Category Archives: Veterans

Three special things Veterans do not want to miss while in Branson

"The Wall," Veterans Memorial Garden, and the Official Missouri Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“The Wall,” Veterans Memorial Garden, and the Official Missouri Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“Branson’s Veterans Homecoming Week is America’s biggest ‘Veterans’ Day’ tribute, running form November 5 through November 11 each year,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “The seven-day event is both a tribute and a celebration, filled with a variety of activities, shows, reunions, and highlighted with the Veterans Day Parade, through historic downtown Branson starting at the 11th Hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Here’s a short list of three unique stand-alone things that we believe Veterans and their families will find inspiring and should not miss while in Branson,” she added.

The Traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Nestled within the beautiful and peaceful Welk Resort Branson, the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial, more commonly known as “The Wall,” will be on display and open to the public for public viewing at the Welk Resort Branson from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM November 7- 13th. Although the Welk Resort had hosted the traveling replica Memorial for many years, it purchased it in 2013. “It is with a sense of gratitude and honor that the Welk Family and The Welk Resort sponsor this tribute,” said Dathan Atchison, General Manager of the Welk Resort. “We cannot ever forget the incredible sacrifice of so many to insure the liberty we enjoy in this country.”

“The Wall” is the most visited memorial in Washington, D.C. The official half-scale replica spans nearly 240 feet in length and lists more than 58,000 names of the nation’s fallen heroes who fell in the Vietnam conflict. A special locator book will be available to assist visitors in finding specific names.

The Lennon Sisters will be performing at a special Opening Ceremony for The Wall that will be held at the Welk Resort on Monday, November 7, at 10:00 AM. A POW/MIA Service of Tribute and Remembrance will be held at The Wall at 8:00 AM on November 8.

Branson’s Veterans Memorial Garden

Under the guidance of Master Gardner Ben Kinel and with the considerable effort of many volunteers and benefactors who have given money, land, materials and a lot of hard work, time and effort, the beautiful garden serves as a living tribute to the sacrifices of America’s Veterans, active duty military personnel and their families. Located in the northwest corner of the intersection of Roark Valley Road and State Highway 76 at the traffic signal, the garden is very visible to all those traveling into and out of the Branson Strip on State Highway 76.

Although thousands drive by it daily, and comparatively speaking, it’s smaller than many memorial gardens, it is well worth the effort to stop and walk through it. To get to parking, turn on to Roark Valley Road at the stop light at its intersection with Highway 76, go one block to Crosby, turn left, circle around the church. Turn left at the stop sign at Main Street and proceed to the church parking lot.

Official Missouri Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Located at the entrance to the College of the Ozarks, the Official State of Missouri Vietnam Memorial honors the 1,410 servicemen and women from Missouri who gave their lives in that war. Designed by Austin Meyer, a 2014 College of the Ozarks graduate, and dedicated on April 22, 2015, every element, from its divided wall representing a divided nation to the red roses in a “V” shaped flower bed, representing valor and the blood that was spilled by Missourians on behalf of our nation, represents and honors their sacrifice. Take first Hollister exit off Highway 65, south of Branson, and follow directions to the College of the Ozarks. The Memorial and a large flat parking lot are immediately to your left as you drive up to the entrance.

In addition, the “Lest We Forget” 9/11 Memorial, containing a remnant of one of the steel columns from the World Trade Center, is located next to the C of O Fire Department on James Forsythe Drive inside the campus. The mangled steel column in the memorial was donated by retired police officer Tommy McHale to honor the 37 fallen men and women officers from the Port Authority for New York and New Jersey who perished on 9/11.

How many of these November 2015 Branson highlights would you like to see?

Silver Dollar City's Main Street aglow with Christmas lights.

Silver Dollar City’s Main Street aglow with Christmas lights.

“With Branson’s Veterans Week, Ozark Mountain Christmas, Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas, Branson’s Christmas shows, and Thanksgiving, the month of November is easily one of the busiest and most exciting months of the year,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “From the nation’s largest Veteran’s Day Celebration, to what may very well be its biggest celebration of the traditional American Christmas, and so much more, Branson will be bursting at the seams with special events and other activities during November,” she added.

Here’s our Featured Show, Event, and Limited Engagement of the Month, along with a list of the major, limited engagement performances and special events you can enjoy in Branson during November, 2015:

Featured Show: Andy Williams Christmas Show: It’s the most wonderful time of the year as the tradition and legacy of “Andy Williams Christmas Show” continues in Branson. The Osmonds and The Lennon Sisters honor Andy’s favorite time of year! Everything that made television’s Andy William’s Christmas Show special is here; music, dancing, and beautiful sets filled with holiday cheer, all backed up by the incomparable Moon River Orchestra!

Featured Limited Engagement: Moon River and Me pays tribute to the life, the music, and the man himself…Andy Williams! Enjoy memorable video footage, the voice of Britain’s Got Talent singing sensation, Charlie Green, performing his songs, and masterful magic that’s cleverly combined with laugh-out-loud comedy, courtesy of the versatile Chipper Lowell! This is one powerful show!

Featured Events:

Branson Veterans Homecoming Week is one of the the biggest, Veterans Day tributes in America, and is celebrated from November 5 through November 11. It features dozens of events all keyed toward honoring those who have served our nation and sacrificed so much.

Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas celebrates the true meaning of this special magical season amidst the glow of over 5 million dazzling lights. Heralded “The Most Illuminated Park on Earth” by the Travel Channel and “One of the most sparkly, lively holiday celebrations anywhere” by Midwest Living, you’ll take home beautiful holiday memories destined to last a lifetime!

LIMITED ENGAGEMENT HIGHLIGHTS (Sorted by starting date.)

Nov 1 – 30                  Yakov – Wake Up with Yakov
Nov 2 – 30                  Jerusalem performed by Dudu Fisher
Nov 4 – 24                  Neal McCoy
Nov 4 – 30                  Moon River andMe
Nov 5 – 8                    Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers
Nov 6                          Charlie Daniels Band
Nov 7                          Ricky Skaggs
Nov 8                          Pam Tillis & Lorrie Morgan
Nov 8                          Rich Little
Nov 11                        Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy
Nov 11                        Lee Greenwood
Nov 13 – 14                Johnny Mathis Christmas Show
Nov 14                        Michael English
Nov 15                        Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone
Nov 16 -17                  Boot Daddy Presents Jimmy Fortune
Nov 18:                       Kellie Pickler
Nov 19 – 21                Boot Daddy Presents Dailey & Vincent
Nov 20                        Little River Band
Nov 21                        Wynonna Judd
Nov 22                        Charley Pride

 

Ozark Mountain Christmas Lights & Village is Branson's newest drive through lighting display and much more.

Ozark Mountain Christmas Lights & Village is Branson’s newest drive through lighting display and much more.

SPECIAL EVENT HIGHLIGHTS (Sorted by starting date.)

Nov 1 – Nov 30           Christmas and Winter Celebration at Titanic Museum Attraction
Nov 1 – Nov 30           Branson Landing’s Winter Wonderlanding!
Nov 1 – Nov 30           White Flight at The Butterfly Palace
Nov 1 – Nov 30           Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights
Nov 1                           26th Annual Branson Motorcycle Toy Run
Nov 5 – 11                   Branson’s Veterans Home Coming Week
Nov 5 – Nov. 30          Ozark Mountain Christmas Lights & Village
Nov 7 – Nov 30           An Old Time Christmas Festival at Silver Dollar City
Nov 11                         83rd Annual Veteran’s Day Parade
Nov 14                         Most Wonderful Time of Year Parade, Branson Landing, 417-239-3002
Nov 23 – Nov 29         Thanksgiving Week in Branson
Nov 26                         4th Annual Branson 5K Turkey Trot
Nov 26                         Chateau on the Lake – Thanksgiving Day Brunch
Nov 26 – Nov 29         Moonlight Madness & After Thanksgiving Sales

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.

 

‘Branson Veterans Homecoming Week’ honors America’s Veterans from the heart

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“Honoring America’s Veterans, those currently serving in its Armed Forces, and their families for their service and sacrifice is an inherent part of what Branson is,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Even by Branson standards however, ‘Branson Veterans Homecoming Week’ is special,” she added.

The annual event is one of the, if not the biggest, Veterans Day tributes in America, and is celebrated from November 5 through November 11. It features dozens of events all keyed toward honoring those who have served our nation and sacrificed so much.

The following is a schedule of most of the major events sorted chronologically and by starting time. A telephone number or link is included to provide access to additional information on specific events:

November 5, 2015

0900 – 1600 Veteran Registry, Tactical Operations & Vendor Village, 417-337-0563
0900 – 1530 Veterans Events & Reunions Registry Mill Craft Village, 417-230-2278
0900 – 1800 Day Room 9am – 6pm at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
0900    Walls of Heroes – Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
1000 – 1800 Vietnam Veterans Traveling Memorial Wall opens at Welk Resort, 417-336-3575
1130 – 1330 Mess Hall Lunch at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
1400    Vets for Vets Celebration Show” at the Baldknobbers Theatre

November 6, 2015

0700    Reveille at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
0800 – 1800 Vietnam Veterans Traveling Memorial Wall at Welk Resort, 417-336-3575
0800    POW/MIA Service of Remembrance, Vietnam Wall at Welk Resort, 417-336-4232
0830    IMAX Military Film Festival “Ghost Army,” 417-335-3533
0900 – 1600 Veteran Registry, Tactical Operations & Vendor Village 417-337-0563
0900 – 1530 Veterans Events & Reunions Registry Mill Craft Village – 417-230-2278
0900 – 1800 Day Room 9am – 6pm at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
0900    Walls of Heroes – Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
1000    Fourth Annual Navy Memorial at Golden Corral
1100    Veterans Grove Tree Dedication, College of the Ozarks
1130 – 1330 Mess Hall Lunch at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
1700    Retreat at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387

November 7, 2015

0700    Reveille at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
0800 – 1800 Vietnam Veterans Traveling Memorial Wall at Welk Resort, 417-336-3575
0830    Veterans Sporting Clay Shoot, Ozarks Shooter Complex
0830    IMAX Military Film Festival “We Answered the Call: Building the Crown Jewel of Afghanistan,” 417-335-3533
0900 – 1600 Veteran Registry, Tactical Operations & Vendor Village 417-337-0563
0900 – 1530 Veterans Events & Reunions Registry Mill Craft Village – 417-230-2278
0900 – 1800 Day Room 9am – 6pm at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
0900    Walls of Heroes at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
1000    Musical Fun with Twang, Veterans Military Museum
1130 – 1330 Mess Hall Lunch at Ballparks of America, 417-337-83871200
1200    West Plains High School Marching Band “Veterans Tribute,” Branson Landing
1400 – 1800 4th Infantry Division Social, Savannah House Hotel
1400    Musical Fun with Twang, Veterans Military Museum
1600    Women Veterans Mini Reunion at Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center
1700    Retreat at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
1900    Memorial Service for Lost Submarine/Tolling of the Bells, Branson Landing

November 8, 2015

0700    Reveille at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
0800 – 1800 Vietnam Veterans Traveling Memorial Wall at Welk Resort, 417-336-3575
0900 – 1600 Veteran Registry, Tactical Operations & Vendor Village 417-337-0563
0900 – 1530 Veterans Events & Reunions Registry Mill Craft Village – 417-230-2278
0900 – 1800 Day Room 9am – 6pm at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
0900    Walls of Heroes at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
1000 – 1200 Vietnam Veterans Mini Reunion, Clay Cooper Theatre
1000    Tribute to Veterans Sunday Worship, Doug Gabriel Theatre
1130 – 1330 Mess Hall Lunch at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
1200 – 1400 12th Annual Tribute to Women Veterans & Rose Petal Ceremony, Clarion Hotel & Conference Center
1400 – 1600 Gold, Silver & Blue Star Mothers Afternoon Dessert, Shindigs
1700    Retreat at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387

November 9, 2015

0700    Reveille at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
0800 – 1800 Vietnam Veterans Traveling Memorial Wall at Welk Resort, 417-336-3575
0830    IMAX Military Film Festival “We Answered the Call: Building the Crown Jewel of Afghanistan,” 417-335-3533
0900 – 1600 Veteran Registry, Tactical Operations & Vendor Village 417-337-0563
0900 – 1530 Veterans Events & Reunions Registry Mill Craft Village – 417-230-2278
0900 – 1800 Day Room 9am – 6pm at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
0900    Walls of Heroes at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
1000    Transition Assistance at Military & BB Gun Museum, 417-239-0719
1130 – 1330 Mess Hall Lunch at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
1400 – 1700 Korean War Veterans Mini Reunion, Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center
1700 – 2300 19th Annual Military Gala & Banquet, Chateau on the Lake
1700    Retreat at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
1900    Flag Retirement Ceremony, Veterans Memorial Museum

November 10, 2015

0700    Reveille at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
0800 – 1800 Vietnam Veterans Traveling Memorial Wall at Welk Resort, 417-336-3575
0830    IMAX Military Film Festival “Honoring The Valley of the Tears,” 417-335-3533
0900 – 1600 Veteran Registry, Tactical Operations & Vendor Village 417-337-0563
0900 – 1530 Veterans Events & Reunions Registry Mill Craft Village – 417-230-2278
0900 – 1800 Day Room 9am – 6pm at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
0900    Wal-Mart Tribute to Veterans, Oak Ridge Boys Theatre
0900    Walls of Heroes at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
1100    Celebrity Waiter Fundraiser, Doc’s Hickory Roadhouse
1130 – 1330 Mess Hall Lunch at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
1400    Railway to Heaven, Royal Oak Auditorium, Keeter Center, College of the Ozarks
1500 – 1700 15th Anniversary Celebration of the Veterans Memorial Museum, Veterans Memorial Museum
1700    Retreat at Ballparks of America, 417-337-8387
2100    Railway to Heaven, Jones Auditorium College of the Ozarks

November 11, 2015

0700    Flag Raising/Wreath Laying Ceremony, Main Flag Pole, Chapel Lawn, College of the Ozarks
0800 – 1800 Vietnam Veterans Traveling Memorial Wall at Welk Resort, 417-336-3575
0830    IMAX Military Film Festival “Honoring The Valley of the Tears,” 417-335-3533
1100    82nd Annual Veterans Day Parade in historic downtown Branson, 417-239-6511
1700    All Hands on Deck! Show, Branson Star Theater
1700 – 2000 Free Golden Corral Dinner for Veterans, Golden Corral

For information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Blessing or luck, crew of the ‘Lucky Lady’ celebrates 70th Annual Reunion

Crew members of the U.S.S Sante Fe attending its 70th Annual Reunion, ictured from left to right, with ages in parens, are Richard Champagne, 91; Clifford Hamilton, 89, Ivan Cannon, 89, Robert Hazelwood, 92, Stephen Wong, 92; Charles Bright, 89; and Steve Downing Jr., 90.

Crew members of the U.S.S Santa Fe attending its 70th Annual Reunion, pictured from left to right, are Richard Champagne, 91; Clifford Hamilton, 89, Ivan Cannon, 89, Robert Hazelwood, 92, Stephen Wong, 92; Charles Bright, 89; and Steve Downing Jr., 90.

Recently, the crew of the “Lucky Lady,” more formally known as the U.S.S. Santa Fe (CL-60), a Cleveland class light cruiser, celebrated their 70th Annual Reunion in Branson, Missouri. Melissa McGowan, a Group Sales Manager for the Branson Tourism Center Groups Department, worked with the group in planning and conducting the reunion. She said, “It’s always an honor and privilege to work with our military groups, but this group was special.”

“It was an absolute pleasure to be with them and to hear them talk about what they experienced aboard the Santa Fe during World War II. It changed me. Of the over 1300 plus crewmembers who sailed on the ‘Lucky Lady’ throughout the war, only seven were able to attend the reunion: Richard Champagne, Clifford Hamilton, Ivan Cannon, Robert Hazelwood, Stephen Wong, Charles Bright, and Steve Downing Jr. The oldest was 92 and the youngest was 89. Precious heroes; I love them!”

When the Santa Fe, named after the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, was christened, the traditional bottle of champagne was not used. Instead, the bottle was filled with water taken from the Santa Fe River that had been blessed by Santa Fe’s archbishop. That, and the appropriateness of the ship’s nickname, “Lucky Lady,” came to mind many times as the crew and family members of crew members who have passed, shared some of their experiences. Remarkably, the Santa Fe and her crew fought their way through 224,999 miles of battles, air raids, kamikaze, and torpedo attacks in the Pacific Theatre during World War II without the death of a single crew member due to battle injuries!

How lucky or blessed were they? How about having a torpedo hit the bow of the ship near a gun turret, surrounded by ammunition, that failed to explode? The crew said that if it had exploded they would have lost the bow of the ship. Imagine a kamikaze torpedo plane coming at the ship and being blown out of the sky by the ship’s guns about two seconds before it would have crashed into the ship. It was so close that gas from the plane sprayed aboard, injuring crew-members and killing one non-crew member that the ship had previously rescued. They all agreed that if the plane had remained airborne for two more seconds, very few, if any of them, would have survived.

During one air attack, the aircraft carrier USS Franklin was bombed by a Japanese plane, was on fire, and was in danger of sinking as she listed horribly. The Santa Fe and her crew, in a daring move of extraordinary courage and seamanship, pulled alongside the badly damaged ship, and maintained its position for over three hours, amid fires and exploding ammunition, with the towering aircraft carrier listing over it, as they rescued more than 800 members of its crew.

For her action with the Franklin, the Santa Fe received a Navy Unit Citation. That was in addition to the 13 Battle Stars she received for service from the Aleutian Islands to Tarawa, Wake, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and just about every other major sea raid and battle conducted in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.

The U.S.S. Santa Fe 7 Reunion was held in the beautiful Grand Plaza Hotel in Branson from September 22 through 26; the hotel’s Montclair Room was made available for meetings, dinners, and fellowship. Their schedule allowed plenty of free time to shop, relax, and enjoy the comradery and fellowship of their shipmates, family, and friends. In addition, there were planned events and meals, along with the opportunity to ride the Branson Scenic Railway, experience the adventure of dinner and a show aboard the Showboat Branson Belle on Table Rock Lake, and to see the fabulous Legends in Concert show.

Branson Tourism Center’s McGowan said, “It was an honor to work with them and, although just for a while, get to know them. I hope they enjoyed their time in Branson as much as we enjoyed having them!”

One two punch provides biggest week of Branson season

Veterans Homecoming Week. America's biggest Veterans Day celebration.

Veterans Homecoming Week. America’s biggest Veterans Day celebration.

“I can safely say that, although every week in Branson is full of excitement, entertainment, natural beauty, shopping and dozens of things to see and do, it is extremely unlikely that any other week compares with the one two punch of what happens during the week of Nov. 5 through Nov. 11 each year,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center “The combination of Branson Veterans Homecoming Week with the first full week of Branson’s Ozark Mountain Christmas provide visitors with a unique opportunity to experience the heart and spirit Branson has for Veterans and the traditional American Christmas blended together in a manner that enhances the great live entertainment, attractions, shopping and the dozens of other activities that makes Branson such a great place to visit,” she added.

“Although Veterans are honored every day in Branson, Branson’s Veterans Homecoming Week is a special time, dedicated to honoring Veterans, active duty Armed Forces personnel and their families throughout the community,” Wood said. The week long celebration runs from November 5 through November 11 of each year, is America’s biggest ‘Veterans Day’ tribute and features dozens of events dedicated to remembering, thanking and honoring those who have given so much for our Country. One of the major events will be, one of America’s longest running Veterans Day parades, the 81st “Branson Veterans Day Parade,” through historic downtown Branson starting at the 11th Hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

 

Some of the over 5 million Christmas Lights at Silver Dollar City's Old Time Christmas.

Some of the over 5 million Christmas Lights at Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas.

Ozark Mountain Christmas is the annual Branson wide celebration of the traditional “American Christmas,” with literally millions of Christmas lights, many colorfully decorated businesses and the true spirit of Christmas “honored” throughout the area. The center point of Ozark Mountain Christmas is Silver Dollar City’s An Old Time Christmas Festival. With over 5 million Christmas lights, the festival has been recognized nationally by “Yahoo Travel’s Top 10 Destinations for Holiday Lights,” “MSN’s Top 10 Extreme Holiday Lights” and will premiere a new light parade the “Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade” featuring “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer & Friends” this year.”

In addition to the Christmas lights on utility poles, many Branson businesses, including Branson Landing, with its large Christmas Tree, and other decorations, there are two drive through Christmas light displays, Branson Area Festival of Lights and the Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights filled with millions of colorful sparkling Christmas lights and beautiful Christmas displays.

As would be expected in a town noted for the quantity and quality of its live shows, a major component of Ozark Mountain Christmas are the Christmas Shows presented by most Branson shows. For many, the week of Nov. 5 – 11 is the first full week of these shows. In the majority, the Christmas shows are a blend of the best from their regular season show and Christmas which is generally performed during the second half of the show with each show celebrating Christmas in their own special way. Other shows such as the Andy Williams Christmas Show,” Christmas on the Trail or Christmas Wonderland and Christmas with the Hughes Brothers are totally Christmas shows.

Wood points out that although Veterans Home Coming will end on Nov. 11 the synergy and impetus of the week, coupled with the continued celebration of Ozark Mountain Christmas until Dec. 31, and everything else Branson offers makes Branson a wonderful place for families to start the celebration of their Christmas in a very special and memorable way.

Major route changes for 81st Branson Veterans Day Parade

Map of new route for the 2014  Branson Veterans Day Parade.

Map of new route for the 2014 Branson Veterans Day Parade.

“Although it’s a different route this year because of the Downtown Streetscape project in historic downtown Branson, a longstanding patriotic tradition will continue uninterrupted, when on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the ’81st Branson Veterans Day Parade starts,'” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. She points out that the new parade route will be moving in a counter clock-wise direction starting and ending at the south parking lot of the Branson Convention Center.

It will exit the convention center parking lot and turn south on Sycamore Street to intersection with Long Street where it will turn east, cross the railroad tracks and turn north onto Branson Landing Boulevard. The parade continues north on Branson Landing Boulevard, the entire length of Branson Landing, to the intersection of Commercial Street where it will turn onto Commercial Street. At the intersection of Commercial and Atlantic Streets it turns east for one block where it turns south on Sycamore Street to the south convention center parking lot where the parade ends near where it began.

Wood points out that traffic along the immediate parade route will be impacted from at least 9:00 a.m. until about 3:00 p.m. for set up, the parade and cleanup. She suggest allowing extra time to find parking and get a good spot to watch the parade. It should be pointed out that most of the better viewing areas, although on level ground themselves, are located “downhill” from the long and fairly level viewing area that was available on Commercial Street for past parades. One “level” combination would be to park in either the Bass Pro or Belk parking lot at Branson Landing and view the parade from Branson Landing Boulevard. It might involve a little walking, but it will, for the most part, be level.

Wood points out that the parade is just one of many special events and activities during America’s biggest Veterans Day tribute, “Branson Veterans Homecoming Week”, an annual event running from Nov. 5 through Nov. 11 that honors America’s Veterans, active duty personal and their families. Click here for a schedule of most major events and more information.

Traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial on display at Welk Resort

"Comrades In Arms" paying their respects.

“Comrades In Arms” paying their respects.

“For the 18th consecutive year, the ‘Traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial’ (Memorial) will be on display at the Welk Resort in Branson during Branson Veterans Home Coming Week” said Chris Cathcart, the Marketing Manager for the Welk Resort. “It has always been our privilege to honor our Veterans, active duty military personnel and their families who have sacrificed so much for us. Our long standing tradition of displaying the Memorial in Branson during ‘Branson Veterans Home Coming Week’ is one the ways we do that and say, ‘Thank you for your service,'” he added.

Cathcart went on to explain that when the organization from whom they had been renting the Memorial decided they wanted to sell it last year, the Welk Resort purchased it so that their tradition of displaying the Memorial in Branson and honoring those it represents would be insured for future years to come. It will be displayed at the resort on special patriotic occasions such as such as “Branson Veterans Home Coming Week.”

It is over 260 feet long, six feet tall and one half the size of the “Vietnam Veterans Memorial” on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It has the names over 58,000 servicemen who were either confirmed as Killed In Action (KIA) or were classified as Missing In Action (MIA) listed in chronological order. Although the names are listed on the Memorial in the chronological order of being declared KIA or MIA, a special locator book, sorting the names alphabetically by last name, will help visitors find a particular name on the Memorial.

The Memorial will be on display at the Welk Resort from Nov. 5 through Nov. 11 during the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The public is invited and encouraged to attend the official Opening Ceremony at the Welk Resort at 10:00 a.m. on Nov. 5.

Local volunteers will be reading the names inscribed on the Memorial out loud during the hours it is being displayed. Cathcart said that anyone desiring to volunteer to be a reader for a 30 minute period should call Jacque Cheary at 417-243-1202.

The display of the Memorial is just one of dozens of events honoring America’s Veterans, active duty personal and their families during America’s biggest ‘Veterans Day tribute, “Branson Veterans Homecoming Week”, an annual event running from Nov. 5 through Nov. 11 and featuring one of America’s longest running Veterans parades, the 81st “Branson Veterans Day Parade,” through historic downtown Branson starting at the 11th Hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Click here for a schedule of most major events and more information.

“Against All Odds” the Copper Coin serves Branson Shoppers

Susan Abar, author, artisan, entrepreneur and a living example of why "In God We Trust."

Susan Abar, author, artisan, entrepreneur and a living example of why “In God We Trust.”

That might seem like an odd headline, but along with “two pennies” and a trust in God, “Against All Odds” is not only the name of a book that Susan Abar wrote telling her remarkable story of courage, endurance and faith, but an accurate summary of what her chances were of living; let alone ever opening and operating a gift shop in historic downtown Branson or, for that matter, anywhere else. “The Copper Coin,” operated with her husband Ron, sells many gifts, but its spirit is based on our National Motto, “In God We Trust,” and the shop features a line of custom jewelry and other gift items incorporating a single copper penny into their design, delivering that message in an exclusive and beautiful way.

Perhaps the way I came across this story tells the message of why the Copper Coin is so special and helps make Branson the unique wonderful place it is, to not only live, but visit. I was talking with Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center, and she slid a key ring with a beautiful charm on it across her desk. The charm had a shiny cooper penny inlaid inside a rectangular case with an American Flag. She told me that two of her Group Mangers, Randi McCormick and Melissa McGowan, had received it from the owners of the “Copper Coin” while they were discussing the “2015 Branson.Com Honors Purple Heart Recipients” which will be held in Branson on April 23-25, 2015.

Wood pointed out that McCormick and McGowan were amazed to hear that the “Copper Coin,” which sells the key ring in their store, gives them away free to any Veteran who comes in and asks for one. As they talked with the owner and she shared her story of how the penny and “In God We Trust” became the focal point for her calling to design and market her exclusive jewelry line and gifts, they became even more amazed. When Wood told me the story, I decided that I just had to meet with this extraordinary woman, write a piece about what she and her husband were doing for Veterans and thank them.

The first day I went into the Copper Coin Susan and Ron were off, but when asked the lady that was there if it was true, that every Veteran who came into the store could get the patriotic “In God We Trust” key ring for free she said, “Yes, are you a Veteran?” I replied, “Yes” and with that she reached up on the wall, where the key rings were selling , took one down, handed it to me and, with a big smile on her face, said, “Thank you for your service.”

Two day later, when I went back into the shop to meet Susan and Ron, she was waiting on a customer. As I waited I saw that the book, “Against All Odds,” the story of “Two pennies, A Rainbow and a Woman Called Mercy” by Susan Abar was for sale in the shop. Initially I did not know that its author was the woman I was waiting to meet, but as I waited for her to finish chatting with the customer and ring up their order, I saw her autographing the book and kind of put two and two together.

When I got to meet her, she was kind enough to go with me to get a cup of coffee and chat. Although, I went to do the story about their gift to Veterans I would be remiss, it I did not point out that the gift started with a woman who, within about a six month period, lost her job, found out she had breast cancer, had a Mastectomy and then found out she also had Pancreatic Cancer. “Against All Odds,” she persevered  and, because of a surrender, two pennies, a rainbow and a woman named Mercy, became part of what most of us would call a miracle.

When I asked her about her gift to the Veterans she said, “We give them to our Veterans and Active Duty military personnel to show our appreciation for the sacrifices that they make for our country.” She pointed out, that from a personal perspective it honors the service of her father, husband and her son and daughter in law, both of whom are on active duty in the Army.

The “focal point” of the key ring, part of her exclusive line of jewelry, is the “charm” involving the penny, and the motto “In God We Trust,” which was designed by Susan. From the prepping of the penny and assembly to the application of the resin and its setup time, each piece, is processed by hand by Susan and her husband and takes about three hours to complete.

The Copper Coin is yet another example of unique variety that makes shopping in Branson such a wonderful experience. Open 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, it is located in Historic Downtown Branson at 109 N. Commercial St.

Behind the Curtain – Branson personalities share a Tony Orlando moment

Mickey Gilley and Tony Orlando sharing some memories at the event.

When Main Street Lake Cruises’ 100 foot luxury yacht the “Landing Princess” left her moorings at the Main Street Marina on the evening of November 10 it was on a special cruise to honor Tony Orlando and his service to Branson and Veterans. It was an evening filled with elegant dining, fellowship and memories of Tony’s 20 years in Branson.

While on the cruise, and exclusively for this “Behind the Curtain” article, various friends and associates of Tony were asked, “impromptu,” to share one moment in their association with Tony that stood out in their minds. The underlined portion following the bold type names is a summary of that moment followed by a more complete explanation:

Jack Herschend – He kissed me. I have lived here for 63 years and never have I met a man like Tony Orlando. The first time I met him he gave me a great big hug and kissed me on the cheek and you know, in the normal course of events, we men from the Ozarks don’t know how to deal with men kissing us on the cheek. He’s still kissing folks on the cheek and it comes from his heart. He is a heart driven guy, the most loving man I have ever known. (Co-owner of Silver Dollar City.)

Chris Cathcart – His graciousness. We were doing the “Santa and Me Show” which has a scene in it in Tony’s living room that involves a sofa that Tony and Santa sit on for a major part of the act. Between acts, somehow the sofa had not been placed on the stage. Tony comes down the stairs and Santa comes from the wings with neither realizing the couch wasn’t there until they went to sit down. Tony realizing that the couch wasn’t there said, “Well my couch used to be here.” We rushed around and got the couch out there and Tony used the situation to adlib a funny thing out of it and entertain the audience. After the show when he came off stage, I apologized to him because it was a mistake that could have ruined the flow of a major part of the show, but Tony, being the gracious man he is smiled and said”It’s fine, I never sweat the big stuff, it just happens, mistakes happen.” (Branson entertainer who performed with Tony.

Kathy Lennon – The first time we sang the “Christmas Song.” As we, the Lennon Sisters, sang the “Christmas Song” with Tony at the Welk Theatre for the first time we just looked at each other and there were tears in everyone’s eyes as a special instant bonding took place right there on the stage. We worked with him for three years and he was and is nothing but family to us.

Steve Presley – Tony’s first Veteran’s show. I went to the very first Veterans show Tony did at the Yellow Ribbon Theatre. What Tony has done for Branson and for the Veterans over the last 20 years has been amazing. (Founding member of Presleys’ Country Jubilee, the first show on the Branson strip.)

Larry Milton – He introduced me to the term “Visual Pollution.” During one of my first meetings with Tony he used the term “Visual Pollution” to describe how the billboards leading into Branson cover up the natural beauty of the Ozarks. (Co-owner of the Branson Tourism Center, Branson.Com and Main Street Lake Cruises with his wife Lianne.)

Ross Summers – His willingness to do whatever he could to help Branson. We do a show at the American Bus Association Convention to support a charity. About three years ago the charity was the “Yellow Ribbon Fund” and we thought it would be great if Tony could do the show. I went to Tony and before I could even tell him what we needed he said, “The answer is’ Yes,’ what can I do for you?” (CEO Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & CVB)

Mickey Gilley – He mesmerized me. The first time I saw him perform the “Santa and Me Show” I was memorized. (Country Super, star as he was departing the boat before departure to go do a show.)

Susan Smith – His ornate ability to make everyone the star. I have worked with him for many years and he has an unselfishness about him and a willingness to give others the credit and make them feel like they are the most special individuals in the world.

Although Tony will continue to live in Branson this will be his last year performing in Branson. Tony Orlando’s Great American Christmas show will be have its final performance in Branson on November 18.

 

Hat at auction reunites two Navy Veterans after 61 years

 

USS Taussig shipmates Waynolin Wood, left, and Darrell Mann are reunited during Branson's Veteran's Week after 61 years.

BRANSON, Mo., November 10, 2013 – Branson’s Veterans Week is a time for Veterans to relax, have fun, be honored and there might very well be hundreds of individuals being reunited with someone they haven’t seen in decades. It is highly unlikely however, that many such reunions will reunite two shipmates who served together for four years, have been separated for 61 years and are together this week as the result of a hat and a chance meeting at an auction.

When Eric Prey, a Vacation Planning Specialist for the Branson Tourism Center, first mentioned that one of his customers, Gene Gummersheimer, was coming to Branson with a small group of crewmembers that had served on the USS Taussig, he explained that among those crew members were two who had not seen each other in 61 years. Beyond the 61 years the story of how the reunion occurred defies all odds indicating that it was destiny’s plan for these old shipmates to meet again.

2nd Class Pipefitter Waynolin Wood and 3rd Class Engineman Darrell Mann served together aboard the USS Taussig DD 746, a destroyer with 20 Battle Stars, from 1948 until 1952 and two tours in Korean waters during the Korean War. In 1952 Wood left the Navy and Mann made the Navy his career serving for 20 years.

About three years ago, Gene Gummersheimer, who served aboard the Taussing ten years after Wood and Mann had left, was at an auction wearing a USS Taussig hat and a woman, Sandy Wood, came up and told him that her husband had also served on the Taussig. They exchanged contact information and Gummersheimer called Wood and sent him a roster with the contact information of the crew members that were still alive. Wood saw Mann’s name and the result, thanks to the efforts of Gummersheimer, was the reunion in Branson this week of Mann from Connecticut and Wood from Illinois after a 61 year separation.

There’s probably a lot that could be written, but the words of Wood himself seem especially appropriate when he said, “This has been one of the most enjoyable weeks of my life.”