Splashing and cruising in Branson over Labor Day Weekend and beyond

The paddle-wheel river boat replica, “Lake Queen.”

“Branson has a wide variety of exciting attractions and activities for the whole family to enjoy all year long,” said Preston Garrison, Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “However, the summer months provide the greatest access to the full enjoyment of most of Branson’s water-related activities, with Labor Day Weekend being the most popular,” he added.

Here’s a list of seven of the most popular water related things that people like to do while in Branson:

1. White Water is over 2 million gallons of wet watery excitement for the whole family to enjoy. The 13 acre tropically themed wonderland is full of fun and adventure for the whole family. Whether it’s “Splashaway Cay” and “Coconut Grove” for the smaller children and toddlers, the excitement of sliding down the seven story “Kalani Towers,” or the thrills of the drops and speed of rides such as “KaPau Plummet,” “Pipeline Plunge” or the “Raging River Rapids,” there is an adventure for every member of the family at White Water. White Water’s last day of operation for the 2017 season will be on September, 4.

2. A sightseeing cruise aboard Main Street Lake Cruises’ Lake Queen is a great way for the whole family to experience something that the vast majority of the millions of visitors who come to Branson each year never get to see. As you relax aboard the paddle-wheel river boat replica, Lake Queen, and cruise beautiful Lake Taneycomo, opportunities will abound to see Bald Eagles, Blue Herons, other birds, and wildlife such as deer, mink, otters, and more. You’ll see amazing natural bluffs carved out by the White River over the eons of time, spectacular Ozarks’ vistas, and a unique lakeside view of the entire length of Branson Landing and its $7.5 million-dollar fountain show. This unique cruise, is one of Branson’s most extraordinary “shows.” A show produced by Mother Nature that’s unlike anything else available in Branson. The Lake Queen is fully handicap-accessible and offers a full set of modern amenities. These include full-sized modern restrooms, full bar and snack food service, and a fully enclosed environmentally conditioned lower deck, as well as an open air upper deck.

3. Moonshine Beach is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is located within minutes of the famed Branson Strip immediately off the north end the Table Rock Dam on State Highway 165. Its large sandy beach is perfect for sunbathing, swimming or beach volleyball. Its other amenities include picnic tables, food vendors, a boat launching ramp, showers, flush toilets a large picnic shelter, and a kid’s playground. Moonshine Beach closes its 2017 season on September 14.

4.The Showboat Branson Belle is a full-size replica of the old-time river showboats. The Showboat combines a relaxing cruise on beautiful Table Rock Lake with a view of Ozark vistas and scenery that can only be seen and appreciated from the unique vantage point it provides. Add a scrumptious meal together with a wonderfully  entertaining show and the result is a special one of a kind experience that the whole family will enjoy.

5. The State Park Marina offers the most water sport activities on Table Rock Lake. It’s conveniently located inside Table Rock State Park, off of Highway 165 just south of the main entrance to the park. The Marina offers just about every water activity that most folks would want to do including, boat rentals of all types, wave runners, fishing guides, and much more. The modern 600-slip marina is home to the Boathouse Boutique store, a full-service Dive Shop, the local favorite Danna’s BBQ, and Oasis Hawaiian Shave Ice.

6. Ride The Ducks 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 Table Rock Lake. After the Splashdown, there is an opportunity for the kids to drive the Duck in the water.

A portion of Welk Resort’s Splash-A-Torium

7. Indoor Water Parks can make the weather outside immaterial. For planning purposes, it should be noted that all of Branson’s indoor water parks are connected to a lodging facility. One is Welk Resort’s “Splash-A-Torium.” It’s 10,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor water fun featuring “an outrageous 100 foot” plus indoor water slide, kid’s splash-zone, indoor/outdoor pool, and hot tub.” The Resort has recently been redecorated and updated with deluxe and premier traditional rooms and amenities. The Resort even has its own theatre that is not only home to one of Branson’s most popular new shows, Million Dollar Quartet, but features limited engagement performances by stars such Daniel O’Donnell, Jay Leno, and others. throughout the year.

BTC’s Garrison points out that Labor Day weekend in Branson is one of the busiest weekends of the year and suggests making advance show and lodging reservations to ensure the best show seating and lodging accommodations. Just one phone call to 1-800-785-1550 will put you in touch with one of BTC’s Branson-based Travel Planning Specialists. 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.

 

 

Presleys’ next generations carry on 50 years of entertainment passion

They’ve come a long way! Third generation Presleys: Eric, Scott, and Greg, performing as “Herkimer” with their dad, in one of their earliest show performances.

From their first performance in Branson’s first show on the now famous Branson Strip, on June 30, 1967, generations of Presleys have been entertaining Branson audiences with their one of a kind show. Over the past 50 years, millions of Branson visitors have enjoyed Presleys’ Country Jubilee and the talents of the Presley family, making it one of Branson’s most popular shows and a Branson icon.

That first show featured first and second generation Presleys, Lloyd Presley, his two sons, Gary and Steve, and his two daughters Deanna and Janice. As they start their second 50 years in Branson, the show still features two of performers performing in that first show, comedian Gary “Herkimer” Presley and drummer, Steve Presley. As important, if not more so, is the addition of third and fourth generation Presleys which has enabled the show to evolve and maintain its iconic status and popularity.

The shows two main elements are comedy and music, and no show in Branson does them better than Presleys’ Country Jubilee. For over 50 years and counting, the linchpin of the comedy has been Gary Presley as “Herkimer.” His son Eric, has been part of the act playing “Little Herkimer” since he was three years old and later developing his own character named “Cecil.” Through the years they have entertained audiences with a familial comedic synergy and humor that is as funny as it is unduplicatable. Along the way, Eric has integrated some of his own unique comedy and routines. Most recently, they have been joined by Eric’s son “Ben” insuring the continuation of that one of a kind Presley comedy for generations to come.

It was a tradition of Presley family musical talent that got the Presleys into the entertainment business. That talent can be traced directly back to Lloyd Presley’s mother, Mamie, who loved the harmonica. Lloyd began his musical career with the “Ozark Playboys,” and his kids, growing up in that musical environment, began playing of their own volition. In 1962, they started performing with their dad every Saturday night in Springfield’s Fantastic Caverns.

Gary Presley, is an accomplished guitar player. When he first started with his dad in 1962, he did it playing the guitar. His comedy career as “Herkimer” was to start a short while later. His son, Scott, following in the footsteps of his dad and grandfather, delights audiences nightly as the lead guitar player in the show. Greg, reflecting the passion his great grandmother Mamie had for the harmonica, consistently amazes audiences with what he can do with the harmonica.

Ten year old John Presley, in one of his earliest show performances.

The Presley tradition and passion for music continues with John, Steve’s son. He is the pianist and keyboard player in Presleys’ Country Jubilee and does many of the shows musical arrangements. John’s wife, the lovely and extremely talented, Ambrus Presley, is one of the shows featured vocalists and one of the finest female vocalists on any stage anywhere.

Although Gary and Steve Presley are listed as producers of the show, they both quickly admit that their sons are a big reason the show continues to be successful. The third generation’s innovations and blending of technology, music and comedy, helps keep the show relevant and on the cutting edge of today’s musical entertainment.

Fourth generation Presleys continue the family’s musical tradition of performing in the show. Joining their cousin Ben performing on stage each night Scott’s sons, Brett, 17, plays the bass and Zach, 15, plays, drums for the finale of the show.

There have never been any “stars” featured in Presleys’ Country Jubilee. For four generations, and over 50 years, it’s just been “the Presleys” sharing their talent, love for each other, and their passion for comedy and music with Branson audiences. What a great tradition and way to start the next 50 years of “the Presleys” and the phenomenal Presleys’ Country Jubilee!

 

Just because you build it doesn’t guarantee they’ll come!

Breakdowns were just one of the challenges of “life on the road.” Lloyd seems to be letting Gary do the heavy pushing here.

When the Presleys opened Branson’s first live music theatre on the now famous “Branson Strip” 50 years ago, it was just the first step in realizing their dream of being able to make a living from their country music and comedy show. To loosely paraphrase a quote from the movie, Field of Dreams, “Just because you build it doesn’t guarantee they’ll come!” Who knew that 50 years later, Presleys’ Country Jubilee would be one of Branson’s most popular shows and that “Presleys’ Theatre” would become an icon?

Oh, they had a new theatre, and a great show filled with music and comedy that people loved. The challenge was marketing it to get enough people to come to the show to keep it financially viable. It was a challenge compounded by the fact that it was 1967 and the theater and show were located on Highway 76, a curvy two-lane stretch of blacktop tourists used to get from the relatively unknown city of Branson, Missouri, to the growing “Silver Dollar City,” “Shepherd of the Hills,” and “Table Rock Lake.”

During the season, they used brochures and other strategies such as taping bumper stickers to cars with masking tape during the intermission to advertise the show. In those days, there was no “Ozark Mountain Christmas,” the Branson season was over by the middle of October, and marketing, outside of Branson was done primarily by word of mouth from those who had seen and enjoyed the show.

What better way to market the show, and Branson, than by taking it on the road and sharing it with potential Branson visitors during the off season. The hope was not only that those seeing the road show would come to Branson, but that they would spread the word about Branson and “Presleys’ Country Jubilee,” throughout their area by word of mouth.

From the very first season in 1967, and for nearly 25 years after that, except for taking a break from mid-December through the end of January each year, the Presleys spent just about every weekend performing their show throughout Middle America. Not only did they perform and market their show, but they marketed the growing tourist destination of Branson, Missouri and all it had to offer. Steve Presley says, “The road shows were not only a way to help pay our entertainers in the winter, it was a way to advertise our show and bring people to Branson.”

Don’t confuse the tour buses you see in movies and on TV with the Presley’s tour bus. Their first bus was a 20-year-old 1948, “Flxible” which was more like “a revamped school bus with a heater that sometimes worked,” rather than the grand tour buses that come to most people’s mind.

Although they subsequently purchased a used 1964 GM 4106 bus, not only were the traveling quarters far from luxurious, but the trips were not exempt from flat tires, bad weather, sickness, engine malfunctions, and more. When their traveling days were over, Lloyd Presley, reflecting on those days, said, “Loading a bus in three or four feet of snow…we don’t miss that.”

Eric “Cecil” Presley, the son of Gary “Herkimer” Presley, said that he, and his brothers Scott and Greg, literally grew up on those bus tours, recalling that his parents built a crib in the front seats of the bus. “While it was work for dad and grandpa, for us kids every weekend was a big adventure. We really cherished those times,” he added.

Eric said that they sold the GM bus about 25 years ago, but about a year and a half ago they tracked it down and found it in a field in Kentucky. He adds, “We purchased the bus and have it back in our possession. We’ve got some plans for it and are going to integrate it, at some point, into the theatre.”

Best Branson Insider Highlights for August 2017

The cast of “Broadway’s Greatest Hits” during the Finale.

“With school starting, August is a transitional month for younger visitors with families. It’s also an excellent time for that last summer getaway before the school starts,” said Preston Garrison, Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center.

Here’s an insider’s highlight list, containing some of the best of what’s going on in Branson during August, our Featured Show, Limited Engagement, and Event of the Month.

Featured Show of the Month: Broadway has burst upon the Branson Strip in a spectacular new production, Broadway’s Greatest Hits. The show adds a unique new dimension to the scope of entertainment Branson’s live shows offer. It’s a show of “bests.” It’s Broadway’s “best” presented in one of Branson’s “best” productions by some of the “best” vocalists and dancers on any stage in Branson. Each segment has its own choreography, style, special effects, costuming, and more. The timelessness of the music, the interaction between the vocalists and dancers, their talent and energy, the many styles of dancing, colorful costuming and more, appeal to both adults and kids alike and have them waiting for what’s coming next.

Featured Limited Engagement of the Month: Don’t miss this chance to see Terry Fator, the outstanding entertainer who packs the house in Las Vegas and won the top prize on Season 2 of the NBC’s prime time hit, “America’s Got Talent.” His exceptional talent as a puppeteer and singer is unbelievable. With his natural technique, you will quickly come to think of each puppet as more than a doll, and his fantastic skill as a vocalist will have you looking forward to every song! It’s one of the funniest, most unique, and enjoyable shows you will ever experience. Two days only, August 11-12 at the fabulous Welk Theatre.

Featured Event of the Month: Branson’s 29th Annual Fiddle Festival & Mid-America Fiddlers Championship will be held at the Grand Country Water Park Resort. August 25-27. The fun starts in the Grand Country Parking Lot at 6:30 PM on August 25 with the “Anything Goes Contest” and a free concert starring Melody Hart and a live band. The Mid-America Fiddlers Championship starts on the morning of August 26. Six Divisions, from Pee-Wee to Senior and Open, will compete for thousands of dollars in prizes and the coveted title of the “Mid-America Fiddle Champion.” The title will be decided in a Round Robin Play Off at 4:00 PM on August 27. 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.

Terry Fator and “friends.”

Limited Engagements (Sorted by starting date)

Aug 11-12: Terry Fator
Aug 12:  Grand Funk Railroad
Aug 13: Richie McDonald

Special Event Highlights (Sorted by starting date.)

Aug 1 – Oct 31: Branson Farmers Market Every Tuesday
Aug 1 – Sep 4: Branson Landing’s Annual School Shoes For Kids
Aug 1 – Aug 12: Night Water at White Water
Aug 1 – Aug 4: Ballparks of America – Week 10 Back to School Bash 12U-13U
Aug 3 – Aug 10: Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series
Aug 4 – Aug 5: G.R.O.O.V.E. Presents Wagens at the Wheel
Aug 4 – Aug 6: Missouri State Tax-Free Holiday Sale
Aug 4 – Aug 6: Tax Free Holiday Shopping at Tanger Outlets
Aug 5: ROCK THE SPECTRUM – A BENEFIT EVENT & CONCERT
Aug 5: Reeds Spring Annual Tomato Festival
Aug 6 – Aug 7: Shakespeare in the Park – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Aug 6: Back to School Bash
Aug 6: Ballparks of America – Week 11 Baseball Youth Majors Championship 10U-13U
Aug 9 – Aug 13: Shepherd of the Hills Super Summer Cruise Weekend
Aug 11: Tanger Club Member Exclusive Event – Bring a Friend
Aug 11 – Aug 13: Unique Home & Wedding Show
Aug 12: Summer Movies in the Park at the Branson RecPlex
Aug 18: PRINCE IVAN – LIVE IN CONCERT!
Aug 20: “Keepin’ it Real in Branson” Cruise In
Aug 24 – Sep 4: Silver Dollar City Southern Gospel Picnic Festival
Aug 25 – Aug 27: Annual Fiddle Festival Presented by Grand Country

For additional information on these events, or any of Branson’s shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com, or calling 1-800-785-1550.

 

Wouldn’t your family enjoy one of these popular Branson attractions?

Just a glimpse of what your family will experience at some of Branson’s most popular attractions such as, Main Street Lake Cruises’ Lake Queen, White Water, Ride the Ducks, and Silver Dollar City.

“We love to get feedback from those who join with us on our Twitter and Facebook pages,” said Preston Garrison, Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “Each Wednesday is ‘Question Day,’ where we ask a question about Branson that we hope will be either helpful, fun, or both. Many, particularly at this time of the year, come to Branson with children and or grandchildren so we thought it would be interesting to share the results of the responses to the question, ‘What’s the one thing your kids or grand-kids want to see or do when they come to Branson?'”

Obviously, this is not a survey of scientific accuracy. What it is however, is an indication of some of the major Branson attractions that families enjoy. It’s also information that could also be helpful to those planning a trip to Branson, particularly if they’ve never been before.

It’s certainly no surprise that one of the most popular attractions for families, is Silver Dollar City, Branson’s oldest and most popular paid attraction. And for good reason! The award winning 1880s styled theme park has dozens of rides for children of every age, shows, demonstrating craftsmen and so much more. In addition, it offers six world class festivals throughout the year. With all there is to see and do, it’s easy to appreciate its popularity, not only with the kids, but with their parents and grandparents as well.

A sightseeing cruise aboard Main Street Lake Cruises’ Lake Queen is a great way for families to enjoy quality time with each other as they leisurely cruise the cool waters of Lake Taneycomo. But it’s more than that! It’s also a delightful adventure where, together you will see and enjoy things that few of the millions of people coming to Branson every year ever get to see.

As the boat glides along, you will see scenic views, cliffs, and wildlife such as Bald Eagles, Blue Herons, deer, mink, or some of the other wildlife that live along the lake’s banks. Yet, it’s much more than simply a cruise as your Captain turns it into a wonderful entertainment experience. They combine information about the Lake Queen; history of the White River, Lake Taneycomo, and Branson with their personality, knowledge of the local area, and humor to create a special and unique Branson memory.

Dixie Stampede, the place Dolly Parton calls “Branson’s most fun place to eat” is another popular attraction. It’s equally attractive to kids as well as adults, but it’s more than just an attraction. Is there another place in Branson where families can share a delicious four course meal? Of course, there is! There’s none however, where they can do it having the fun that comes from eating it without “utensils” amid the excitement and action of performing dogs; racing pigs; 32 magnificent horses featuring trick riders performing amazing equestrian feats; stampeding buffalo, and, of course, some friendly competition?”

Go Kart riding is another popular activity for kids. With its four Track Family Fun Parks, Branson is a go-kart paradise! Whether it’s the 1,200 feet and four stories of steel and concrete on the “Heavy Metal High Rise,” a four-story spiral climb on the “Wild Woody,” the spirals and a blind peak of the “Lumber Jack,” or “Kiddie Go-Karts” there’s a Go Kart ride for just about every member of the family.

Garrison said that’s just some of the fun highlights. There’s attractions as varied as White Water, southwest Missouri’s largest water park; the Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure; the National Tiger Sanctuary; Titanic Museum Attraction; Branson Dinosaur Museum; Ride the Ducks; and many more.

He suggests it’s unlikely that, mile for mile, there’s another family vacation destination anywhere near Branson’s size that has more ways for families to have fun. He asks, “At the end of the day isn’t that what it’s all about, having fun together and making special memories that can last a life time?”

For more information on these attractions or other great Branson shows or lodging please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services and sellers of almost 5 million Branson show and attraction tickets by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through their website www.BransonTourismCenter.com

Steve Presley – 50-year Branson journey starts on a log drum stool playing a snare drum

Steve Presley, age 10, playing snare drum while sitting on a log seat.

When you are watching Presleys’ Country Jubilee you probably won’t notice the drummer any more than any other instrumentalist on the stage. When you do notice him, the first thing you will see is his smile which, along with playing drums, is what Steve Presley has done on stage since he was ten years old.”

Well maybe in the beginning, the word “drums” would be a slight exaggeration. Oh, he was still the “drummer,” it’s just that the drummer was playing a single snare drum while sitting on a tree log with a piece of wood nailed on top for a drum stool. It was even a little more challenging than that.

In 1967, at age ten he left his friends in Springfield to move to an isolated spot on Highway 76, where his family was building Branson’s first live music theatre. At this point, Steve’s life was changed forever.

He went to school days, helped in the theatre, drummed in the show, and discovered the Ozarks outdoors and squirrels. In his free time, he hunted squirrels and other small game in “tick-heavy brush” near the theatre on the family’s property. He remembers walking across, the usually untraveled, Highway 76, to one of the few businesses in the area, “Jones Hardware Store” to buy BBs for his Daisy BB gun.

From the very first performance of the Presleys in their new theatre, Steve has been the drummer and so much more. Like his older brother and sisters, he did whatever was necessary to help the show succeed.

He sold tickets from the screened in back porch of the family home and a little “outhouse” looking ticket booth, in the front of the theatre; helped his dad and sister, Janice, clean the theatre after shows; and got his first job in marketing, walking through the campgrounds in the Branson area handing out Presleys’ brochures. Another “marketing” job was putting paper bumper stickers on the cars at intermission with masking tape. It took keen hearing, timing and quickness however. When he’d hear the bass guitar start playing for the second half of the show he’d run back into the theatre and start playing the drum again.

Over 50 years later, the drums have changed, but not his love of playing them or his smile.

Over the last 50 years a lot has changed. Jones Hardware is long gone and Highway 76, filled with theatres, attractions, businesses, and non-stop traffic, has become the famous “Branson Strip.” His single snare drum and log drum seat have been replaced by a high tech electronic drum set atop a platform at center stage. One thing has not changed however, his love for playing the drums, which he has been doing continuously in Presleys’ Country Jubilee for over 50 years.

In 1976, he made one of the best decisions of his life when he married his long-time sweetheart, Raeanne Miller. While both were attending Branson High School, Raeanne worked as an usher at “Presleys’ Theatre.” Together, in addition to raising a family, their involvement at the theatre and with the show, they have unstintingly given of themselves in serving the Branson community and its entertainment industry. Among other things, Steve was the volunteer chairman of the Advertising Committee for the Branson CVB for over 20 years, retiring from that role about four years ago. Raeanne served in many public service positions, most recently as the Mayor of Branson.

Oh, and that smile you see while he’s playing. It’s the genuine smile of a man reflecting his love for what he is doing and being able to do it with his family.

Broadway’s greatest “hits” Branson Strip in a spectacular way!

Whole cast performing “We Go Together” from “Grease.”

Broadway has burst upon the Branson Strip in a spectacular new production, Broadway’s Greatest Hits. The show adds a unique new dimension to the scope of entertainment Branson’s live shows offer. It’s a show of “bests.” It’s Broadway’s “best” presented in one of Branson’s “best” productions by some of the “best” vocalists and dancers on any stage in Branson.

The shows vocalists and dancers are the lifeblood of the show. Their unbelievable talent, enthusiasm, and boundless energy is a joy to experience. Oh, the music and production is spectacular, but WOW, are those vocalists and dancers something! They are vocalists Ryan Walton; Vocal Captain; Maggie Moore-Cyr; Katie Mussler; and Robert Quibell and dancers Ollie Barrow, Dance Captain; Rebecca Hoffpauir; Sarah Hunter; Joey Kuba; Amy Morlang; Ruth Robertson; Dasha Ruden, Ballet; Kelvin Wright, Ballet; and Landy Saavedra.

Obviously, with a title of Broadway’s Greatest Hits the music comes from Broadway production shows. Most of the time, when these songs are performed outside of the production show itself the style of the performance is “park and bark.” That’s where someone stands there and performs the song “concert style.” Broadway’s Greatest Hits is different in that each number is a mini production.

Each segment has its own choreography, style, special effects, costuming, and more. The timelessness of the music, the interaction between the vocalists and dancers, their talent and energy, the many styles of dancing, colorful costuming and more, appeal to both adults and kids alike and have them waiting for what’s coming next.

Normally, one would not associate a music show, particularly one featuring Broadway music they might not be familiar with, as something kids would enjoy. That’s not the case with this show. During an interview, Maggie Moore, one of the vocalists, said, “There’s so much music in it that will directly appeal to them such as, ‘Mary Poppins,’ ‘Aladdin,’ and Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The constant action, interaction between performers, dancing, and colorful costume changes appeal to adults and kids alike.” In addition, an associate of mine took her 13-year-old daughter to see the show. She loved it and wants to go see it again!

The show starts with a high energy, and colorful performance of We’re In The Money” from “42nd Street” and a full cast performance of the Academy Award winning song, Lullaby of Broadway. What a wonderful and powerful way to prepare the audience for the wonderful musical journey through Broadway’s Greatest Hits that follows!

The beautiful and talented Katie Mussler performing “Memory” from “Cats.”

And do they ever! From “Westside Story” to “Oklahoma,” “Les Miserables,” “Aladin,” “Mary Poppins,” and many more; the journey travels seamlessly from one great show to another. As is my custom, I will highlight, from among many, three of my favorite highlights.

Katie Mussler’s singing of Memory from “Cats” was a joy. What talent! Simultaneously, with Katie’s singing, ballet dancers Dasha Ruden and Kevin Wright, were performing an exquisite ballet. OK, I’ll admit I don’t know the difference between a “pirouette” and a “two step,” but I do recognize a WOW moment. This was one!

The performance of One Day More from “Les Miserables,” involved both vocalists and dancers in an extremely entertaining and inspiring performance. WOW, what a way to end the first half! My third highlight would be the performance of Step In Time from “Mary Poppins.” It features Ryan Walton singing, a really unique dance routine, chimney sweep costuming, and a neat “chimney” set. What the dancers do during the number is so entertaining and amazing.

From beginning to end this show is a wonderful, high energy, and colorful journey through Broadway’s Greatest Hits. It’s a journey that ends all too soon.

For additional information or tickets for Broadway’s Greatest Hits please contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Gary “Herkimer” Presley – 55 years of amazing Ozark’s comedy

Herkimer is still the same 15-year-old boy he was when he started…

It’s impossible to think of “gut busting” comedy and laughter in Branson without thinking of Gary Presley and his creation, Branson’s favorite comedy character, “Herkimer” performing in  Presleys’ Country Jubilee. He has been bringing laughter and joy to audiences, as the comedic Ozark hillbilly, for over 55 years but, it didn’t start out that way.

While Gary was growing up, his dad, Lloyd, performed throughout the Ozarks with the “Ozark Playboys.” Gary along with the rest of the family regularly went to Lloyd’s performances and along the way, he and his siblings, by their own choice and without formal lessons, taught themselves to play and sing.

His entertainment career started in 1962 playing guitar and performing with his dad and two sisters in the show “Farmarama. It was performed at the 1000 seat auditorium of “Springfield’s Fantastic Caverns” every Saturday night and was recorded for later rebroadcast on Springfield radio station KGBX. The shows emcee and promoter was Loyd Evans, a deejay at KGBX.

…he just got a lot grayer and lost a lot more hair over the years.

Evans thought the show could use some comedy and Gary, who was 15 at that time said, “Well, I’ll give it a try.” The costume came first, a set of size 50 overalls from one grandpa for his then 130-pound frame; a set of glasses from another grandpa; an old hat; and teeth blackened with an eyebrow pencil.

Evans came up with the name “Herkimer.” Gary believes that Evans was a friend of the Carter Family and that he “picked up the name” from a song June Carter called, “Herkimer the Bull.”

He got his first laughs just walking out on the stage in the costume, liked it, and began adding a few lines and jokes. The rest is comedic history! Since then he has developed and perfected comedy routines and jokes that audiences just love and come back to see time and time again.

That said, what keeps “Herkimer” relevant 55 years later is Gary’s unique ability to keep things fresh and exciting by constantly adding fresh new material and trending topics to his comedy. He keeps “Herkimer” funny and audiences happy and laughing.

How he does what he does it is as important to the audience’s enjoyment as the routines and jokes themselves. His spot-on comedic timing, ad-libbing, and delivery cannot be imitated. When coupled with his ability to communicate his genuine love for people, family, and his craft to his audience, the result is 55 years, and counting, of the most unique, iconic, and just plain funny comedy anywhere!

“Herkimer” has been a trademark performer with Presleys’ Country Jubilee in Branson for over 50 continuous years, performing on a nightly basis. His son, “Cecil,” Gary’s real-life son Eric, performs with him nightly and Ben Presley, Eric’s son and Gary’s grandson, performs with them almost every night ensuring the continuation of that “patented” Presley comedy and humor for generations to come.

As to “Herkimer” today, Gary Presley says, “Herkimer is still the same 15-year-old boy he was when he started; he just got a lot grayer and lost a lot more hair over the years.” To that this writer would simply add, “Yes sir, probably so, but he sure didn’t lose any of his ability to make people laugh and enjoy themselves!”

For more information or tickets for Presleys’ Country Jubilee please contact the Branson Tourism Center at 1-800-785-1550 or through its website www.BransonTourismCenter.Com.

Neither snow nor rain, nor heat or cold stops Branson’s Big Three

From great shopping to dinosaurs and shows, there’s always plenty to do in Branson regardless of the weather.

“Weather impacts our daily lives whether we are on vacation or not. Fair sunny weather is what most want, but that’s not what we always get,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Weather does impact some of what’s available to do in Branson. The great news however, is most of the fun and exciting things families can enjoy doing in Branson are not weather dependent,” she adds.

Branson has hundreds of different ways to have fun and enjoy yourself, in both good weather and bad. Most will fall into one of the “Big Three” Branson categories “Attractions,” “Shows,” and “Shopping.” Let’s take a closer look at them and the reasons why you can count on enjoying them regardless of the weather:

1.Shows: “The show must go on.” With most of Branson’s incredible live shows performing in indoor theatres, the weather outside makes no difference. Their theatres are state of the art, with comfortable seating, the latest sound and lighting equipment, and, of course, are environmentally controlled for the audience’s comfort. The variety available is amazing including unique shows such as the Million Dollar Quartet, it starring the Hughes Brothers, Amazing Pets, Clay Cooper’s Country Express, Presleys’ Country Jubilee, Grand Jubilee, and over 100 more.

2. Attractions: A few of Branson’s attractions, and rides within attractions, are weather sensitive, but many more are not. While great to visit any day, they can be a “vacation saver” when the weather turns ugly. Like Branson’s theatres they are located inside buildings with climate control systems and their operation is not impacted by weather.

From dozens of Branson attractions, here’s a few examples illustrating the breadth of the options available to have fun in Branson even on the worst weather day. Want to meet a “T-Rex,” up close and personal? The Branson Dinosaur Museum features life-sized replicas of the two and a half story “T-Rex” down to one of the smallest dinosaurs, the “Micro Raptor.” Dinosaurs not your thing, then how about a visit to Branson’s Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure. Explore the Banyan Tree Adventure, the Emerald Forest Mirror Maze, and of course, the Butterfly Aviary, filled with hundreds, if not thousands of stunningly beautiful, fluttering butterflies.

The Track Family Fun Parks offers many options for total family fun! Bumper rides, laser tag, kiddie rides, mini golf courses, arcade games, and batting cages, everything you need to stay entertained for hours on end. Although many of the activities are outdoors there are indoor activities such as laser tag, mini golf, arcade games, and more. Plus, when there is a break in the weather, your family can enjoy the outside activities including go-karts and the new Branson Ferris Wheel.

Branson’s Titanic Museum Attraction “boards passengers” every day, rain or shine, for an exciting interactive adventure sharing and remembering what happened when the “unsinkable ship” sank in the deep waters or the north Atlantic Ocean over 100 years ago. The World’s Largest Toy Museum Complex includes over 1 million toys from the 1800’s to present, including model trains, planes, cars, dolls, superhero figures, Disney, and much more. It’s 26,000 sq. ft. contains, five museums and, from “Star Wars” to Barbie Dolls and BB guns, several unique collections.

3. Shopping: Branson offers a variety of shopping that is unmatched by any travel destination anywhere near its size. Major shopping areas including Tanger Outlets, historic downtown Branson, and Branson Landing with its over 100 retail stores, restaurants, and attractions remain open rain or shine. Hundreds of other specialty shops, flea markets, galleries, and stores, including the famous “Dick’s 5 & 10,” also remain open offering shoppers a unique world class shopping experience regardless of the weather.

Obviously, there will be a few days of the year when ice, snow, or some other weather condition might impact the total Branson area, but on a day to day basis, the three major things Branson is noted for, its shows, attractions, and shopping, are available regardless of the weather.

For more information on “Branson’s Big Three;” Branson shows, attractions, or lodging please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through their website www.BransonTourismCenter.com


“it starring the Hughes Brothers” makes for fantastic Branson entertainment!

The Hughes Brothers, Ryan,left, Adam, Andy, Jason,Marty

All I can say is WOW! From beginning to end it starring the Hughes Brothers is non-stop quality entertainment from the Hughes family to yours. I’ve seen and enjoyed this show for years, but this year’s show just knocked my socks off! It was like seeing a new show, and what a great show I saw.

The show’s powerful opening set features the stars of the show, the Hughes Brothers, Marty, Jason, Adam, Ryan, and Andy. It sets the stage for what’s to follow. They perform Alabama’s Here We Are; Welcome, from Disney’s “Brother Bear;” and Avicii’s Hey Brother, closing the set out with an absolutely spectacular performance of Pure Imagination from “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”

There’s just something about familial harmonies that’s hard to beat and, these guys are just plain good. The opening set immerses the audience in that talent while exposing them to the variety of music they will experience throughout the show. The Brothers perform many numbers throughout the show, with others and by themselves. Two of my favorite pure Brothers’ numbers, from among the many, were Pure Imagination and their a capella version of America.

In addition to singing, the Brothers maintain a constant relaxed interaction with the audience. That interaction, through their comedy and sharing of information about themselves and the family is an inherent part of the show as it transitions from act to act throughout the show.

The Hughes family is billed as one of the, if not the largest family acts performing together anywhere. And it’s quite a cast, including, the four brothers and their wives Marty and Cindy, Jason and Mara, Adam and Vikki, Ryan and Carina, and Andy and Becky, plus over 35 children ranging in age from two to 24.

The number and makeup of the cast is a unique entertainment experience and phenomenon in itself, but it’s so much more! It’s not just putting kids on a stage. These kids are there because they want to be, are talented, and know what they are doing. Jason Hughes, the show’s producer, once said, “Sure it might be a four-year old performing, but it’s going to be one of the best performances by a four-year-old that you have ever seen.”

The kids in the audience seemed excited to see their “peers” performing. This, at the same time their parents and grandparents are enjoying the same performance. From the Hughes Brothers themselves, to their wives, and kids these are very talented entertainers presenting some awesome entertainment.

From among many, here are three of my favorite highlights featuring members of the Hughes family other than the Brothers. The performance of the Halo Theme Song featuring Aaron, William, and Hannah and the barrel drums was a WOW moment. The drums were made from 55 gallon barrels and their combination with the violins and lighting made for an awesome experience. I loved it. It was one of the most unique and amazing violin performances I have ever seen on a Branson stage.

The Teens really knocked it out of the park with their Teen Medley.

The “Teens’ Medley” of I Did It All, Geronimo, and Can’t Hold Us was so much fun! Not only was it colorful and well sung, but the dancing and energy within the performance was phenomenal. The younger Hughes Brothers’ Kids’ performance of the Trunk Song was just a joy. You won’t believe what they do with those trunks, but you will love it!

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. This is one great show, with lots of everything for everyone, that families can enjoy simultaneously together. It also is a standalone show that adults will enjoy throughout. It’s hard to explain, but a joy to experience.

Family, yours and theirs, is the whole reason for this show. Nowhere is that more evident than when the Brothers and their wives are joined by the rest of the family as they sing All You Need Is Love and Somebody To Love. “It” would be hard to imagine a more unique, entertaining, or fun filled show for the whole family than it starring the Hughes Brothers.

For more information on it starring the Hughes Brothers please contact the Branson Tourism Center, the sellers of over 5 million Branson show and attraction tickets, by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through their website www.BransonTourismCenter.com