2/3 of the original Trekie group landed at the Ozark Country RV Park on the outskirts of Branson on Monday, April 7th about 3:30 in the afternoon after a several hour drive from Little Rock Arkansas. This was our first day of travel without Dick, Gail, and Rocky the Wonderdog., after being together for the last 127 days, it seemed strange to see only one rig, either ahead or behind us.
Arriving in Branson was not as I had it pictured. The Town is situated in the Ozark Mountains at 780’ elevation, in a beautiful setting with a couple of nearby lakes that by themselves are spectacular. In my version, I had it as a single main street along a flat or level field similar to Las Vegas. It could not have been different, except for the myriad of Theatres, Motels, Restaurants, Miniature Golf Courses, fast food establishments. Souvenir and craft shops along with almost any kind of Factory Outlet Store existing anywhere. Throw in the discount ticket shops, and it is hard to believe you are not in Orlando,Florida ready to attend Disneyworld.. It is obvious, however, that unlike Disneyworld, the people here are really friendly, not just the ones inside of the park. It is reflected in the way you are treated by everyone in town, whether they are working at a grocery or gift store, inside a theatre, or just setting next to you , these people are just downright nice..
The population of Branson is shown as just over 6000 on the signs. I find that to be highly improbable once you start looking at the sheer number of condominiums and apartment buildings that cover much of the area. New construction is everywhere. Some huge houses belonging to many of the well known performers that appear here from time to time are scattered throughout many gated communities.
Currently Branson has over 50 Theatres and produce over 100 shows each and every day. Seating ranges from just a few to well over 4000, with new ones nearing completion
While here Diane and I attended the Jim Stafford Show, a classical guitar player turned comedian, once described as the Victor Borge of the Guitar. The show was great and enjoyed by both of us. The other show we attended was a Magician Act by Justin, which was not nearly as enjoyable or professional. Perhaps the 70 or so grammar school kids in the audience and the fact that I was called on stage to help perform magic tricks somewhat colored my opinion. Don and Bonnie attended a show called “The Legends’, a group impersonating past and current performers. Both enjoyed the show as well.
While waiting for the Magic Show to start, we met a local lady who has lived in Branson for several years who explained to us that she had seen 166 shows last year. It seems that if you are a “Local” or live here with proper identification, the shows are often offered at no, or little cost to you, in return for spreading the word about the show. Branson also has what is known as Local’s Appreciation week twice per year when performers go all out to show their hometown residents how much they are appreciated.
Heck, while checking out at one of the local grocery stores, I was given a senior citizens discount. So far about the only advantage I have found to being old, not withstanding qualifying for a Golden Age Pass which gets you into most National Parks for free.
Our stay in Branson was extended by one day to allow the weather to clear up a bit before leaving. It was somewhat disconcerting to watch the constant tornado and thunderstorm warnings which adorned our TV screen. Several inches of rain did fall while we were there making outings a bit damp. We were awakened by our weather alert radio siren three times in one night warning about thunderstorms and the possibility of large hail. It was pretty exciting.
All of the rain caused the Lake level in Table Rock Lake to rise, in turn allowing the water to flow over all of the floodgates at the dam for the first time in 47 years. As we were leaving, we saw a bus load of seniors in a Baptist Bus driving across the dam on a sightseeing tour. Further down the road, some of the houses in low areas were already flooding, with water about level with the first floors. Rainfall of 3 inches per day was common while we were there. The rains were forecast to stop, hopefully before more water damage was done to the lower area and roads.
Branson bills itself as the Family Las Vegas and seems to live up to its name. To really enjoy the area, you would need much better weather than we experienced, plus at least another week or so to even begin to see it all. One could spend a summer and not experience all of the shows that are going on here. Most of the big names were not available until summer or fall when schools are out and most of the 8 Million visitors descend on the town. The traffic must be unbearable, as it was bad while we were there, although Branson has developed many roads that parallel the main street to help people get through town without passing the heavily used tourist destinations. Branson has been one of the top four tour bus destinations for the past 17 years the list has been compiled. I’m glad we only encountered a few.
It was a great stop and we would recommend it to anyone. Our only regrets were the weather and the limited number of days we allowed ourselves to stay, although we would certainly try to see it later in the spring before school was out, or in early fall after school begins. I can only imagine what the area would look like in the Autumn when the leaves are turning….
Thanks Branson, we came away with a warm fuzzy feeling which we will always have whenever we are reminded of your city…..Larry