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.”

George Dyer Show a Christmas gift extraordinaire

 

The incredible George Dyer.

BRANSON, Mo., November 8, 2013 – This writer was reminded again last week why he has described George Dyer as “Branson’s tenor extraordinaire as he again experienced the wonder, power and beauty of his voice and his interaction with his audience during the George Dyer Show. His voice is one of the most magnificent tenor voices I have ever heard, but when it is combined with one of the finest bands in Branson, his “mini introductions” of each number, the marvelous vocal talents of his family and his personal charisma the result is a unique and memorable entertainment experience simply not available anywhere else, in Branson or otherwise.

When most people hear the term “tenor singer” they think of opera. This show is anything but opera. Like many of Branson’s resident family shows, the first half of his Christmas show is the best of his regular season show and is a virtual cornucopia of music genres, including music from Broadway, Gershwin, Sinatra, Darin and Disney, to mention a few, with the second half being devoted to Christmas and not an “opera” number in the show.

Before getting to George Dyer himself, it should be noted that he is surrounded with talent starting with his family, his wife, Clarisse; daughters Kendra and Kassidy and sons Mitchell and Garrett. The vocal talent of this family is simply amazing both as individuals and as they sing together. Kendra’s performance of “Embraceable You;” Kendra, Mitchell and Garrett’s performance of “White Christmas,” with an instrumental surprise and Clarisse singing “I Cried the Day I Took Down the Christmas Tree” all illustrate that point.

And then there is the band consisting of Norman Bergen, Pianist/Conductor; Bogie Bohinc, Lead Guitar; Rob Wilson, Drums; Marcus Willet, Bass Guitar and Rickey Helms on the Keyboards. They are phenomenal in terms of their experience, talent and instrumentality making an already special show even more so.

The magnificent rich tenor voice of George Dyer is just a joy to hear as he covers a variety of music as only he can. His singing would be enough, but when combined with his personality, interaction with the audience and the unique way he introduces each number the end result is a wonderful and unique musical entertainment experience without equal. Although subjective, from many, Dyers solo performance of “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables” and the “The Impossible Dream” from the “Man of La Mancha” were this writers favorites.

Adding to the enjoyment of the shows music is his “charisma,” ability to relate to his audience and the short entertaining introductions he gives to each number. J.P. from Mobile Alabama, a first time Branson visitor, who was at the show said “I love it and was very impressed.” When asked what he liked best about the show he replied, “His vocal range and the different types of music he sings. I love the way he intros each of the songs.”

During the Christmas portion of the show George and his daughter sing a duet that is a wonderful inspirational message of the true meaning of Christmas. It combines Kendra’s performance “Breath of Heaven” with George’s performance of “Mary Did You Know” into one of the most beautiful and touching Christmas performances that most will ever hear.

Right after his opening number, George shares his hope with the audience that after seeing his show, “They will be entertained and inspired.” That is a self-fulfilling prophecy for those who love a magnificent tenor voice singing music that is timeless in its ability to entertain and inspire. From beginning to end this is a special entertainment experience that should not be missed.

Please feel free to contact the contact Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services for additional information on the George Dyer Show or for information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

 

 

Material Connection

 

An Old Time Christmas – centerpiece of Ozark Mountain Christmas

The iconic City Square with its five story Christmas Tree and the "Gifts of Christmas Holiday of Lights" parade passing through.

BRANSON, Mo., November 1, 2013 – “It’s certainly no understatement to point out that Silver Dollar City’s spectacular An Old Time Christmas Festival is the centerpiece of the Branson area wide celebration of Ozark Mountain Christmas,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “Running from November 2 through December 30, it has been recognized nationally as one of the Nation’s best Christmas celebrations by The Travel Channel, Good Morning America, USA Today and many others.”

 

The award winning 1880s styled theme park turns into a glittering winter wonderland amid no less than 5 million sparkling lights and 1,000 decorated Christmas trees throughout the park. Of those, 1 million decorate the streets and cover the “40-foot-tall trees on the Town Square as part of the spectacular light & sound show, Christmas on Main Street.” This show features the 5 -Story Special Effects Christmas Tree, with 350,000 energy-saving lights synchronized with music and to the lights decorating buildings around the square, down to one-hundredth of a second which can result in a phenomenal 6,000 light changes per minute. When the twice nightly 100,000 light Gifts of Christmas Holiday Light Parade with 18 costumed characters and eight lighted musical floats is added the result is a unique and beautiful experience that will provide Christmas memories for a lifetime.

Scene from Dickens "Christmas Carol."

An Old Time Christmas also features a number of unique, exciting and entertaining shows. These include an original Silver Dollar musical production of It’s a Wonderful Life, adapted from the inspirational Frank Capra Christmas classic; the “acclaimed Broadway-style production A Dickens’ Christmas Carol, an original musical adaptation of the famous classic by Charles Dickens, with elaborate sets and visual effects, flying spirits, vanishing ghosts, revolving scenery and pyrotechnic special effects; the interactive musical show Frosty where kids help bring the legendary snowman to life, a musical Living Nativity, and the comedy Frontier Fa-la-la Follies’ in the Silver Dollar Saloon.”

Branson Tourism Center’s Johnson points out that, as is the case with all of Silver Dollar City’s world class festivals, the special events, shows and activities associated with An Old Time Christmas are in addition to everything else the award winning theme park offers. This includes craft demonstrations; some of the most unique shopping available anywhere in Branson; a full selection of “holiday food from a Prime Rib Buffet to a traditional turkey & dressing feast and making your own S’Mores, Apple Dumplings and Hot Wassail” and, weather permitting, rides including its new world class wood coaster Outlaw Run, named Best New Ride of 2013. Always thrilling, riding them after dark provides a special unique experience especially with millions of lights sparkling below.

Johnson reminds potential Branson visitors that Christmas is the busiest time of the year in Branson and suggests advance reservations for shows and lodging. She also points out that when you purchase your Silver Dollar City Ticket through Branson Tourism Center you get two days admission to the park for the price of one day. For additional information on either Ozark Mountain Christmas or Silver Dollar City’s An Ole Time Christmas. Please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), through their toll free number, 1-800-785-1500 from 7 AM to 9 PM every day of the year, except Christmas Day, to talk with one of their trained, Branson Based, Vacation Travel Planners.

 

Tony Orlando’s Final Branson Christmas Season

Tony Orlando in dressing room during a 2010 interview celebrating his 50th year of performing.

BRANSON, Mo., October 28, 2013 – “This is a last chance for Branson visitors to see Tony Orlando perform his inspiring Christmas show, The Great American Christmas in Branson,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services. “His limited engagement Branson performances of the show from November 5 through November 28 will conclude 20 years of performing the show in Branson as Tony has announced he will be taking the show on the road starting in 2014,” she continued.

“Tony will sing all of your holiday favorites and will also include his greatest hits from over 50 years in show business; ‘Candida’, ‘Knock Three Times’, ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon’, ‘Sweet Gypsy Rose’ and more. Then, Santa pays a visit and Tony and Santa honor the true meaning of Christmas. It’s a Branson must see and a perennial family favorite!”

In announcing his final Branson Christmas season He said, “Branson is my home and I love being part of the community. After 20 years, I just feel it is time to take The Great American Christmas Show out to America.” In addition he “will continue his touring schedule with appearances at Performing Arts Centers and Casinos throughout the USA and Canada.” Dathan Atchison, General Manager of Welk Resort Branson said, “We are so excited and proud to have had such a legendary entertainer in our theatre for Christmas. There is no one like Tony!”

“In 1973, he recorded “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Ole Oak Tree.” The song was number one for the year, became Orlando’s theme song and grew into an American anthem of hope and homecoming, reunion and renewal. November 11th at 2pm, Tony will also host his 20th Yellow Ribbon Salute To Veterans, a star studded salute, free to all military past and present.”

For additional information on Tony Orlando’s The Great American Christmas or for information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com .

$1.7 Million Heart-Pounding KaPau Plummet White Water’s biggest thrill ever

KAPAU, when the "Aqua Launch" trap door opens riders plummet into the thrills of White Water's most thrilling ride ever.

BRANSON, Mo., October 28, 2013 – ” KAPAU,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “With the addition of the $1.7 million ‘KaPau Plummet’ for 2014, White Water, an already exciting and adventure filled water park experience, gets more thrilling. That’s one of the things that makes Branson such a special place to visit and revisit, its shows and attractions are always evolving looking for new ways to give its visitors something fresh, exciting and thrilling.”

“When designers and developers with Silver Dollar City Attractions set out to create a new 2014 ride for White Water, there was one mandate:  The new ride must be The Biggest Thrill in White Water History. The concept began with the idea of a heart-pounding, drop-floor plunge.  Now in initial stages of construction, the $1.7 million KaPau Plummet will open in Spring 2014 with two 240-foot slides, each launching riders from a drop-floor into a 70-degree plunge followed by a spiraling loop, promising to far exceed the thrill factor of any water ride ever built at the 13-acre tropically-themed water park located in Branson, Missouri.

“Those brave enough to dare the drop will experience a heart-pumping, breathtaking thrill that begins at the top of a 40-foot tower.  Two encapsulated slides are the starting points for loading brave riders into a launch capsule.  Once inside, the countdown begins: 3…2…1 KAPAU!  The bottom of each slide drops out, creating a rider free fall at 70 degrees, speeding at 26 feet per second into a looping 240-foot translucent waterslide before final splashdown.  Spectators will be able to see the riders take the rocket-like plunge and their spirals through the loops.

“‘The AquaLaunch trap door builds anticipation for an incredible drop below,” said Cory Roebuck, White Water Director of Operations, who explains “‘kapau’ is a slang U.S. surfer term meaning ‘the next big wave or the next big thing’ [and is] pronounced ‘KA-POW.’  Never before has White Water had such a thrilling ride.  KaPau Plummet will literally take your breath away in an awesome plunge.”

Ozark Mountain Christmas – Branson’s unique traditional American Christmas celebration

Silver Dollar City's "City Square" with its five story special effects Christmas Tree and the "Gifts of Christmas Holiday of Lights" parade passing through.

BRANSON, Mo., October 27, 2013 When Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center, was first asked, “What exactly is ‘Ozark Mountain Christmas?” she said, “It’s not just one thing. It is a unique Branson wide celebration of the true spirit of a traditional American Christmas that has been celebrated for over two decades.”

From its live Christmas Shows to drive through Christmas lighting displays with millions of lights, Santa, Fantasy Princess, decorations, all sorts of shopping Branson is aglow with the festive look and feel of the season and everything one would expect from a world class holiday celebration. If that was all however, Ozark Mountain Christmas would be just another politically correct “holiday,” but that’s not all!

Ozark Mountain Christmas is the celebration of the traditional American Christmas filled with the spirit and message of the true meaning of Christmas as it has been traditionally celebrated. Its roots go back to a community celebration dating back 65 years as its 65th Annual Adoration Parade, and Nativity Scene Lighting, dedicated to “Keeping Christ in Christmas,” is held on Sunday December 8 in Historic Downtown Branson.

While appreciating and respecting those who celebrate other holidays associated with that time of the year such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and others, Ozark Mountain Christmas, is unique in that it is one of the few open and public community celebrations for those who celebrate the traditional American Christmas and the reason for the season. Each year, between November 1 and December 31 hundreds of thousands come to Branson for this special celebration and to experience Ozark Mountain Christmas and all that it has to offer.

Silver Dollar City’s world class festival, An Old Time Christmas, running from November 2 through December 30, is a major focal point of Ozark Mountain Christmas and is constantly recognized as one of the nation’s top theme park Christmas celebrations. The 1880s-style theme park is transformed into a glowing Christmas spectacular with a twice nightly 100,000 light “Gifts of Christmas Holiday Light Parade; over four million sparkling lights throughout the park; one-of-a-kind handmade gifts made and showcased by Silver Dollar City’s 100 demonstrating craftsmen; foods of the season and special shows including the Broadway style production of an original musical adaptation of “A Dickens’ Christmas Carol,” produced by Silver Dollar City; “The Living Nativity” and a special production of “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

The Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights and the Branson Area Festival of Lights are the two major drive through lighting displays. The Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights is a two and a half mile journey through hundreds of gorgeous displays, millions of Christmas lights, holiday music, and animated scenes most of which have been integrated into the natural terrain of the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead. It is one of the most unique and memorable drive through lighting experiences anywhere and also includes a trip to the top of Inspiration Tower where guests can ride glass elevators 230 feet up for a ‘Santa’s eye view’ of the lights from one or the highest points in southwest Missouri. The Branson Area Festival of Lights is a one mile trip through more than 175 sparkling lighting displays, many of which are animated. It is conveniently located a few blocks off the heart of the Branson Strip.

One of the many spectacular scenes from Sight and Sounds "Miracle of Christmas."

As would be expected in the place that many call the “Live music show capital of the world” there is a wide selection of Christmas Shows that are only available during Ozark Mountain Christmas. Some such as Miracle of Christmas; Hughes Brothers Christmas Show, Christmas in Hollywood, The Andy Williams Christmas Show starring the Osmonds and the Lennon Sisters; The Toy Shoppe, Tony Orlando’s Great American Christmas and many others are totally Christmas shows. Most of Branson’s regular season shows also have Christmas shows which include a mixture of their regular season show and a major Christmas segment, usually during the second half of the show. Each is unique and special. This includes some of Branson’s most popular shows such as Clay Cooper’s Country Express; Duttons; George Dyer; Hamner and Barber Variety Show; Haygoods; Legends in Concert; Mickey Gilley; Pierce Arrow; Presleys’ Country Jubilee; Rankin Brothers; Shoji Tabuchi; SIX and many more. Click here for a complete list of Branson Shows or call the Branson Tourism Center at 1-800-785-1550 for information about any Branson show.

Many of Branson’s attractions have special activities for Ozark Mountain Christmas. A partial list includes the Titanic Museum‘s with its Fantasy Princess starting Thanksgiving weekend,, Ride the Ducks Land and Lighting Tour With Splash’s Winter Wonderland and White Flight at the Butterfly Palace and Rainforest.

Branson’s shopping is legendary and the Christmas shopping during Ozark Mountain Christmas is no exception. From the shops at Branson Landing on the shores of Lake Taneycomo to handcrafted items by the craftsmen and artists at Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas, three outlet malls and specialty shops for just about every interest, Branson is a Christmas shopper’s paradise.

Branson Tourism Center’s Johnson suggests that Ozark Mountain Christmas is a wonderful way for locals and visitors alike to get into the true Christmas spirit, reminds everyone that it is one of the busiest times of the year in Branson and advises advance reservations for shows and lodging.

For additional information on Ozark Mountain Christmas please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling their toll free number, 1-800-785-1550.

Titanic Violin sells at auction for $1.45 million

Shoji Tabuchi viewing the Titanic Violin while it was on display in Branson.

BRANSON, Mo., October 21, 2013 – The “Titanic Violin,” which was on display at the Branson Titanic Museum Attraction during the month of August and believed to the long lost violin that Titanic’s bandmaster, Wallace Hartley played as the R.M.S. Titanic sank during the early morning hours of April 15, 1912 after hitting an iceberg, was sold at auction on Oct. 19 for $1.45 million. The amount is a record setting price for a piece of Titanic memorabilia, easily eclipsing its nearest “competitor,” an actual plan of the Titanic used at the admiralty hearings on the sinking in 1912, by a multiple of more than four.

Although there were many skeptics as to the authenticity when its discovery was originally made public in 2006 years of testing and authenticating seems to have carried the day. While the violin was on display at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson, Craig Sopin, one of the largest private collectors of Titanic artifacts and memorabilia, who was initially one of the violins biggest skeptics was asked if he believed the violin was authentic. He replied, “I am absolutely convinced.” He said that he changed his mind based on his own investigation, the extensive physical testing that has been done on the violin and case and provenance evidence tracing the violin back to the Titanic.

The auction was held at Henry Aldridge and Son in Wiltshire, England who are specialists in auctioning Titanic memorabilia. Prior to the auction it was estimated that the violin would sell in the $322,000 to $488,000 range, but according to reports, after starting out at about $80,000 the bidding quickly rose to the point where, at the end, there were only two telephone bidders going head to head. The name of the victorious bidder was not announced.

In announcing the exclusive United States hosting of the Titanic Violin earlier this year Mary Kellogg, the co-owner of the Titanic Museum Attractions, said “We are so honored that, out of all the places in the United States, our Titanic Museum Attractions in Pigeon Forge and Branson were picked to host this violin and the opportunity to share this historic icon with our guests.” “How fortunate is Branson to have an attraction like the Titanic Museum Attraction with the reputation and ability to provide Branson visitors with the opportunity to get to see such an historic, iconic and valuable piece of history,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center.

Branson hosts America’s biggest “Veterans Day” celebration

Branson's Veterans Memorial Garden is just one of the many ways Veterans are honored in Branson on a daily basis.

BRANSON, Mo., October 17, 2013 – “Inherent to the Branson Spirit of God, Family and Country is patriotism and the honoring of Veterans, active duty Armed Forces personnel and their families,” said Tammy Johnson the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “Veterans and active duty Military Armed Forces personnel are honored on a daily basis, but even by Branson standards ‘Branson’s Veterans Homecoming Week’ is special.’”

She points out that it is the nation’s biggest “Veterans Day” celebration running from November 5th through November 11th each year and features a variety of events and activities honoring Veterans and their service. These events encompass everything from reunions, special shows such as Tony Orlando’s “Yellow Ribbon Salute to Veterans,” to one of the longest running Veterans Day Parades in America as the “80th Annual Veterans Day Parade” taking place in Historic Downtown Branson at the 11th Hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

The following list of scheduled events, although subject to change, is current as of October 16, 2013, does not include a myriad of specials and other things that local businesses, shows and attractions are doing, and are sorted by date and time:

November 5

1400 – 1630 Official Opening Ceremony and Welcome to Branson’s Veterans Homecoming Week at Clay Cooper Theatre

0900 – 1530 Registration & Souvenir Commemorative Collectors Button Sales at Branson Mill Craft Village

0900 – 1530 “Remembering Our Fallen” The photo display, which includes photos of each Armed Forces Missourian who has fallen in the war against terrorism.

2000 “Special Salute to Veterans,” Showboat Branson Belle

November 6

1230 – 1430 Veterans Spouses Luncheon, Radisson Hotel, RSVP required call 417-230-1178

1400 Special Showing of “Four-star Country Boy,” Keeter Center Royal Oak Forum, College of the Ozarks, 417-690-2212. A play based on the life of former Assistant Commandant of the United States Marine Corps General Terrence R. Dake as conveyed by the book “The Four Generals of Hard Work U,” by Jerry C. Davis.

1500 – 1700 “Vietnam Veterans Thank You, Reception” with light Hors d’oeuvres, The Keeter Center, College of the Ozarks, 417-690-2212

November 7

0820 – 1130 Persian Gulf War Veterans Mini Reunion hosted by VVA Chapter 913, Branson, MO at the Golden Corral, 417-230-2278.

1200 – 1700 Vietnam Veterans Mini Reunion, Camden Hotel & Conference Center, 417-230-2278

November 8

0800 2nd Annual Navy Memorial Service, Main Street Lake Cruises Branson Landing, 877-382-6287. Brief welcome at the dock or inside in case if inclement weather, followed by a short cruise and wreath ceremony honoring those departed members of the U. S. Naval Services for their service. After the boat returns to the dock there will be refreshments and fellowship.

0900 Wal-Mart Tribute to Veterans, Wal-Mart Supercenter in Branson Hills, 417-230-2278

1130 – 1330 Gold Star and Blue Star Mothers Luncheon, Landry’s Seafood Restaurant, Fran Davis 417-272-0630

1200 – 1500 Korea War Veterans Mini Reunion, Stone Castle Inn – 3050 Green Mountain Dr. 417-230-2278

1400 Tree Dedication at Veterans Grove, Alumni Center Lawn, College of the Ozarks, 417-690-2212

1500 – 1700 WWII Mini-Reunion, The Keeter Center, College of the Ozarks, 417-690-2212

1400 – 1900 4th ID Hospitality Room, Savannah House, 165 Expressway, 902-684-0147

1500 – 1930 Women Veterans Mini Reunion , Golden Corral with social hour, meal and show. Must RSVP 417-230-2278.

November 9

1200 – 1500 Korea War Veterans Mini Reunion, Stone Castle Inn – 3050 Green Mountain Dr. 417-230-2278

1900 U.S. Submarine Veterans Base Candlelight Ceremony, 918-786-8851 hosted by members of the Topeka-Jefferson City U.S. Submarine Veterans Base.

November 11

0700 Flag Raising/Wreath Laying Ceremony, Main Campus Flag Pole, Chapel Lawn, College of the Ozarks, 417-690-2212

1100 80th Annual Veterans Day Parade, Historic Downtown Branson

1400 Tony Orlando’s “Yellow Ribbon Salute to Veterans”, Welk Theatre, 417-337-7469 This will be Tony’s 20th and final year of presenting this annual free show to Veterans in Branson. Reservations may be made by calling 417-337-7469.

1900 Patriotic Convocation Jones Auditorium in the Nettie Marie Jones Learning Center, College of the Ozarks, 417-690-2212.

For additional information on “Branson’s Veterans Homecoming Week,” any of Branson’s shows, attractions or for lodging arrangements please feel free to  call the Branson Tourism Center at 1-800-785-1550 or through their website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Tessa Kate a “hidden” Branson gem

Singer songwriter Tessa Kate performing at Main Street Marina's Paddlewheel.

BRANSON, Mo., October 15, 2013 – Even after having lived in Branson for over 27 years the amount of musical talent in this little town still amazes me. Most will recognize the primary stars in Branson’s shows, but there is hidden talent all over Branson performing other jobs and doing other things waiting for opportunity to knock. It might be your server, a nurse, a high school class mate or, as is the subject of this article, the person selling you a ticket to a Branson attraction such as a sightseeing or dinner cruise aboard one of Main Street Lakes Cruises‘ boats, the river boat replica Lake Queen or the 100 foot luxury yacht Landing Princess.

Some of this talent performs in Branson shows, some want to be in Branson shows and others like singer songwriter Tessa Kate, an “Office Lead” at Main Street Lake Cruises “by day” and a singer songwriter “by night” just want to perfect their craft in a non-show environment, perform somewhere, be themselves and be in a position to take advantage of any career boosting opportunity that presents itself.

During a recent interview, just prior to starting her one person gig at Main Street Marina’s Paddlewheel, a unique floating restaurant and pub just off the Branson Landing Boardwalk, Tessa pointed out that her mother said, “I started singing to the beat of a washing machine before I could talk.” When asked what the primary inspiration was that caused her to develop her talent she said, “Can’t say that I ever developed it. I’ve always loved to sing and don’t remember ever not singing.” She learned to play the guitar when she was about 14 because her dad, although not professionally, played the guitar and sang her whole life and she wanted to learn to play the guitar so she could play with him.

Born in a log cabin in Western Grove, Arkansas in 1988 Tessa has been singing in church and talent shows since she was seven years old, has never worked as a full time professional singer and has always had a “full time” time “day” job, singing and writing songs on a part time basis. She started performing professionally about seven years ago at a coffee shop in Harrison, Arkansas singing songs that she had written and has performed various gigs since then, some with bands and some solo using a mixture of “cover songs” and her own songs.

As an “Office Lead” for Main Street Cruise Lines Tessa sells tickets, helps with customer service and substitutes as a crew member on the boats when needed. When asked how she got the gig at The Paddlewheel she said, “After opening The Paddlewheel here at Main Street Marina they said they wanted to have music entertainment at night so I threw myself out there and told them that I play and sing. Even though the owners and management of Main Street Marina and The Paddlewheel are the same and she knew them she said, “My audition for them was the scariest ‘show’ I ever did. I’d rather play for a hundred people than one on one for someone that I know.”

Obviously, the audition went well because, shortly after our interview she began her performance at The Paddlewheel where she is scheduled to perform for three hours each Thursday evening and for special events. As I sat there and listened to this very special young lady sing the John Denver classic, “Leaving On A Jet Plane” and reflected on our interview I thought, “What a beautiful voice and sweet spirit. She’s the real deal and when ‘opportunity’ comes knocking at her door she’s going to open the door and embrace it.”