Author Archives: O. C. Gull

Ozark Mountain Christmas – a spectacular celebration of the traditional American Christmas

Silver Dollar City’s “Old Time Christmas” is a highlight of “Ozark Mountain Christmas.”

BRANSON, Mo. When Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center, was asked, “What exactly is ‘Ozark Mountain Christmas?” last year, she gave an answer that is as unique and timeless as the event itself. 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.”

And what a celebration it is. From Silver Dollar City on the west to Historic Downtown Branson and Branson Landing on the shores of Lake Taneycomo to the east, Ozark Mountain Christmas is filled with everything one would expect from a world class holiday celebration. From a spectacular five story high musical decorated tree; reindeer; Santa Claus; millions upon millions of beautiful colored lights and drive through lighting displays to Branson’s shows, attractions, shopping and other activities taking on the festive look and feel of the season, it is a wonderful world class celebration.

However, if that was all there was it would be just another politically correct “holiday” celebration, but that’s not all there is. Ozark Mountain Christmas is the pure unbridled celebration of the traditional American Christmas, spirit and message. It’s a unique celebration, having its roots in a community that will be holding its “63rd Annual Adoration Parade and Lighting Ceremony” in Historic Downtown Branson as it gathers together in celebration of the reason for the season and honors the birth of the very child for whom Christmas is named.

While respecting and appreciating 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 of the traditional American Christmas and the reason for the season. Each year, between November 1 and December 31 hundreds of thousands come to Branson 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 5 through December 30, is a major focal point of Ozark Mountain Christmas and has been 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 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 “Frosty.”

Ozark Mountain Christmas features two major drive through lighting displays The Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights and the Branson Area Festival of Lights. The “Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights” is a two and a half mile journey through millions of Christmas lights, hundreds of gorgeous displays, 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 most people will ever experience and also includes a “trip to Inspiration Tower where guests can ride glass elevators up 230 feet for a “Santa’s eye view” of the lights from above.” 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.

The spectacle and wonder of the Sight and Sound’s “Miracle of Christmas.”

And what would the place that many call the “Live music show capital of the world” be like at Christmas, or any other time of the year, without its live shows. There is a wide selection of Christmas Shows that are only available during Ozark Mountain Christmas such as the incomparable Andy Williams Christmas Show, Spirit of Christmas, Miracle of Christmas, Hollywood’s Christmas Spectacular, Christmas with the Lennon Sisters and many others. In addition most of Branson’s regular season shows also perform Christmas shows. This includes some of Branson’s most popular shows such as Shoji Tabuchi, SIX, Pierce Arrow, Hamner and Barber Variety Show, Presleys’ Country Jubilee, Yakov Smirnoff and many others. 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 Polar Express operated by Branson Scenic Railways on Fridays and Saturdays from November 10 through December 18, Live Reindeer at the Titanic Museum on Friday and Saturday November 25-26, December 2-3 and 9-10, Ride the Ducks Land and Lighting Tour from November 4 through December 11 and White Flight at the Butterfly Palace and Rainforest November 1 through January 15.

In terms of Christmas shopping Ozark Mountain Christmas is unsurpassed. 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.

A highlight of Ozark Mountain Christmas will be the 63rd Annual Adoration Parade and Lighting Ceremony on December 4. The lighting ceremony will be conducted near the intersection of Commercial and Main Streets in Historic Downtown Branson at 5:00 p.m. However, when the switch is flipped it will light the giant 30 foot tall figures of a Nativity Scene located on top of Mount Branson on the opposite side of Lake Taneycomo overlooking Branson Landing and downtown Branson. The lighting ceremony is followed by one of the few, if not the only, noncommercial, lighted nighttime parades in the United States devoted to the theme of “Keeping Christ In Christmas.”

Branson Tourism Center’s Johnson says, “”Ozark Mountain Christmas is a wonderful way for locals and visitors alike to get into the true Christmas spirit.” She also 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 or for tickets or information for any of Branson’s other shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by either calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website

Sneak preview of Branson’s newest show, “Christmas With the Lennon Sisters”

Lennon Sister, Kathy, left, Janet and Mimi during visit to Branson Tourism Center on October 13.

BRANSON, Mo. During a visit to Branson Tourism Center today, the Lennon Sisters, Kathy, Janet and Mimi took a moment to discuss their new Christmas show, “Christmas with the Lennon Sisters.” Janet said that although the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre is a new venue for them, they are excited and delighted to be performing there and that it is simply a gorgeous theatre.

She said that “Christmas with the Lennon Sisters” is a whole new show with a lot of different and exciting things, including video clips, great costuming, choreography, a variety of Christmas music and special guests. Janet said, ” It’s a high energy show, but it’s also has poignancy and, for sure, traditional Christmas music.”

Janet shared that her granddaughters, ages 11, 10 and 7, will be doing some singing and dancing in the show. She pointed out that they are remarkable, so much fun and that they will provide the audience with the opportunity to see another generation of Lennons with them that will have that same “Lennon Family Sound.”

Mimi, who will be performing with her sister for the 13th year said that she thinks it’s wonderful when they sing acapella. “It’s a God given gift and when we sing it [acapella] there’s nothing like it. It’s like notes to heaven,” she continued. They will be performing songs such as “Star Carol,” ” Silent Night” and “Ave Maria” acapella in the show.

Even as they are preparing for their new show, the Lennon Sisters are performing daily with Ann-Margret at the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre through, it is anticipated, October 22. They will begin 2 p.m. performances of “Christmas With the Lennon Sisters” on November 1. The show will run through December 10.

For additional information or tickets for Christmas With the Lennon Sisters or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please contact the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services. BTC can be reached by either calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website

Lodging can be the difference in having a great travel experience

The unique Gazebo Inn located in the center of the famed Branson Strip.

BRANSON, Mo. Whether it’s in Branson, Missouri; Lahina, Hawaii; Las Vegas Nevada or anywhere else, where do you normally start and end just about every day you are on a trip vacation, business, or otherwise? Isn’t it in your hotel, motel or resort room or suite? Most of us can testify as to how our choice of lodging impacted, either positively or negatively, on an overall trip experience.

The good news for those planning a trip to Branson, the place some call the “Live music show capital of the world,” is that that Branson has just about as many lodging choices as it does live shows. From the usual hotel and motel chains to luxury hotels and locally owned and managed establishments, Branson has a broad choice of lodging accommodations to meet just about every lodging need and budget.

The challenge is to find the lodging that will not only provide the best lodging experience, but also fit your budget. The Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services provides a free service to prospective Branson visitors. In terms of pricing and budget, they have sorted 63 of Branson’s finest lodging facilities into three broad categories, “Value,” “Moderate” and “Premium” on the Hotels & Lodging page of their web site. For each property there is a link to further information, pictures and, in most cases, videos of the properties listed.

Another convenient feature is the “side bar” in the left hand column that provides, at a glance, an overview of the amenities the property offers such as fitness rooms, pets allowed, wireless internet access and whether or not it’s free, indoor pool, free Breakfast, laundry, and other major items that might impact on your choice of lodging. In addition, Branson Tourism Center also provides the free personal advice of a Branson Vacation Planner who will be happy to assist in answering any questions or in making any reservations, not only for lodging, but for any of Branson’s shows or attractions. This service is available, through the toll free number, 1-800-785-1550 from 8 AM to 9 PM seven days a week every day of the year except Christmas,

“The unique combination of combining the internet with a free ‘concierge’ type of personal service should go a long way towards ensuring that you get exactly the type of Branson lodging that will meet your needs and enhance your overall Branson experience,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. Johnson also points out that, in terms of the best pricing and to ensure the availability for the exact type of accommodations desired, the earlier arrangements and reservations are made the better. “This is especially so during the Fall season and Ozark Mountain Christmas,” she continued.

Regardless of whether you use the free services of Branson Tourism Center or not, your travel experience to Branson, or anywhere else, will be directly influenced by your lodging choices. A little advanced planning can go a long way towards making sure that influence is positive and contributes to a memory of a special, enjoyable and pleasant experience.

New White River Valley Trail System adds the repertoire of fun things to do in Branson

Trail head for the trail.

BRANSON, Mo. It’s known for its outstanding live shows, great attractions, shopping and lakes, but Branson’s newest activity might just put it on the “map” for mountain bikers and hikers. “What a wonderful new attraction for Branson,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center in connection with the recent dedication of the “White River Valley Trail System.”

The trail is intended for hikers as well as bikers and is the first in the Branson area to be designated for mountain bikes. Its Trailhead, with its parking and rest rooms, is located just south of the entrance for the Showboat Branson Belle and north of the main entrance to Table Rock State park on State Highway 165. The natural surface trail is divided into major loops designated by color, a 2.5 mile Red Loop, 3.0 Mile Blue Loop, .6 mile Orange Loop and a 1.25 mile Green Loop with various Connectors Trails that combine to make up the 10.25 mile roundtrip length of the trail.

The 2.5 mile Red Loop starts and ends at the Trailhead. The other Loops start off of Connector Trail 2 located at about the midway point on the loop. The Red Loop is a convenient way for most families to take advantage of the White River Valley Trail System as well as exploring an area of Branson to which most have not previously had convenient access. In addition, if Connector Trail 1 is used,it provides a nice 1.25 mile loop. The trail will take hikers and bikers “near old homestead ruins, relics of the Table Rock Dam construction during the 1950s” and through miles of nature at its Ozarks best.

The trail received a “2011 Coalition for Recreational Trails Award in the Multi-Use Management and Corridor Sharing Category,” earlier this year. Bill Bryan, Director of Missouri State Parks, said, “Our primary goal for this trail is to provide a new recreational opportunity for people who enjoying hiking and mountain biking, which is a growing sport in this area.”

It was partially funded with ” Recreational Trails Program” grants and is a “joint land-use project between the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.” Part of the trail is on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property and part in Table Rock State Park. In addition, the project received broad community support from the Branson Tri-Lakes and Hollister Chambers of Commerce, “local city governments, Volunteers for Outdoor Missouri, students from Hollister and the College of the Ozarks, Boy Scouts working on Eagle Scout projects, and other volunteers.”

Branson Tourism Center’s Johnson points out the addition of the White River Valley Trail System to the list of outdoor activities available to enjoy in Branson is yet another reason that Branson is such a great travel and vacation destination. Like Table Rock Lake, Lake Taneycomo and all the other outdoor activities Branson offers, it is about ten minutes from the Branson Strip and everything else Branson has to offer. For additional information on the trail or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please contact the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by either calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website

Midwest Living designates Branson as one of the “25 Coolest Midwest Lake Vacation Spots”

The Showboat Branson Belle cruising on Table Rock Lake combines the natural beauty of the Ozarks with great dining and entertainment.

“Branson’s designation as one of the ‘25 Coolest Midwest Lake Vacation Spots‘ by ‘Midwest Living’ is yet another recognition of what millions of people have already found out,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services. “Branson, Missouri is a ‘cool’ place for individuals, families and groups of all types to visit for vacations, meetings, special events and to simply relax, have fun, be entertained, shop or enjoy any of the many other amazing activities Branson offers,” she continued.

In designating Branson as one of “25 Coolest Midwest Lake Vacation Spots,” the article specifically mentions Table Rock Lake, one of Branson’s three “Tri-Lakes,” the other two being Lake Taneycomo and Bull Shoals Lake. Table Rock Lake with its 43,100 surface acres is the “crown jewel” of Branson’s water related recreational activities, is located just minutes from the famed Branson Strip and provides the source for the majority of the water related sports activities in the Tri-Lakes and some of the finest bass fishing in the United States.

In terms of Branson, the “cool” referred to in the article title goes well beyond Table Rock Lake, which is actually mentioned only minimally in the article when it says, “Chill on Table Rock Lake, take a cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle, then settle in for one of this southwest Missouri town’s glittering live music shows.” In addition to Branson’s live shows the article attributes Branson’s selection as one of the “25 Coolest Midwest Lake Vacation Spots” to Silver Dollar Cityhistoric downtown Branson, loaded with little souvenir shops and cafes and its ” posh outdoor shopping mall,” Branson Landing.

Johnson points out that what’s really “cool” is that  during 2011, in addition to being named as one of the “25 Coolest Midwest Lake Vacation Spots” by Midwest Living, Branson has received a number of recognitions for the quality of the entertainment experience it provides. These include being named the ‘Best Small City for a Weekend,” for the second year in a row, by the AAA in the July/August issue of ‘AAA Midwest Traveler’ magazine and being named by “TripAdvisor” as a winner of its inaugural “Travelers’ Choice Family Award-winning Great U.S. Destinations to Discover.”

“Everyone in Branson works so hard to make sure our visitors have a great experience while they are in Branson,” Johnson continued. “It’s rewarding when organizations like Midwest Livinge, AAA and Trip Advisor, whether directly or through their readers or members, recognize that effort and help us share what a wonderful place to visit and vacation Branson, Missouri is.”

Moonlight Madness expands opportunity for Silver Dollar City excitement

Wildfire, Silver Dollar City's world class coaster is an entirely different experience at night.*

BRANSON, Mo. “Just before school starts Silver Dollar City’s Moonlight Madness again gives kids and families even more time to enjoy the fun and excitement of Silver Dollar City together as it remains open until 10:00 p.m.,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “That means over 12 hours of Silver Dollar City rides, shows, craft demonstrations, unique shopping, activities and everything else that makes it such a wonderful experience. Moonlight Madness runs from July 23 to August 7 and provides visitors with a unique opportunity to experience the park from a different perspective,” she continued.

Silver Dollar City’s General Manager Brad Thomas said previously, when speaking about guests attending Moonlight Madness, “We want them to be able to experience Silver Dollar City as they never have before, to see the stars between their toes on the ‘Giant Swing’ and see Table Rock Lake from the top of ‘WildFire,’ through the thrill of darkness,” One can only imagine the uniqueness of a night time ride on “PowderKeg,” “Thunderation,” “American Plunge” or some of the parks other rides.

In addition to all the other great entertainment Silver Dollar City provides to its guests everyday, those attending Moonlight Madness will be able to see “Science Madness” with David Willey complete with zany experiments, explosions, fire and “demonstrations that have been featured on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Holding over from their performance during KidsFest, “Chris Perondi’s Stunt Dog Experience” will also be featured. The kids will be able to meet some of their favorite cartoon characters including SpongeBob & Patrick, Tom & Jerry and The Backyardigans Thursdays through Saturdays during Moonlight Madness.

Silver Dollar City’s country music show, GAC Nights in Echo Hollow, is available free to Silver Dollar City guests Tuesdays through Sundays, beginning at 7 p.m. And the entertainment and fun doesn’t stop there because all guests are invited to the Silver Dollar City Street Dance beginning at 9:00 p.m. each evening in the City Square where they can join with hundreds of others for fun dances such as the Electric Slide, The Chicken Dance and The Macarena.

Throughout Moonlight Madness, “select shops and eateries will remain open until 10 pm and food and merchandise specials will be available.”

Branson Tourism Center’s Johnson points out that the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, offers a two day Silver Dollar City Pass for the price of one day. For information or tickets to Silver Dollar City or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions or lodging arrangements please contact BTC by either calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website

Photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City.

Ten “cool” ways to beat this summer’s heat in Branson

Once can almost feel the cooling wet relief that will come as these riders hit the water at the end of Silver Dollar City’s “American Plunge.”

It seems that everywhere one turns this summer they are faced with near record breaking heat. Branson, Missouri is a “hot” vacation destination because, from its live shows to attractions, shopping, outdoor activities and so much more, there is just so much to do. Yet, one of the “hottest” things in Branson this summer is the myriad of fun ways there are to beat the heat and stay cool.

Here are ten of this writers favorite ways to beat the heat and his reasons why:

1. Seeing any of Branson’s over 100 live shows – The shows are “cool” in terms of their quality, variety and ability to entertain just about everyone in your family and are presented inside a cool air conditioned climate controlled theatre.

2. Spending a day at White Water Branson’s only outdoor water park. From the new “Aloha River at Hula Hula Bay” to its iconic seven story multi slide thrill ride “Kalani” and much more, White Water is millions of gallons of cool tropically themed relief from the heat.

3. Swimming at Moonshine Beach – The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers operated Moonshine Beach on Table Rock Lake, near the north end of Table Rock Dam on State Highways 265 and 165, is a public access beach  with many amenities. It is conveniently located within minutes of the famed Branson Strip.

4. A “voyage” back in time aboard Branson’s Titanic Museum Attraction – Sure the whole experience is “cool,” and is in an air conditioned environment, but how much cooler can it get than “touching the surface of an iceberg” or feeling the icy cold temperature of the water into which the mighty “Titanic” sank over 99 years ago?

5. Table Rock Lake – The 43,000 surface acre lake provides “wet” and cooling relief from the summer heat through a variety of activities from boating, fishing and swimming to just about any water activity or sport most people would want to enjoy.

6. Silver Dollar City – From the cooling shade of its tree lined streets to the depths of “Marvel Cave” and its guaranteed to get wet water rides such as “American Plunge,” “Lost River of the Ozarks” and “RiverBlast” to exhilarating, exciting and cooling rides on coasters such a “PowderKeg” and “Wildfire,” the fun filled 1880’s theme park has to be one of the “coolest” theme parks in America.

7. Visiting one of the many indoor attractions in Branson – The vast majority of Branson’s indoor attractions are air conditioned and climate controlled providing hours of entertaining fun and enjoyment free from the scorching summer heat outside.

8. Take a cruise or boat ride on Lake Taneycomo – Lake Taneycomo, flowing 22 miles from the foot of “Table Rock Dam” to the “Power Site Dam” averages a temperature of about 48 degrees year round near its source at the Table Rock Dam. Its cold waters provide cooling relief for those boating, fishing or cruising on the Lake. A variety of cruises including a dinner cruise are available through Branson Landing Cruises and pontoon and other boats are available through Scotty’s Trout Dock, located on the south end of the city of Branson’s “Lake Side RV Park” in downtown Branson or “Lilly’s Landing” located off of Fall Creek Road.

9. Track Family Fun Parks – Known for their great selection of go kart tracks and other exciting fun filled family entertainment options, the Track Family Fun Parks operate four parks in Branson. All have go carts; Tracks 3, 4, & 5 have air conditioned climate controlled arcades, with Park 5 also offering laser tag and Park 4 offers Water Bumper Boats that are guaranteed to get you wet. It’s not hard to imagine how cooling it would be to take a refreshing wet ride on the Water Bumper Boats followed by an exhilarating ride on their new “Heavy Metal High Rise,” or other go kart ride.

10. Stay at a resort with an indoor water attraction feature such as the Welk Resort with its “Splash-A-Torium,” Castle Rock Resort with its huge indoor water attraction or the Grand Country Inn with its “Splash Country” water attraction.

The folks at the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services would love the opportunity to help you plan a “cool” vacation to one of the “hottest” destination cities in America, Branson, Missouri. BTC can be reached by either calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website

Branson shows to present their own brand of “fireworks” over 4th of July Weekend

Liverpool Legends show how the Beatles changed the face of rock and roll forever.

“Branson skies will be lighting up with plenty of exciting fireworks displays over the fourth of July Weekend,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center, “but they won’t be the only ‘fireworks’ entertaining Branson audiences.” Another definition for “fireworks” is “a spectacular display.”

The schedule of live shows that Branson offers on a regular basis provides a spectacular display of fresh, exciting and quality entertainment of every type for Branson visitors. If the schedule of Branson’s live shows scheduled to perform over the over the Fourth of July were a fireworks display, it would be one of the biggest and finest in America.

Here’s a list of some of Branson’s most popular shows that will be open over the Fourth of July Weekend, but there are dozens more to choose from:

3 Red Neck Tenors
Acrobats of China
Clay Cooper’s Country Music Express
Dixie Stampede
Grand Jubilee
Hamner Barber Variety Show
Hooray for Hollywood
The Hughes Brothers
Jim Stafford
Legends in Concert
Legend of Kung Fu
Liverpool Legends
NOAH the Musical
Pierce Arrow
Presleys’ Country Jubilee
Rankin Brothers
Red Skelton – A Tribute by Tom Mullica
Shake Rattle & Roll
Shoji Tabuchi
Showboat Branson Belle
Tony Roi’s Elvis Experience
Twelve Irish Tenors
Yakov’s Dinner Adventure

And if that’s not enough there are a couple of “limited engagement” performances going on over the Fourth of July weekend too. The Branson Gospel Music Revival, June 28 through July 1 will feature dozens of gospel music singers and groups from all over the nation. Neal McCoy, the consummate entertainer, will be appearing on July 1. Although not on the Fourth of July Weekend, the limited engagements for the rest of July include multiple Dove Award winning Christian artist, Michael English for one performance on July 17, two time Grammy Award Winner and multiple Platinum singer Travis Tritt on July 15 and the return of Neal McCoy on July 5, 26 and 27.

From shows filled with comedy and humor to shows filled with music of every genre and shows featuring horses, acrobats, ventriloquists, Kung Fu and much more, Branson’s shows will be lighting up Branson audiences with a spectacular and exciting display of entertainment fireworks over the Fourth of July weekend. The good news is that unlike the Fourth of July Fireworks display that bursts brilliantly in the sky before dissipating into the air, Branson’s great shows will light up Branson stages with their excitement and vitality not only over the Fourth of July weekend, but every night.

A Titanic 100 year commemoration of the city that burned and the ship that sank

Branson's Titanic Museum is an exciting voyage back into history.

In April of 1912 two events happened, unrelated and thousands of miles apart. One was the beginning of a wonderful journey that is still continuing and the other was a tragic ending to a journey that had a wonderful beginning. Both will be commemorating their 100th anniversary in Branson during 2012.

It’s no April Fool’s joke, Branson, Missouri, was incorporated on April 1, 1912 and less than five months later, on August 29 disaster struck. A fire started in the Commercial Hotel and, except for four buildings, the entire central business district of the newly incorporated city burned to the ground. One of those surviving buildings was “Sulleger’s Saloon,” located on the northwest corner of the junction of Sycamore and Main Street in Historic Downtown Branson, which is considered Branson’s oldest commercial building.

Even though its first commercial entertainment show was decades away, there was a hint of the role tourism was to play in the future of Branson. With the publishing of the book, “The Shepherd of the Hills” by Harold Bell Wright in 1907 and the coming of the railroad, Branson had become a popular tourist destination for those wanting to see the places described in the book. Even with that however, who could have guessed that on its 100th anniversary Branson would be called the “Live music show capital of the world,” hosting about eight million visitors a year and one of the most popular tourist destinations in America.

The "Plumb Bazaar" now occupies the "Sullenger Saloon" building.

It’s almost ironic now, but even as Branson was being incorporated the eyes of the world were thousands of miles away watching the preparations for the maiden voyage of the “RMS Titanic,” built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast, Ireland and owned by the “White Star Line.” The “Olympic class” luxury liner was over 882 feet in length, the ultimate in luxury and the world’s largest steam ship.

She set sail from Southampton, England amid a gala maiden voyage departure celebration on her way to New York City on April 10, 1912. On the night of April 14, in the dark north Atlantic, disaster struck when the mighty ship hit an iceberg at about 10:40 p.m. She sank less than three hours later at about 2:20 p.m. on April 15 with the loss of 1,513 of her 2,224 passengers and crew acquiring a special mystique and place in history.

The city of Branson and the Titanic came together in 2006 with the opening of the Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson. The Branson Titanic is an unusual building resembling the Titanic and built to one half scale of the original containing more than “400 artifacts directly from the ship and its passengers’ that provides a one-of-a-kind exciting way to let its “passengers” experience what it was like on that fateful voyage particularly the last hours before she sank.

Who could have known back in 1912 that a century later the two diverse events, one a beginning and the other an ending ,would be commemorated together in Branson. Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center said that the Titanic Museum Attraction will be starting its 100th year celebration early with a “Back to Titanic ‘100th Year Tour Ireland Sweepstakes,'” the “Rose Petal Memorial Tribute” and the “Royal Wedding Contest.” During 2012 there will be a special series of events honoring the memory of the Titanic, her crew and passengers to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the her sinking.

Branson’s Tri-Lakes add to the uniqueness that is Branson

Table Rock Lake's Still Waters Lakeside Resort on Indian Point.

The Branson area is oft times referred to as the “Tri-Lakes” area because of its three lakes Table Rock Lake, Lake Taneycomo and Bull Shoals Lake. Together they provide fishermen, boaters and water sports enthusiasts with a year round selection of activities of every type from swimming, scuba diving and fishing to boating, wakeboarding, water skiing, parasailing and just about any other water sport or fun type of activity.

Of the three lakes, the two most often used by Branson visitors would be Table Rock Lake with its 741 miles of shore line and the 22 mile long Lake Taneycomo. Both are situated within less than 10 minutes of the famed Branson Strip, with all its fabulous live shows, attractions, thousands of hotel and motel rooms of every type, shopping and everything else that makes Branson the popular vacation destination that it is.

The 43,100 surface acre Table Rock Lake is the “crown jewel” of Branson’s water related recreational activities. Its warm waters provide the source for the majority of the water related sports activities in the Tri-Lakes and some of the finest bass fishing in the United States. Convenient public access to Table Rock Lake, from Branson, is available through the State Park Marina located just south of Table Rock Dam on State Highway 165 and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boat ramps located at Moon Shine Beach, immediately north of the Table Rock Dam on Highway 165 and Indian Point Park located 8 miles west of Branson on State Highway 76, and about two miles south on Indian Point Road.

Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center, points out that there are a variety of campgrounds and other lodging facilities located right on the shores and within minutes of the lake. “Two properties that immediately come to mind,” she said. “is the iconic Chateau on the Lake standing high above the lake near the dam and the Still Waters Lakeside Resort located right on the lake on  Indian Point.” She also points out that one of the most popular camping areas on Table Rock Lake is the “State Park Campground” located along with the State Park Marina just south of Table Rock Dam on State Highway 165.

Lake Taneycomo is a long narrow lake that runs from the foot of Table Rock Dam to the Power Site Dam, and the headwaters of Bull Shoals Lake, 22 mile downstream. It is a cold water lake due to the temperature of the water being discharged into the lake through power generation at the Table Rock Dam. In terms of the number of fish caught, Lake Taneycomo is one of the finest Rainbow and Brown Trout fisheries in the country.

Its cold water is not conducive to the same type of water activities as are the warm waters of Table Rock Lake. Although there is some excellent bass fishing available toward its lower end and in its creeks, Lake Taneycomo’s primary water activity is boating and trout fishing.

Lake Taneycomo has a number of lakeside resorts such as Trout Hollow and Lilley’s Landing and the city of Branson operates a lakeside campground with full facilities just south of Branson Landing on Box Car Willie Drive. Convenient access to the lake is provided at the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, the Cooper Creek Launch Area and the south end of the city of Branson’s campground. Scotty’s Trout Dock, located near the public launch area in the city campground is a great source of information, boat rentals, bait, and guide services.

Bull Shoals Lake, a 45, 000 thousand acre impoundment, with over 1050 miles of shoreline, offers the same type of boating and fishing as does Table Rock Lake. Except for fishermen and probably because of the closeness of Table Rock Lake to Branson, Bull Shoals Lake does not play a major role in the water activities of most Branson visitors even though it is but 20 minutes away.

Branson’s “Tri-Lakes” not only provide a variety of water sports and activities, but in offering it so close to everything else that Branson offers they provide an element of uniqueness that helps make Branson such a special place.