BRANSON, Mo. In 1882, when Ruben S. Branson started a general store near the mouth of Roark Creek and the White River and named the post office “Branson” he had no idea of what was to follow. Who could have known that decades later the railroad would come down Roark Creek into the heart of a developing community benefiting not only from the intense logging industry in the area, but the building of the Power Site Dam on the White River near Forsyth and the tourism resulting from the publishing of the epic story of life in the Ozarks, Harold Bell Wright’s novel, “The Shepherd the Hills?”
Interestingly, all that took place prior to the incorporation of “Branson” as a city. In fact, in 1902 the name of the post office was changed to “Lucia” as competing sites and interests tried to get land and plat their own towns. The issue was settled in 1903 when Charles Fulbright and his “Branson Town Company” acquired both town sites and the name of the post office was changed back to “Branson” in 1904. A short eight years later the city of “Branson” was incorporated on April 1, 1912.
As the city of Branson begins the celebration of its Centennial Year, it might be appropriate to note that Branson’s first show, The Baldknobbers Jamboree was 47 years away as was Table Rock Lake, Silver Dollar City was 48 years away and its first show on the now famous “Branson Strip,” Presley’s Country Jubilee was 55 years away. Yet today, as the city of Branson celebrates its Centennial, an estimated 8 million visitors a year come to Branson making it “Missouri’s top vacation destination.”
Why do they come? “To experience all that Branson has to offer,” says Stephanie Milton, Director of Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Where else in America’s heartland, or perhaps anywhere, can a person go and experience the unique combination of 100 plus live shows, attractions, family entertainment, shopping, water activities, championship golfing and everything else Branson has to offer? What other destination has so beautifully integrated the entertainment, adventure and excitement of what it offers into the surrounding natural beauty of its magnificent and spectacular hills, valleys, lakes and hollows?”
Branson’s Centennial, “100 YEARS OF BRANSON, MISSOURI – a Story of Heritage, Harmony and Hospitality” has events scheduled to run from April 1 through July 7 with the “Centennial Heritage Museum” remaining open from April 1 throughout, at least, the rest of the year. It is a celebration of Branson’s history, heritage and spirit combined with all the fun and excitement that makes Branson such a wonderful family vacation destination.
The “Centennial Kick-Off Event” will be on April 1, exactly 100 years to the day from Branson’s initial incorporation, in its historic downtown district. The day will begin with the dedication and opening of the “Centennial Heritage Museum,” with the National Anthem being sung by Branson tenor George Dyer, comments by Branson’s Mayor Raeanne Presley and other dignitaries and other entertainment. Bogie Bohinc, the producer of the festivities that will follow, said that the entire historic downtown area will be a celebration of fun, action and entertainment until 4:00 p.m., including street performances; horse and buggy rides; bands; music of all genres from Bluegrass to Dixieland and much more including a “few surprises.”
Throughout the Centennial, there are a number of activities and events contributing to the excitement of the celebration. These include Silver Dollar City, Branson’s award winning 1880s styled theme park; the Titanic Museum Attractions “A Night to Remember,” on April 14, providing a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in the 100th year remembrance of the fateful night the great ship sank in the north Atlantic; the Branson Centennial Celebration Show on April 15; the “52nd Annual Plumb Nellie Days Arts and Crafts Festival” in historic downtown Branson, May 17 through 19 and “Branson’s 100th Fest and Street Dance” on July 7.
Ross Summers, President/CEO, Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, “Throughout the town, our community welcomes you to our once-in-a-lifetime celebration. And our birthday wish is that you leave with a rekindled spirit and renewed hope for the next century.”
Branson Tourism Center’s (BTC) Milton suggests that Branson visitors make advance reservations for shows and lodging during the Centennial to ensure they get not only availability, but the seating and accommodations desired. She also points out that there is a limited number of VIP tickets available for the Titanic Museum Attractions “A Night to Remember,” on April 14 and that BTC’s exclusive package for the event also includes a special keepsake coin incorporating an actual segment of a piece of coal that has been brought up from the Titanic.
For additional information on Branson’s Centennial Celebration, any of the events connected to it or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please feel free to contact BTC, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, by either calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.