Age 30 or not, who wouldn’t enjoy seeing one of these Branson shows?

“Branson is noted worldwide for the quality, quantity, and variety of the live entertainment it offers,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services and sellers of over four million Branson show and attraction tickets. “With almost 100 live shows available during the season, there is a show for just about every age and budget,” she added.

BTC has tens of thousands of Branson fans participating in their social media channels including its Facebook page. From time to time, we go to that resource with questions that we believe would be of interest not only to them, but to potential Branson visitors. Recently we asked the question, “If a good friend or close relative, age 30, was coming to Branson, what one show would you tell them not to miss?”

As would be expected, with hundreds of responses, there was a wide variety of shows listed. The top five most chosen are listed below, in alphabetical order, along with a description and link to where you can get more detailed information on the show’s content, schedules, pricing, and, in most cases, videos and pictures:

Clay Cooper’s Country Express has everything you want in a great Branson show! With 24 veteran entertainers, there’s a variety of singing, dancing, comedy, and music. Backed by a live, 7 piece band, you’ll hear country and pop hits from the likes of George Jones, Hunter Hayes, the Doobie Brothers, and Bruno Mars!

Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede will take your family on a wild ride! Dixie features their world famous racing ostriches, 32 horses in some amazing equestrian feats, a stampede of buffalo, the Rumble in the Treetops lumberjack relay, and friendly competition all wrapped up in a fabulous four-course feast!

The Haygoods is an amazing Branson experience! Excellent choreography, exquisite harmonies, state-of-the art sound and special effects, a delightful sense of humor, and energy that never quits, you get it all in one show from one phenomenal family! It’s easy to see why “The Haygoods” pack the house night after night!

Presleys’ Country Jubilee continues to be a mainstay on the list of Branson experiences you can’t miss! Long before anyone ever heard of Branson, Missouri, the Presley family had people from across the country lined up every night to hear the type of country music and comedy that eventually made Branson a household name.

SIX is Branson’s sensational sibling singing group that quite simply defines the art of performing music without instruments! Sensational harmonizing, polished professionalism, zany on-stage antics…it’s the most talented half dozen guys you’ll ever meet! They’ll charm you right from the opening note!

Wood points out that it’s interesting to note that the vast majority of these shows, along with many more that were mentioned, are found on the Branson Tourism Center’s List of Most Popular and Highly Recommended Shows.

Mother Nature’s amazing Ozark’s Fall Foliage Show premiering soon in Branson

The first blush of the color to come spreads across a scenic Ozark vista.

The first blush of the color to come spreads across a scenic Ozarks vista.

For a limited time, Branson’s shows won’t be the only live entertainment in Branson! From the first tint of color, until the last leaf falls, the fall foliage of the Ozark Mountains provide one of Mother Nature’s most amazing and beautiful shows. If the past is any indication, and everything keeps on going like it’s been going, visitors to Branson can expect a spectacular fall foliage show this year!

Frances Main, a Forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said that the moisture this summer, all the good leaves on the trees, and the weather thus far portends a good foliage season that should peak during about the second week in October. She points out that it’s the cool nights followed by bright sunny days that really help bring out the brilliant colors; it starts in mid-September when species such as Walnut and Hickory start changing and really coloring up; the Oaks, Maples, Persimmon, and other trees and bushes start to change shortly thereafter. Click here for more information on “Why Leaves Change Color” from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

“It will be a magnificent, one-of-a-kind sight to behold,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center.  “One of our most asked questions is, ‘What’s the best way to see the foliage?'” Wood says that one of the neat things about the fall foliage in the Branson area is that there really is no one best way to see it because just about everywhere one turns they will be surrounded by its vibrant, colorful beauty.

That said, however, Wood points out that it’s hard to top the magnificent view of the Ozark’s foliage from the lofty heights of the 230-foot-tall Inspiration Tower. Located on top of Inspiration Point at the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead, one of the highest points in southwest Missouri, it provides a unique and unparalleled panoramic view of the Ozarks’ countryside. Glass elevators transport guests up to the enclosed observation deck from which, on a clear day, they can see over 90 miles covering hundreds of square miles that presents a spectacular view of the fall foliage not available anywhere else.

There are a number of “Scenic Lookouts” that provide a superb panoramic view of the Ozark’s fall foliage. These include the Lookouts on State Route 165, about a mile south of its intersection with State Route 265, the Table Rock Dam Overlook, located on the south end of Table Rock Dam across the road from the Visitors Center, and the Henning Conservation Area Lookout, located about a mile west of the junction of State Route 76 and State Route 376 on the north side of the road.

Another excellent panoramic view of Branson’s beautiful fall colors is provided at “Point Lookout” on the campus of the College of the Ozarks. Located on top of a bluff overlooking Lake Taneycomo, it provides a unique view of Branson’s fall foliage not available anywhere else. With the lake as a backdrop, it’s simply breathtaking. While at the college, you might want to eat at the Keeter Center, visit the Edwards Grist Mill, or enjoy the Ralph Foster Museum, commonly referred to as the “Smithsonian of the Ozarks.”

Branson Tourism Center’s Wood also suggests two other ways to enjoy the fall colors in Branson: from the vintage dome cars of the Branson Scenic Railway, and from the deck of the Showboat Branson Belle on Table Rock Lake. They both provide unique panoramic views of Branson’s fall foliage.

Seven amazing reasons why you and your family should plan to be in Branson for Labor Day Weekend

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

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

“One of the great things about Branson is that there are so many amazing ways to be entertained and have fun,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “The summer months, through Labor Day, provide the greatest access to all of Branson’s water-related activities, and they will all be in full splash mode over the Labor Day Weekend for families to enjoy,” she adds.

Wood points out that this list is focused on those activities that families might want to enjoy together, are best enjoyed in warmer weather, or close right after Labor Day:

1. A sightseeing Cruise on Main Street Lake Cruises’ Lake Queen: Relax with the family aboard an authentically replicated paddlewheel boat! While many destinations offer cruises, none offer the blend of boarding at a modern shopping attraction like Branson Landing, where you can witness a $7.5 million dollar spectacular water attraction! From bald eagles and other birds and wildlife abounding on Lake Taneycomo’s shoreline, to amazing natural bluffs formed over many centuries, to the spectacular majesty of Ozarks’ vistas, this 1.5 hour cruise is a unique experience not yet enjoyed by the vast majority of the millions of visitors who come to Branson each year. Produced primarily by Mother Nature, it’s one of Branson’s most extraordinary shows and will provide you and your family with memories to cherish forever. The Lake Queen offers a full set of modern amenities, is fully handicap-accessible, has full-sized modern restrooms, has a full bar and snack food service, and features a fully enclosed environmentally conditioned lower deck, as well as an open air upper deck. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this unique adventure! The final 2015 season cruises on the Lake Queen will be on September 7.

White Water's iconic 7-story multiple slide "Kalani Towers."

White Water’s iconic 7-story multiple slide “Kalani Towers.”

2. White Water: Branson’s “White Water” douses you with two million gallons of rides and attractions that range from the relaxing Aloha River, to the riveting Kapau Plummet, and the exciting Kalani Towers! Discover tons for the little ones to do, like Splashaway Cay and Coconut Cove, and attractions for the whole family, like the Surf’s Up Wave Pool. White Water’s last day of operation for the 2015 season is September 7.

3.The Track Family Fun Parks: Operating four unique parks and a large selection of go-kart tracks around Branson, the Track Family Fun Parks offer a wide variety of fun for every member of the family. You’ll find bumper boats/cars, batting cages, laser tag, mini-golf, arcades, and the incredible Skycoaster, a 100-foot-tall super swing that combines the elements of skydiving and hang-gliding. The Track Parks are also a go-kart lover’s paradise! In addition to the traditional go-kart tracks, you’ll find the steel and concrete, 1,200 foot, four-story-tall “Heavy Metal High Rise;” the four-story spiral climb of the “Wild Woody;” and the spirals and blind peak of the “Lumber Jack!”

4. Showboat Branson Belle: The Showboat Branson Belle is a full size replica of the old time river showboats; it combines a cruise on beautiful Table Rock Lake with a delightful meal and a show to create an unforgettable experience. While cruising, you’ll enjoy music, magic, dancing, comedy, a delicious meal, and a view of Ozark vistas and scenery that can only be seen and appreciated from this unique vantage point on the lake.

5. Silver Dollar City: When it comes to phenomenal, world-class theme parks, it doesn’t get any better than Branson’s biggest attraction, Silver Dollar City! Live music, thrilling rides, demonstrating craftsmen, food, shopping, amusements for all ages, seasonal and themed festivals and events, the all-new Fireman’s Landing, and even more awaits you and your family! Although, it remains open until Christmas, from a weather perspective, the Labor Day weekend will provide an excellent chance to enjoy its rides, especially its water-related rides. In addition to everything else the park offers, it will be celebrating “A Southern Gospel Picnic” over the Labor Day Weekend.

6. National Tiger Sanctuary: Branson’s “National Tiger Sanctuary” is an excellent educational and entertainment experience for young and old alike! You’ll be awed by the size, strength, and agility of many of the Sanctuary’s wild creatures. You’ll also be amused at their playful antics, and touched deeply by the stories of how many came to live in this magnificent haven in the Ozarks.

7. Ride the Ducks: This extremely popular attraction is a boatload of fun for the whole family aboard a WW II style amphibious DUKW, a.k.a. “The Duck.” During the 60 to 70 minute adventure, you will enjoy a tour narrated by a U.S. Coast Guard licensed Captain, who is every bit as good at entertaining as they are at being a driver and captain. You’ll especially enjoy the big Splashdown into either Table Rock Lake or Lake Taneycomo. After the Splashdown, there is an opportunity for the kids to drive the Duck in the water. The area covered by the tour and the lake of the Splashdown depends on whether you board Ride The Ducks at Branson Landing or their Highway 76 location. The final 2015 season Ride the Duck trips from Branson Landing  will be on September 7. The Highway 76 Ride The Ducks will remain in operation through November 29.

BTC’s Wood suggests that potential visitors to Branson over the Labor Day Weekend make advance show and lodging reservations to ensure the best choice of show seating and lodging accommodations. Just one phone call to 1-800-785-1550 takes care of it all, and will put you in touch with one of the Branson-based Travel Planning Specialists at Branson Tourism Center. They’ll be delighted to answer questions, explain how you can save money by “packaging” lodging and shows, take care of reservations and ticketing, or assist you in any way they can to help you plan a great Branson trip for you and your family.

 

If you were going to pick a comedy trifecta in a Branson show wouldn’t it have to include Presleys’ Country Jubilee?

Branson's comedy show trifecta Jay Wickizer, left, Cecil, and Herkimer.

Branson’s comedy show trifecta Jay Wickizer, left, Cecil, and Herkimer.

Branson’s nearly 100 shows offer a variety of live entertainment that would be the envy of any major tourist destination. That variety includes spectacular productions such as Jonah or Million Dollar Quartet; music shows covering every genre of music including rock n’ roll, country, gospel, and just about everything else in-between, including magic shows, comedy, and much more.

Although known primarily for its music shows, a major element of Branson entertainment industry, from its very first show, the Baldknobbers Jamboree, has been comedy. The paradigm of music, with comedy routines strategically worked in throughout the show, is a Branson staple that has been entertaining Branson visitors for over 55 years. It is used by some of Branson’s most popular shows including Billy Dean With Jarrett, Clay Cooper’s Country Express, Comedy Jamboree, Grand Jubilee, Paul Harris and the Cleverlys, Presleys’ Country Jubilee, and others. With all the great comedians performing in these and other Branson shows, coupled with the variety of the comedy they offer, it would be virtually impossible to pick a winning trifecta of Branson comedy shows. The comedian(s) in every one of them will have you laughing throughout the show!

In terms of a comedy trifecta in a Branson show, who would bet against comedians Gary and Eric Presley, assisted by their straight man, Jay Wickizer? Ever since the Presleys opened Presleys’ Country Jubilee on the Branson strip in 1967, the multi-talented Gary Presley, a.k.a. “Herkimer,” has been bringing laughter to Branson audiences with his uniquely humorous jokes and comedy antics. That tradition has continued to grow exponentially with the addition of his son Eric, a.k.a. “Cecil,” and straight man extraordinaire Jay Wickizer. The show’s comedy offers a one of kind blend of one-liners, action and skits that keeps the audience, kids and adults alike, laughing and wondering what’s coming next.

From Herkimer’s signature hillbilly garb, Ozarks logic, and comedy, to the complex simplicity of Cecil’s interaction with both Herkimer and Jay, this is one funny trio. They add hilarious comedy to one of the best vocal and instrumental shows in Branson, at just the right time. While some might question the use of the word “trifecta” in this instance, to this writer, the uproariously funny and distinctive comedy of Herkimer, Cecil, and Jay in Presleys’ Country Jubilee, is a trifecta of outstanding, hilarious comedy unlike any other in Branson!

For additional information or tickets for Presleys’ Country Jubilee, or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550 or by visiting its website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

Is the heat of summer the ideal time to plan your visit to see Ozark Mountain Christmas?

Silver Dollar City's acclaimed dazzling 5-story special effects Christmas Tree.

Silver Dollar City’s dazzling 5-story special effects Christmas Tree.

“Yes! Why do we recommend planning for Branson’s Ozark Mountain Christmas, an annual event that runs from November 1 through December 31, in the 90-degree-plus temperatures of summer?” asked Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services. “The simple answer is that Ozark Mountain Christmas is easily the most colorful, exciting, inspirational, and busiest time of the year in Branson,” she added.

Wood points out that its overwhelming popularity creates a high demand, not only for the availability of the more popular shows and lodging establishments, but in getting the best choices in show seating and lodging accommodations. “For the best availability, and to save money on the ‘hottest’ deals, planning your trip to Branson’s Ozark Mountain Christmas in the heat of summer might just be the ‘cool’ thing to do,” Wood advises.

A major attraction of Branson’s Ozark Mountain Christmas for many is the fact that it’s a unique and special celebration of the traditional American Christmas not available in any other major tourist destination. From Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas to the large Adoration Scene on top of Mount Branson, Ozark Mountain Christmas in Branson is filled with Christmas lights, shows, shopping, and a Christmas spirit that puts a special glow in the hearts of those who want to celebrate and experience the true spirit of Christmas.

In addition to the spiritual glow, there is the actual glow of millions of Christmas lights glittering throughout the Branson area. In Silver Dollar City alone, there are over five million sparkling Christmas lights transforming the park into a virtual Christmas wonderland as part of its celebration of Old Time Christmas.

The Shepherd of the Hills’ Trail of Lights provides a spectacular drive through lighting display with millions of glowing Christmas lights and numerous displays. It’s one of the most unique.and beautiful drive-through displays anywhere and is set within the natural beauty of our Ozark Hills. And the glow of Christmas lights doesn’t stop there as Christmas decorations and lights adorn utility poles, Branson Landing, and many of Branson’s shops, attractions, and theatres.

The vast majority of Branson’s shows share the spirit of Christmas by devoting a portion of their show to the celebration of the traditional Christmas. In addition, there are a number of shows that are only available during Ozark Mountain Christmas, such as the Andy Williams Christmas Show starring the Osmond Brothers and Lennon Sisters, Christmas Wonderland, and the Hughes Brothers Christmas Show. Speaking of shows, you’ll want to allow plenty of time while at Silver Dollar City so you have enough time to see its two spectacular Christmas productions, “A Dickens’ Christmas Carol” and “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

BTC’s Wood points out that Branson provides a great shopping experience year round, but there’s just something special about shopping in Branson during Ozark Mountain Christmas. Its large variety of unique boutiques, specialty shops, galleries, craft shops, Branson Landing, and outlet malls like Tanger Outlets and The Shoppes at Branson Meadows make Branson the ideal place to get the ideal Christmas gift for everyone.

Wood re-emphasizes the point that during Branson’s regular season there are periods when shows and lodging fill up, and during Ozark Mountain Christmas, particularly with the more popular shows and lodging establishments, the situation increases exponentially. She explains that not only do the chances of non-availability increase, but the chances of getting the best show seats, choice of accommodations, and the best prices decrease the longer one waits to make their Ozark Mountain Christmas travel plans.

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

Six great reasons why you should take your family on a one-of-a-kind Lake Taneycomo sightseeing cruise aboard the Lake Queen

Main Street Lake Cruises "Lake Queen" cruising Lake Taneycomo.

Main Street Lake Cruises “Lake Queen” cruising Lake Taneycomo.

“Our goal is to provide our passengers with a unique, exciting, and unforgettable experience that will become a special part of their favorite Branson memories,” said Steve Johnson, the General Manager of Main Street Lake Cruises. “A cruise aboard the 84 foot long riverboat replica Lake Queen is reminiscent of the boats and the White River that played such an important part in Branson’s early history; it’s truly a one of a kind adventure produced by Mother Nature,” he added.

Here are some things you should know about taking your family on an amazing sightseeing cruise aboard the Lake Queen:

1. It’s Safe: The safety of you and your family is foremost. The Lake Queen and its crew are licensed, and the boat is inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard on a regular basis.

2. Full Modern Amenities: The Lake Queen is fully handicap accessible and offers modern amenities including full-sized modern restrooms, a well-stocked bar, snack food service, a fully enclosed environmentally conditioned lower deck and an open-air upper deck.

3. Enjoy Sights Never Seen by the Vast Majority of Branson’s Millions of Visitors Each Year: These sights include a unique mid-lake view of Branson Landing and its $7.5 million fountain, a spectacular synchronized fire, water, light, and music show; one of Missouri’s largest Blue Heron Rookeries; amazing bluffs carved naturally by Mother Nature over the centuries; spectacular Ozark vistas; and much more.

4. See Ozarks’ Birds and Other Wildlife: From your vantage point aboard the Lake Queen you’ll come upon the birds and other wildlife that abound on Lake Taneycomo and its shoreline. You could see deer, mink, river otters, the great blue heron, bald eagles, various species of ducks, Canada geese and other geese, as well as many other species.

5. Fully Narrated: Although there is plenty of time to relax and just enjoy the serenity of being on the lake, the Captain will provide a live, interesting narrative of what you’ll be seeing, both fixed and spontaneous sights … a bald eagle sitting in a tree, or a mink scurrying along the shoreline, or any number of things that just can’t be planned!

6. Relaxing: Whether you enjoy it inside the climate controlled lower deck, or in the fresh air of the open top deck, it’s hard to imagine anything more relaxing than cruising on Lake Taneycomo aboard the Lake Queen while enjoying the peace and serenity of the Ozarks.

For additional information or tickets for a cruise aboard the Lake Queen, please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Knight in his Michael Jackson tribute role.

Michael Knight in his Michael Jackson tribute role.

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

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

BTC: When were you born?
MK: 1985

BTC: Where?
MK: Woonsocket, RI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divisions include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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