodging reservations.


Why Presleys’ Country Jubilee is an unequalled Branson entertainment experience


Three generations of Presley comedy Herkimer, Cecil and Cecil Jr.

Three generations of Presley comedy Herkimer, Cecil and Cecil Jr.

Going to Presleys’ Country Jubilee is more than going to a show, it’s an experience that is unequalled in Branson. Where else in Branson can you see three generations of performers spanning from today back to the original cast who opened “Branson’s first show on the Strip” in 1967? In what other theatre in Branson can you walk into a lobby that’s as comfortable and inviting as Presleys’, join in a live gospel sing along, and enjoy the smell of roasting “Glazed Almonds and Pecans” made from a “secret” recipe developed by “Cecil,” Eric Presley?

Obviously the way the questions are crafted, the answer is, “None,” but that’s the point. From its lobby to the show itself seeped in history and talent, there is nothing else in Branson offering the total entertainment experience for the whole family that a night at Presleys’ Country Jubilee offers. Its unique hilarious comedy, with a familial flair, combined with some of the best vocalists and instrumentalists in Branson, colorful costuming and great production provides an entertainment experience that demonstrates why this show has achieved legendary status and has been a consistent favorite of Branson audiences for over 47 years.

Since the Presleys’ opened on the Branson strip, Gary Presley, known on the stage as “Herkimer,” has been performing his unique blend of Ozark comedy. 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 and keeps the audience, kids and adults alike, laughing throughout the show.

Jay Wickizer, one of the shows vocalists, acts as the “straight man” or go-between in much of the comedy. One of my favorite comedic moments was the reconciliation of Herkimer and Cecil and what “being ‘open’ to reconciliation” meant to them. Another was the skit when young Master Benjamin Presley, the son of Eric, appeared as “Cecil Jr.”

The show is a well-coordinated mixture of music and comedy. Its format of one or two musical numbers followed by a comedy segment, coupled with the variety of ways each is performed, holds the audience’s attention, including kids, throughout the whole show. From their all cast opening number, “Take Me Back To The Country” to their finale, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the music in this show, while definitely favoring country, has something for everyone including gospel, rock and roll and more, all performed by superb musicians and vocalists.

Ambrus Presley performing  "Over the Rainbow."

Ambrus Presley performing “Over the Rainbow.”

To say the vocal performances were outstanding would be an understatement. The shows vocalists Ambrus Presley, Kimberly Barber, Devonna Wickizer, Lauren Presley, Jay Wickizer, Tim Gregg, Chuck Crain, Scott Presley and Bruce Haynes performed a range of music in a variety of ways, solos, duets and quartets. A few of my personal favorite vocal highlights would be the performance by the Gospel Quartet composed of Jay Wickizer, Tim Greg, Chuck Crain and Bruce Haynes; Kimberly Barber’s performance of Patsy Cline’s hit “Crazy;” the duet by Jay and Devonna Wickizer of “Together Again” and Ambrus Presley’s performance of “Over The Rainbow” from the “Wizard of Oz.”

Over six years ago someone told me that I had to hear “Ambrus” at Presleys’ sing “Over The Rainbow.” Since then she has married John Presley, had a son and is expecting again in March of 2015, but until now, although I have heard her sing countless times, I had never heard her sing that song. It was worth the wait!

The Gospel Quartet of Tim Greg, Chuck Crain, Bruce Haynes and Jay Wickizer.

The Gospel Quartet of Tim Greg, Chuck Crain, Bruce Haynes and Jay Wickizer.

The shows band is composed of Steve Presley, Drums; Scott Presley, Guitar and Fiddle; Greg Presley, Harmonica; John Presley, Piano and Keyboard; Bruce Haynes, Bass Guitar; Kevin Clemens, Steel Guitar and Cortland Ingram, Fiddle. Absent, but there in spirit, after over 25 years of never missing a performance, was Mark Walker, who played Fiddle, Guitar, Banjo and Saxophone and is recovering from a recently suffered stroke. Godspeed, Mark.

The band and vocalists just blend together so beautifully and comfortably, whether it’s the band accompanying the vocalists, featured as part of a vocal performance or an instrumental solo. From many, here’s a few of my favorite “instrumental” highlights. Every time I hear John Presley on the piano I am amazed and this was no exception. I just loved his performance of the Floyd Cramer medley. Two others would be the cast’s performance of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” featuring Cortland Ingram on the fiddle and Greg Presleys’ performance on the harmonica. Wow can he ever play!

Alone, its origin and the faithfulness of four generations in maintaining the traditions and heritage of that origin make the Presleys’ Country Jubilee unique. Combined with the shows genuineness, the talents of the Presley family and the shows other cast members, its musical variety, the uniqueness and humor of its comedy, and their blending into a show that seamlessly flows from one entertaining segment to another there can be only one result; an evening spent with the Presley family and their cast will be a special unforgettable Branson entertainment memory.

For additional information on Presleys’ Country Jubilee 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,


Five reasons Branson will get you in the Christmas Spirit

The Light Parade winds its way through Silver Dollar City's Town Square.

The Light Parade winds its way through Silver Dollar City’s Town Square.

“Although it might seem a bit early to be talking about Christmas,” said Tammy Johnson, the General Manager for the Branson Tourism Center, “the start of ‘Ozark Mountain Christmas,’ one of the most festive and, without a doubt the busiest time of the year in Branson, is just over a month away.” She advises those planning on coming to Branson for Ozark Mountain Christmas to make advanced reservations as soon as possible to insure not only the availability of lodging and show seats, but increasing the chances of getting the best show seats, choice of accommodations, and prices.

Johnson said that Branson is always a great place for families to visit, have fun and create memories that can last for a lifetime. “Even by Branson standards however, its celebration of Ozark Mountain Christmas is special and is a wonderful way for families to get in the Christmas spirit,” she added.

Ozark Mountain Christmas, running from November 1 through December 31, is a wonderful unique Christmas experience combining the very best of what Branson has to offer into a community wide traditional American Christmas celebration that is not available anywhere else. It is easily Branson’s biggest and most popular event every year.

Johnson attributes the success of the event to what it celebrates and how that resonates in the hearts of those wanting to experience the joy of the traditional American Christmas. From Silver Dollar City’s “An Old Time Christmas Festival” to the lit “Adoration Scene” on top of Mount Branson, Branson glows not only in the color and beauty of millions of lights, entertainment, shopping and fun but in the true spirit of Christmas.

Here’s five great ways that a visit to Branson will help get you in the Christmas spirit:

1. The Celebration of Traditional American Christmas Spirit: The spirit of the traditional American Christmas is prevalent during of Ozarks Mountain Christmas in most shows, attractions and businesses. It’s OK to say “Merry Christmas” and socially acceptable to acknowledge that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. One of the major annual highlights of Ozark Mountain Christmas is the annual Adoration Lighting Ceremony and Parade dedicated to “Keeping Christ in Christmas. The 66th annual lighting of the huge Nativity Scene on top of “Mount Branson” and night “light parade” will be held on December 7 in historic downtown Branson.

2. Silver Dollar City’s An Old Time Christmas Festival: Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas Festival with its over 5 million Christmas lights and shows has been recognized nationally by “Yahoo Travel’s Top 10 Destinations for Holiday Lights,” “MSN’s Top 10 Extreme Holiday Lights” and’s “10 Best Holiday Light Displays in the U.S.” One of the major features of this event, weather permitting, is the Light Parade. This year there will be a new parade the “Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade” featuring “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer & Friends.” The activities for “Old Time Christmas” are in addition to the parks other activities including, weather permitting, its 30 plus rides and attractions.

3. Millions of Christmas Lights: The Branson Area Festival of Lights and the Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights provide separate drive through lighting displays with millions of colorful sparkling Christmas lights and numerous beautiful displays. In addition, Silver Dollar City is aglow with over 5 million beautiful Christmas lights as part of its “Old Time Christmas” celebration. That strong Christmas lighting theme is continued throughout Branson and Branson Landing with Christmas decorations and lights on utility poles and in many Branson businesses.

One of the colorful and exciting production numbers from the Andy Williams Christmas Show.

One of the colorful and exciting production numbers from the Andy Williams Christmas Show.

4. Branson’s Christmas shows: Generally, starting with their first performance in November Branson shows will start performing their Christmas shows. For the majority of Branson’s regular shows that is a blend of the best from their regular season show and Christmas which is generally performed during the second half of the show. Each show’s Christmas segment is presented in their own unique way and is a special Christmas blessing. Other shows such as the Andy Williams Christmas Show,” Christmas on the Trail or Christmas Wonderland, Christmas with the Hughes Brothers or the Shoji Tabuchi Christmas Show are totally Christmas shows.

5. Shopping: Branson is known for its great variety of shopping. From its huge variety of unique boutiques, specialty shops, and craftsmen making one of a kind items to its factory outlet malls and Branson Landing, Branson is a shopper’s paradise and the perfect place to pick up that one of a kind gift for that special person.

For additional information about Ozark Mountain Christmas or any of Branson’s shows, attractions or lodging facilities please contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 and talking with one of their Branson based Travel Planning Specialists. There is no charge for this service and there is never a service fee of any kind when purchasing tickets or lodging through the Branson Tourism Center.


Lakin HS Class of 56 comes to Branson the easy way

Lakin Kansas  High School Class of 56 at the opening night of their Branson Class Reunion.

Lakin Kansas High School Class of 56 on the opening night of their Branson Class Reunion.

Whether it’s the natural beauty and lakes, shows, attractions, shopping or just plain down home American spirit, millions of people come to Branson each year to enjoy what it has to offer. Many of those visitors come as part of a “group” ranging from 20 to hundreds of people and covering everything from meetings and conventions to bus tours; church, bank and student groups and reunions of every type including class, military and family.

The Lakin High School, located in Lakin, Kansas, just west of Garden City, had 26 graduates in the Class of 1956. About 14 of those graduates and eight of their spouses decided to celebrate their class reunion in Branson this year. The reunion was held on September 22 – 24 and was a delightful combination of fellowship, renewing of acquaintances, reminiscing and sharing of fond memories all woven together with an opportunity for them, as a group and as individuals, to relax and experience all that Branson has to offer.

Although the events described below were seamless to the attendees because all they had to do was show up and enjoy themselves, there a lot of planning and effort by others to make that happen. “As in just about every group coming to Branson there is one or more people, ‘Group Leader(s)’ or ‘Planners’ who, whether designated as such formally or not, shoulder the responsibility for planning the trip and making sure that everything goes as planned,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center (BTC).

“The mission of the BTC Groups Department is to help the Group Leader provide their group with a greatest Branson experience possible by providing as much assistance as they want or need so all they have to do is show up with their Group and everything is ready for the event. When the ‘co-chairs’ (Group Leaders) for the ‘Lakin Class of 56 Reunion,’ Ron Edgington, Pat LeClerc and Jim Smith”contacted BTC, Preston Garrison, one of BTC’s Group Sales Managers, worked with them to help plan the reunion. After finding out exactly what they wanted he worked with them to make it happen exactly the way they wanted it at an affordable price.

LeClerc said, “With all there is to do in Branson we wanted to plan an itinerary that provided an opportunity to experience some of Branson’s shows together as a group and give our classmates an opportunity to do other things on their own, fellowship and just relax.” Edgington said that during the planning of the event, they would tell Preston what they wanted, he would give them ideas and recommendations which they reviewed, decided on and he took it from there. He said, “Basically, ‘one call’ took care of it all.” When asked if he would recommend the Branson Tourism Center for others planning a reunion he said, “Absolutely, in fact I would recommend them to individuals planning a trip to Branson.”

They were especially pleased with the service and help provided by BTC’s Garrison. LeClerc said, “Preston was very helpful, knowledgeable and attentive. We were very pleased with everything he did.” She shared that when they got the written proposal it was so low that they thought Preston had left the shows off. They were presently surprised to find out that wasn’t the case. As I attended events during the reunion there were numerous comments of appreciation about the services provided by “Preston” and BTC that helped make the event so successful.

On Day 1 the Class of 56 and their guests arrived in Branson, checked into the Stone Castle Hotel and had free time until their welcoming dinner in the Excalibur Room of the hotel that evening. After dinner the group saw a video that took them back to their youth in Lakin and some great memories of the past, pictures of their last reunion and just relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company. The Excalibur Room was heirs for the entire time of the reunion so that they could get together and fellowship with each other at their convenience.

Along with ""SIX the Class of 56 went to see the spectacular production of "Jonah" and the "Bretts."

Along with “”SIX the Class of 56 went to see the spectacular production of “Jonah” and the “Bretts.”

Day two started off with breakfast and a free morning. In the afternoon they went to see one of Branson’s hottest shows, SIX and that evening went to see the spectacular presentation of Jonah on the 300 foot surround stage of the Sight and Sound theatre.

Day three was a free day, until 4:45 p.m., for them to just relax or experience, on an “individual basis,” some of fun and excitement of Branson. Some went on Ride The Ducks, some just relaxed, some went shopping and 18 of them spent their morning at the Bretts show. I just have to share one comment made by Pat LeClerc, one of the co-chairpersons who planned the trip. While commenting on how great the show was, she said how impressed she was at the Brett’s forward thinking about the entertainment of the generation “that will come after us” and their commitment to providing a show that entertains all ages from three to 90.

At 4:45 the group all boarded the 100 foot luxury yacht “Landing Princess” for a dinner cruise on beautiful Lake Taneycomo in the glimmer of the setting sun. The service was excellent, as was the smoked chicken and brisket dinner topped off by “Famous Dave’s Bread Pudding.”

After the cruise everyone met back at their hotel for a cake and coffee reception, entertainment provided by their class mates and more fellowship. The one thing that was obvious at all the events I attended was that they were having a great time and truly enjoyed each other.

This is the story of one small group and their Branson experience. The neat thing about Branson’s tourism industry and the Branson Tourism Center in particular, is its dedication to making sure that every visitor and group, large and small, has a great Branson experience that will leave them with great memories. Although my wife, who was one of the graduates in the Class of 56, and I live in Branson, if her reaction is any indication, I just have to believe that the Class of 56 left Branson with some wonderful memories of what they shared together and of Branson.


Future’s so bright for Branson comedian Paul Harris he’s “gotta wear shades”

Paul Harris, 3rd from left, and the "Cleverlys."

Paul Harris, 3rd from left, and the “Cleverlys.”

“Branson is well known for the quality and variety of its live shows and entertainment,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Its great music shows, covering just about every genre of music, are legend, but, while perhaps not as well known, Branson is also blessed with a variety of some of the funniest comedians anywhere. From Branson’s longest performing comedian, the incomparable Gary Presley as “Herkimer” in Presleys’ Country Music Jubilee to the comical characters of Jarrett Dougherty at the Billy Dean Live show, the antics of Jamie Haage of the Grand Jubilee , the great standup comedy of Paul Harris from  Paul Harris and the Cleverlys and many others, Branson audiences are full of laughter every day,” she added. Wood said that the announcement this week about the future of Paul Harris, one of Branson’s longtime favorites, is both an example of the quality of comedians Branson has, but also their wit and humor. The announcement of his future plans, which still involves doing shows in Branson, was accompanied by a photo featuring him wearing a “standout” pair of sunglasses and Paul saying, “The futures so bright I gotta wear shades.” Recently Harris and The Cleverlys have had to make some changes to their Branson show schedule at the Starlight Theatre to accommodate some of the opportunities coming their way. One of those opportunities is touring” with the most awarded band in country music’s history, “Alabama.” In addition, Harris has become the national spokesman for Bad Boy Mowers,”the mower with an attitude,” built by American workers “right in the middle of the country in the Ozarks Mountains” and has a recording deal and a TV project in the works. The Starlite Theatre said that they are ecstatic about the possibilities for Paul and have been working with him on scheduling to free up time for these opportunities that are beneficial to both Paul and Branson. Harris said that he is appreciative of not only the theatres flexibility, but that of his fans. Branson Tourism Center’s Wood reminds those coming to Branson of the advice contained in the announcement saying, “Don’t miss your chance to see Paul before his craziness is unleased upon America in a big way!” She points out that even while taking advantage of these opportunities Paul Harris and the Cleverlys are scheduled to perform a number of Branson performances between now and the end of December. For their latest schedule, information and tickets please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550.