It Takes More Than Magic to Produce a New Unbelievable Show


The excitement and action of the show as reflected in its poster.

“No pun intended, but the talent and variety in this show is simply ‘unbelievable,’” said internationally famous illusionist Dave Hamner recently during a break from the exhausting grind of producing one of Branson’s newest shows, the Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show, which will premiere at the “Hamner Variety Theatre,” in Branson, Missouri on March 11, 2014. “This show presents Branson audiences with a unique blend of acts, color and excitement they have never seen in Branson before where ‘birds appear, people fly, and voices soar’ in a truly magical combination of entertainment from beginning to end,” he added.

Denise Hamner, the other half of the incredible magical duo known as “The Hamners,” could scarce contain her excitement when talking about the various elements and acts in the show and how they will all flow together providing audiences of all ages with an equally entertaining experience from the opening to the final curtain. She said, “Our goal is to have the audience sitting on the edge of their seats anticipating what is coming next as the show seamlessly transitions from one exciting act to another and, when it’s all over, wanting to come back because they want to make sure they haven’t missed anything.

The interview was taking place while the work in getting the show produced continued around us. Noted Branson dancer, AJ Heard, the shows choreographer and one of the dancers in the show said, “I’m super excited about all the talent and variety that will be blended together in this amazing new multidimensional experience.” What was really neat was that when she asked her young daughter, Cydney, who was there keeping an eye on mom, based on what she knew about the show so far, what she thought about it; she immediately responded, “Awesome!”

The featured acts in the show include world renowned illusionists Dave & Denise Hamner who will perform a variety of illusions including “their one of a kind act” in which they produce several beautiful Macaws and Cockatoos that appear amid flying cards, flaming swords, falling coins and jewels along with an incredible flight out over the audience and other original illusions such as “Stargate,” “The Lightning Levitation,” “Vertigo: The Fall of Death” and an absolutely magical “Veterans Finale.”

As exciting and unbelievable as the Hamner’s magic is on hits own, the show will become”unbelievably” magical when that magic is seamlessly blended in and highlighted with the other amazing acts in the show. This includes impressionist Jeff Brandt, considered one of the top singing impressionists in the country; Vadim & Mariya Serykh, a Russian father and daughter adagio team performing hand balancing, acrobatics, and high flying aerial acrobatics; the vocal talents of Tamra Tinoco who has performed all over the world and in 45 different states with artists such as Lee Greenwood, Vince Gill and others as well as producing and staring in Branson’s Magnificent Seven show and the ventriloquism of Brenda Hahne and her cast of characters who have been entertaining hundreds of family audiences across the country and on cruise ships for over 15 years.

In the final weeks of preparing for their premier Denise said that things are hectic and the weather sure isn’t helping, but that they are excited about the new show and eagerly anticipating opening night. Based on what I have seen the Hamners do in the past, what I have heard and seen so far about the show and its acts and, of course, with Cydney’s “Awesome,” I can’t wait to see the Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show.

Clams “button” up a “pearl” of Branson History

“La Riviere Blanche,” as the White River, was called by the early French traders, has been a source of water, transportation, recreation, and livelihoods from the days the first inhabitants set foot in the White River Valley. Cruising on Lake Taneycomo today, with its depth controlled by two dams, it’s hard to picture a White River that, most of the time was so low that the appearance of even a shallow draft steam boat, with about the same draft as Main Street Lake Cruises’ Lake Queen‘s four feet, was a rare occurrence or, although relatively infrequently, was flooded its banks with water so high and swift that it destroyed virtually everything in its path. However, that was the White River of Ozark and Branson history until the Power Site Dam formed Lake Taneycomo in 1913 and Table Rock Dam was completed in 1959.

From the trapping done by the early trappers to the electricity generated at various dams since 1913 and the tourism industry supported by lakes like Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Lake Taneycomo today, the White River has played a central part in daily lives and economic opportunities available to those living in the Branson area. One of the lessor known was from “clam digging,” which, from a White River perspective, has an entirely different meaning than “clam digging” does along ocean coast lines.

The White River was home to over two dozen different type of mussels, which are referred to alternately as “clams” in different history books. The early Indian inhabitants of the White River region used the mussels for food, implements and what would today be called “jewelry.” However, even though mussels, like the “oyster” make pearls it was not until 1897, when Dr. J. H. Myers found a “14 grain, fine luster, pinkish colored pearl” that the pearl and related industries got their start along the White River. The news of his discovery spread quickly and there was a virtual “pearl rush” to the mussel bars along the White River in search of pearls.

The value of a pearl then was determined about the same way it is today based on shape, size, color and other characteristics. Although records show that prices as high as $1,100.00 were paid for some pearls, prices above $2.00 per pearl was the exception not the rule with many selling for a dollar or less. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but when the prevailing wage in the region at that time was about $.50 cents a day the “pearl hunter” did pretty well.

In 1900, soon after the pearling industry started, it was discovered that there was a market for the thick mussel shells. Button plants, in Kansas, Iowa and elsewhere were making “Pearl Buttons” from the shells, but there was a very high ratio of shells to finished buttons estimated by some to be 40 tons of shells to get one ton of buttons. To overcome this challenge “button blank” plants to be set up at various places along the White River where the raw shells were processed into various sized “button blanks” by “punching” them out of the shell.

These blanks were purchased by shell buyers when they came down the White River by flat boat, twice a year for consolidation and shipment to the button factories where they were processed into the finished button. With the coming of the railroad to Branson in 1906 the button blanks were transported overland to Branson and shipped by rail to button plants including Muscatine, which was, at the time known as “The Pearl Button Capital of the World” and the “Iola Button Factory,” which went out of business during the “great depression.”

When the supply of mussels started to dry up and newer and easier to work with materials came along toward the end of the 1930′s there was no more demand for the shells and the “clam digger” went the way of the railroad “Hacker” before them. One thing remained constant however, “La Riviere Blanche” rolled on and, with the completion of the Table Rock Dam and formation of Table Rock Lake in 1959, helped grow and nurture the tourism industry which is the current economic foundation of Branson today.

Soothe Winter Doldrums by Planning a Perfect Branson Summer Vacation

Silver Dollar City's record setting wooden coaster "Outlaw Run" is just one of the exciting experiences awaiting Branson visitors.

It might seem odd, in the depths of the harsh winter many of us are experiencing to suggest planning a summer vacation in Branson, but what better way to shake the winter doldrums? Naturally, being a resident of Branson for these past 28 years, and having vacationed in Branson for ten years prior to moving here, it is natural to understand why I might be partial to Branson, but the question is why you and your family should spend your summer vacation in Branson?

Simply put, because there is no other place on earth that offers the combination of fun things to do coupled with the spirit Branson offers. The combination of things to do and the hospitality of those providing them stems from an Ozarks heritage and culture that is at the heart of all Branson is. Whether simply relaxing; going through a full day of fun and excitement experiencing Branson’s live shows, attractions, dining and shopping or enjoying one of the many other exciting activities Branson offers, you and your family will be interacting with people dedicated to providing you with a Branson vacation you will never forget.

Of course, it is extremely helpful in that regard that, from its oldest and most popular attraction, the award winning world class 1880s styled Silver Dollar City theme park to its three pristine lakes, around 100 live music and entertainment shows, dozens of attractions and other activities, Branson has more entertainment, excitement and things to do “per block” than any other vacation destination anywhere near its size. As an example, where else could you conveniently start your morning at a world class attraction like the Titanic Museum Attraction; visit a state of the art trout hatchery on your way to basking on a sandy fresh water beach such as Table Rock Lake’s “Moonshine Beach;” enjoy a dinner sightseeing cruise on a 100 foot luxury yacht like Main Street Cruise Lines’ Landing Princess and still be able to take in an evening performance of a Branson Show such as Presleys’ Country Jubilee, Acrobats of China, The Texas Tenors, Haygoods, Clay Cooper’s Country Express, it, The Duttons, SIX, Grand Jubilee or any one of dozens of other live shows.

Seems like a lot and it is, but the point is that everything is so close together and convenient in Branson that your day can be as active or, depending on what you want, as relaxing as you want. The real beauty of it all is that was just one daily itinerary out of hundreds that can be put together to make sure that you and your family have the best vacation ever filled with exactly the things that you want to do. Want to get a better taste of what Branson has to offer? Click here for instant on line access to Branson Tourism Center’s 2014 Branson Vacation Guide.

To make it fun and easy to plan the perfect vacation for your family, the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), who’s mantra is, “We don’t sell discount vacations we sell amazing vacations at a discount,” starts that amazing vacation off with a unique free personal concierge style Branson vacation planning service. One phone call to 800-785-1550 will put you in contact with one of their Branson based Vacation Planners who will show you what Ozark hospitality is as they help you plan a perfect Branson vacation, answer questions, make recommendations on what to see and do, save you time and, in most cases, money.



Material Connection

Don’t you deserve to play golf in Branson?

Branson Creek's par 3 195 yard 4th Hole.

A recent column in Golfweek entitled Branson, Bass Pro Shops could land Legends of Golf reminds us of just how good the quality of the golfing available in Branson is. Along with reporting that, “if a deal is reached, the 36th rendition of the popular two-man team PGA event [Legends of Golf] could be held in June at the Branson Creek Golf Club. The article also pointed out that Branson Creek is the No. 2 course in Missouri on “Golfweek’s 2013Best Courses You Can Play List.” The No. 1 course on the same list is the Payne Stewart Golf Club, another Branson course, making Branson home to the top two out of only five Missouri courses on the list.

“That’s another one of the things that makes Branson such a great place for people and families to vacation and come to for a good time,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing, for the Branson Tourism Center. “It’s not just the great variety of shows, attractions, lakes, shopping, lodging restaurants and other activities, but the quality of what is offered,” she added.

The $32 million Payne Stewart Golf Club is Branson’s newest golf course and is located in Branson Hills. Designed by Chuck Smith, with consultation from PGA golfer Bobby Clampett, it is a tribute course to Payne Stewart with each hole designed to honor his career and memory. The 18 hole course is 7,324 yards from the Gold Tees and has a par of 72.

The Branson Creek Golf Course is located just south of Branson near the Branson Airport in the Branson Creek Development. It is a 7,036 yard par 71 course from its longest tees and tactically, as well as scenically, takes advantage of the surrounding valleys and plateaus of the Ozarks.

In addition to the courses mentioned iabove there are two other courses that are readily available to Branson visitors, the Thousand Hills Golf Course and Pointe Royal Golf Course. These two courses and Payne Stewart Golf Club are all located within the city limits of Branson, within ten minutes of each other and are located within five minutes from the famed Branson Strip. Thousand Hills and Pointe Royale are open year round.

Branson is an exciting golfing destination by itself, but when coupled with the other golf courses in the area, it offers a choice that provides a fun filled and challenging golfing experience for beginners as well as the more advanced players that is unrivaled for a vacation destination of its size. And when you are through golfing there is all the adventure, fun, entertainment and excitement that Branson is known for. That’s a hard combination to beat anytime, but especially on Spring Break during the beauty of an Ozark Spring.


Jonah Promises to be a “Whale” of an Entertainment Experience

Jonah is a spectacular,fun and inspirational entertainment experience.

After seeing the promotional video for “Jonah,” taken during its performances in Lancaster, PA and getting an informal “sneak preview,” of the sets during a behind the scenes tour last week; it is with eager anticipation that I await the Branson premier of Sight and Sound’s production of Jonah, on March 22. I have seen all of Sight and Sounds spectacular productions, “Noah the Musical,” “Joseph,” and the “Miracle of Christmas,” but, based on what I have seen and heard so far, even among that group of outstanding shows, “Jonah” is going to be something special.

I am not the only one who feels that way. Dan Deal, who ought to know because he is the shows Director and Associate Producer said that Jonah, “Is probably the most high energy vibrant and pretty show that we have ever done. It is a nonstop energy packed powerful story that takes off and keeps running just like Jonah himself does the whole way through. You will be surrounded by the show and engulfed by the underwater experience. From start to finish the show is jammed packed. It is fun, it’s funny, it’s endearing, it’s powerful and its life changing.”

All my life I have heard the story described as “Jonah and the whale,” but in reality what scripture says is that “The Lord appointed ‘a great fish’ to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.” After standing on stage and looking into the mouth of the “great fish” and sensing the excitement of Mike Pitman, Sales Manager for Sight and Sound Theatres, as he described the show and how everything comes together, or in some cases, “breaks apart,” in this exciting, entertaining and inspirational show all this writer can say is, “Everyone is going to have a ‘whale’ of a time as ‘one of the bibles most misdirected prophets’ attempts to run and avoid that which he knows God would have him do.”

As Jonah does so, Sight and Sounds 300 foot stage surrounds the audience on three sides and, excuse the pun, really “immerses” the audience in the action, not only during the spectacular underwater scene, but throughout the show. Follow Jonah from lavish royal palaces into the belly of the big fish as spectacular 40 foot tall sets, beautiful costuming, amazing special effects and an extremely talented cast present the adventures of one of God’s prophets, as he attempts to run from the will of God and comes to realize the true meaning of God’s mercy, in what promises to be a one of a kind, spectacular, powerful, colorful and fun filled inspirational entertainment experience.

Cutting Edge Event Hard to Swallow at Branson Ripley’s Odditorium


World Sword Swallower's Day to be celebrated at Ripley's.

The 4000 year old art of sword swallowing will edge its way into the Branson Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium (Ripley’s) on February 22. There are only a few dozen full time professional sword swallowers left and 20 of them will be partnering with Ripley’s to celebrate the “7th Annual World Sword Swallower’s Day” which was started by the “Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI)” and co-sponsored by “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” “We established ‘World Sword Swallower’s Day’ to honor this ancient art and recognize the few people in the world who can do this,” explains Dan Meyer, a sword swallower whose amazing feats have been chronicled by Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Each of the “20 sword swallowers will risk their lives when they ‘drop swords’ at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditoriums around the world on February 22. In all, more than 125 feet of solid steel will go down the hatch – hopefully without a scratch!” Professional sword swallower Sandra Kallich, known as “Bob Zilla,” will demonstrate her sword swallowing skills at a free performance at the Branson Ripley’s starting at 2:00 PM.

“Some people call Ripley’s Believe It or Not a ‘museum’ and some an ‘odditorium,’” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “One thing everyone seems to agree on however, is that from activities like ‘Sword Swallower’s Day’ to its distinctive look and the unique exotic exhibits it displays, Ripley’s provides Branson visitors with a unique, interesting and fun filled attraction in which they are “guaranteed” to experience the unusual,” she adds.

Ripley’s distinctive earthquake damaged design is one of the most photographed buildings in Branson. The oddity of the building’s design is just a hint of the excitement that awaits its guests. John Dixon General Manager of Ripley’s said, “Our slogan for this year says it all, ‘Odd is in, trust us we are the experts.’ We have over 400 exhibits that are a collection of the odd and interesting things that Robert Ripley collected throughout his life and a lot of other cool fun filled stuff such as the slanted room, vortex, optical illusions, unique collections and interactive activities.” Dixon said that two of his personal favorites are the shrunken head because it’s “odd, creepy, cool and there’s not a lot of them around” and, just recently added, a giant 14 foot “Incredible Hulk” made out of car parts.

Ripley’s truly does have something for everyone, takes about an hour and a half to go through, and is open 365 days a year. For additional information on “Sword Swallowers Day,” the Branson Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium 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,


What you should know about what’s new in Branson for 2014

Sight and Sounds "Jonah" is a spectacular biblical production for the whole family.

Having lived in and written about the Branson area for the past 28 years, this is the time of year that is the most exciting for me. It’s not only the anticipation of spring and the opening of the new Branson season, but the metamorphosis of all the effort that Branson puts into presenting their visitors with something that is constantly fresh, new and exciting becoming a reality each year. It may be a new $1.7 M water ride, a complete renovation of a theatre’s auditorium, opening of new shows or attractions or a myriad of other things that keeps Branson on the cutting edge of the fun, entertainment and adventure that makes it the outstanding relevant travel and vacation destination it is.

One of the major highlights of 2014 is the opening of Jonah which will be presented as only Sight and Sound can do it with their 2000 seat theatre, a 300 foot stage that wraps around three sides of the audience virtually engulfing them in the action, elaborate sets that are up to 40 feet high and an assortment of live animals that brings the bible to life in a spectacular way. “Experience all the up’s and downs of the Bible’s most misdirected prophet, ‘Jonah,’ whose story is filled with humor, soul-stirring music, incredible special effects and the amazing ‘underwater’ scene.” It is “an exhilarating fun-filled journey that carries you over land and sea, across deserts, into royal palaces – and deep within the belly of a big fish” and is a production that the whole family will enjoy.

“And that’s just the beginning,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “From the unique Elvis Lives, kicking the season off with a limited engagement just in time for Valentine’s Day, to Osmond’s American Jukebox and new magic, music, limited engagement and animal shows, Branson’s live entertainment scene for 2014 is bursting at the seams with excitement and variety,” she added. New 2014 Branson shows include, among others, Billy Dean Live!, Chris Perondis Stunt Dog Experience, Dublin’s Irish Tenors and the Celtic Ladies, Hamner’s Unbelievable Variety, Illusionist Rick Thomas, Magnificent Seven, Sha-na-na Rockin Christmas Show, The Lettermen and more.

The annual “Branson Shuffle” has resulted in many shows having a new home for 2014. Some of the major changes include one of Branson’s hottest shows, The Haygoods moving into the Clay Cooper Theatre along with and Joseph Hall’s Elvis Rock N Remember Tribute  and  another of Branson’s hottest shows, the Clay Cooper’s Country Express; Buck Trent to the Baldknobbers Theatre; 70′s Music Celebration Starring Barry Williams to the Hughes Brothers Celebrity Theatre;and the Rankin Brothers moving to the Yakov Smirnoff Theatre to perform 8 PM shows.

The Titanic Museum Attraction pictured amid the beauty of spring which can't come soon enough this year.

From a Branson Attractions perspective White Water’s new $1.7 M 240 foot “Kapu Plummet” water ride starting with a drop-floor drop through a 70 degree plunge into a spiraling loop ride and is promised to be the biggest thrill in “White Water history.” Construction of the new “Branson Auto and Farm Museum,” after its demolition as a result of the 2013 Tornado, is about complete and will result in a bigger and better facility than what was there before. Although no formal completion date has been announced, construction on the new “Parakeet Pete’s Waterfront Zipline” is proceeding. When completed it will provide a unique ride departing from Branson Landing and traveling across Lake Taneycomo to an observation platform high on the side of Mount Branson. From there riders will have a unique and inspiring view of historic downtown Branson, Branson Landing, Main Street Lake Cruises and Lake Taneycomo. When they leave the observation platform they will zip back across the Lake to the original starting point on Branson Landing.

The Branson Titanic Museum Attraction, is always offering something new and fresh for its “passengers” to experience. This year they are featuring a new gallery honoring the eight musicians on the Titanic. As the great ship sank and the final “sadness and sorrow of that dark night” approached these heroic musicians played on. It has been said that “When the music stopped the legend began.” This gallery tells their individual stories and commemorates their courage and gallantry.

Branson Tourism Center’s Wood points out that the Branson entertainment scene is painted day by day on a constantly evolving canvas. She advises that the Branson based Vacation Planning Specialists of the Branson Tourism Center will be delighted to answer any questions anyone may have about the current status of the Branson entertainment scene.

3 “Hidden” Historical Gems in downtown Branson

The gravestone of Ruben Branson, the man Branson is named after is readily visible without having to go into the cemetery.

“We are fortunate to have a vibrant downtown historic district,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center, who has lived or worked in Branson since childhood. “It’s alive and thriving with galleries, shows, attractions, festivals, restaurants, great specialty shopping, ‘Dick’s 5 and 10′ and history; all set in a unique, quaint, comfortable and laid back atmosphere presenting ‘small town America’ at its best.”

Historic downtown Branson has a number of historic spots. Three of them, covering key aspects in Branson’s history timeline, are located within a leisurely ten minute walk of each other and are virtually “hidden” right out in the open with no indication of their historical significance.

It is suggested that you park your car in the free lot behind “Dicks 5 and 10″ located at the corner of Atlantic and Commercial Streets. As you exit the lot onto Commercial Street turn left, north, and walk one block to the Branson Cemetery located on the northwest corner of the intersection of Oklahoma and Commercial Streets.

In 1882, Ruben S. Branson opened a general store near the mouth of Roark Creek and the White River, started a post office and named it “Branson.” The name of the post office was changed “Lucia” in 1902, changed back to “Branson” again in 1904 and became the name of the city of Branson when it was incorporated on April 1, 1912. The grave site of Ruben S. Branson may be conveniently viewed from the outside of the cemetery.

The bank building that survived the 1912 Branson Fire.

A two block walk south on Commercial Street, back past the parking lot, will take you to the northwest corner of the intersection of Main and Commercial Streets where you will be standing in front of “Patricia’s Victorian House.” In August of 1912, a few months after the City of Branson was incorporated, a fire engulfed the entire downtown business district destroying virtually the whole downtown area. One of the few buildings that survived, and the only one on Commercial Street, was the “bank” which is now “Patricia’s Victorian House.”

Continue one block further south to the intersection of Pacific and Commercial, turn right, west, and go about a half block until you arrive at the parking lot with the city restrooms. That is the spot where Branson’s live entertainment industry started in 1960 when the Mabe Brothers, along with Chick Allan on the “jaw bone,” started performing the Baldknobbers Jamboree show in a room of the “Old Community Building” that also housed Branson City Hall.

Bob Mabe, one of the original Baldknobbers said, “We’d have our wives go out and stand on the corner with signs advertising the show.” He said that they had to have about a dozen people before they did a show and probably averaged about 30 with their largest crowd around 80.

As you turn around and head east back to Commercial Street you will notice a pawn shop on the southeast corner of the intersection of Pacific and Commercial streets. Back in 1912 it was the spot where the “Commercial Hotel” was located. The 1912 fire that destroyed the downtown business district started in that hotel when, according to lore, a maid let a fire in a wooden stove get out of control.

Wait, I know that’s four not three. Couldn’t help myself, but one thing is for sure, if you visit these spots and know their historical significance you have experienced a bit of Branson history and heritage that the vast majority of the millions of people who come to Branson each year don’t even know exists.

Ambrus Presley devoted to family, Branson, and singing

Ambrus Presley singing "Jolene."

Branson has an overwhelming number of female vocalists, but anyone who has ever seen and heard Ambrus Presley perform can appreciate it when I express my belief that she is one of Branson’s premier vocalists. Whether she is singing a standard such as “Over the Rainbow” or a song that is not as well-known such as “Travelin’ Soldier,” the beauty, clarity and strength of her voice; obvious passion for singing and her sweet spirit and sincerity results in a performance that is not only a joy to hear, but touches the heart.

The following piece is in Q & A format with the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) asking questions that we hope the reader will find informative and entertaining and Ambrus’s answer indicated by (AP):

BTC: How long have you been performing in Branson?
AP: We moved to Branson when I was eight in 1998 after I auditioned for and got a job in “Positive Country.” Initially, while we saw how things were going to go, Mom and I moved to Branson and dad stayed in Hot Springs. It was quite a change going zero shows a day to two shows a day, but I just loved it.

BTC: Was the move to Branson prompted by your parents or you?
AP: It was all me.

BTC: What shows have you performed with during your Branson career?
AP: “Positive Country,” “Starlite Kids Show,” “Country Tonite” and Presleys’ Country Jubilee.

BTC: When did you start with Presleys’ Country Jubilee?
AP: In 2004.

BTC: How did you get started singing?
AP: From my family. I come from a really religious Christian family. My Grandpa is a lover of music. Since an early age I have had a passion for singing. I can remember riding in his tractor singing “Jesus Love Me” when I was two or three, started singing in church when I was four or so and I just loved it. My family started me on voice lessons when I was five and it went from there.

BTC: When did you discover that you had the “gift” of singing?
AP: I was always taught that it was a gift from the get go. It wasn’t something that was mine to begin with, it was something that was given to me and that it was my job to nurture that gift and let it grow. So that’s what we have done.

BTC: What is your all-time favorite song to sing?
AP: I love them all for different reasons. Having said that, my favorite types of music are classic jazz, country and the American standard type of music. I love to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

BTC: Did you ever think about pursuing a national career after your win on Ed McMahons “The Next Big Star?” (Click here to see that performance.)
AP: Although there was some interest and excitement from producers in big cities calling, I have always loved Branson. I just never had big stars in my eyes. I knew what I wanted. I wanted a family and I wanted to get to sing every day and it didn’t matter if there was a whole lot of fame or money tied to that so long as I was just doing it and happy.

BTC: If you could perform with anyone on your stage who would it be and why?
AP: I’m a huge James Taylor Fan and would love to sing with him. One of my favorite singers of all time was Etta James. She’s deceased, but I would have loved to have sung with her.

BTC: What do you enjoy the most about living in Branson?
AP: There’s just something magical about this place to me, it’s gorgeous. I love our seasons with their changes and that it’s a wonderful safe place for our family and for our son to grow up in and go to school. For me, professionally, this is my “heaven”. I’m a singer and Branson is a place that’s all about that.

BTC: When you’re not working what do you enjoy doing most?
AP: Just being with my husband, John and son Henry.

BTC: Do you have a favorite hobby or activity?
AP: I love anything that has to do with fashion or home decor.

BTC: What do you look forward to the most as you start each new day?
AP: Growing, learning and getting better; a better mom, better wife, better singer.

BTC: How long have you and John been married?
AP: Five years.

BTC: Do you have a little known fact about yourself that you think your fans are audience would enjoy hearing about?
AP: I love pickled Okra.

Ambrus and Presleys’ Country Jubilee will be starting their 2014 Branson Season on Friday, March 7.

Branson Welk Resort “Has it all!”

A portion of Welk Resort's beautifully maintained grounds.

When asked, “Why, out of all the Branson lodging available for families to stay in, they should pick the Welk Resort?” Chris Cathcart, a Welk Resort Marketing Manager, immediately responded saying, “Welk Resort has it all.” He continued on saying “I could give you a million reasons expounding on that, but these just jump out, great location, a recent multimillion dollar remodel of the complete facility including all 159 guest rooms, large 2000 seat entertainment theatre, indoor ‘Splash-A-Torium,’ restaurant, and a selection of amenities and activities for all ages and interests that is matched by very few, if any, resorts in Branson.”

He explained that although it is ideally located, only minutes from Branson shows, attractions, shopping, Silver Dollar City and everything else Branson has to offer, that once people arrive at the resort everything they need for a complete fun filled vacation is on property. Among others, the recreational amenities include the “Splash-A-Torium,” an indoor/outdoor water attraction for children and adults limited exclusively to the resorts guests; an outdoor pool; game room with pool table, air hockey and much more; mini golf; complete fitness center and daily planned and scheduled activities through the resorts activities department. There are activities for all ages and interests including, among many others, Ceramic Painting, Toddler Bubble Time, Family Scavenger Hunts, Kinect Bowling, Casino Night and many more varying with the weather and season.

One of the newly renovated rooms.

The resort, celebrating its 20th anniversary during 2014, opened in May of 1994. Its 159 room hotel underwent a total multi-million dollar renovation of its lobby, common areas, corridors and all 159 guest rooms and baths which was completed in June of 2013 making it one of the “newest” hotels in Branson. “We’re very proud to offer our hotel guests an all new guest room that enhances the value of their experience with us”, said Dathan Atchison, General Manager of The Welk Resort. “We have always made gracious service to our guests our foremost objective. Now, along with our other great amenities the Welk guests have come to expect, we are very excited about our new rooms and hotel upgrade, and believe our guests will be also.”

Cathcart points out that the vibrant colors and textures of each of the renovated rooms reflects the casual, warm and friendly culture of the Ozarks. Additionally each room contains new features such as granite vanities, a work space with an ergonomic desk chair, wall-mounted AC controls, desk lamps with easy reach dual outlets, mini-fridge, Welk Signature Ecology bath amenities, Seattle’s Best single cup coffee system and Starbucks’ Tazo Teas, which are complimentary.

“The resort provides a rustic flavored experience surrounded by luxury and convenience where you can experience the outdoors and beauty of the Ozarks away from all the traffic and bustle of the Branson Strip, has tons of fun and exciting activities available on property to entertain families and yet, is ideally and uniquely located to provide access to everything else Branson offers while minimizing involvement with Branson traffic,” Cathcart said. He points out that it’s 15 minutes away from Silver Dollar City via State Route 265, three minutes away from Lake Taneycomo’s Trophy Trout Fishing Area and the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery, five minutes away from Table Rock Lake, six or seven minutes away from the Branson Strip and all its shows, attractions and shopping, has the Pointe Royale Golf Course just opposite to the resort entrance and is located within 20 minutes of Historic Downtown Branson and Branson Landing via Fall Creek Road and Branson’s ‘Yellow’ alternate route.

“In terms of its ideal location and access to Branson’s shows, attractions, lakes, golf, shopping and everything else Branson offers, coupled with its amenities, both recreational and on the hotel side, recent renovation, and the high quality of customer service that the Welk Resort is known for, it’s no surprise that the vast majority of our customers are delighted with the experience they have while staying at the Welk Resort,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services. For more information on the Welk Resort and all that Branson has to offer please feel free to contact BTC by calling 1-800-785-1550.