Branson, Missouri is to show goers as Las Vegas is to gamblers. And both the glitz and the distances are pretty similar.
More than 100 different shows are listed in the convention & Visitors Bureau's attractions guide, and although many of them don't run seven days a week year round, they range from Bobbie Vinton to Chinese Acrobats, variety shows to Loretta Lynn and Beatles Tributes. I saw the Oak Ridge Boys last night, will have tonight's dinner aboard the Showboat Dinner cruise and will attend a Red Skelton tribute show on Saturday.
I had hoped to interview Al Roker, the Today show star who is here to judge the Great American Pie Show, one of several culinary events taking place this weekend. Despite the fact that Roker got his start in TV as a weatherman in Cleveland, his publicist didn't return my calls and emails. So in a few minutes I'm headed to the pie show to try to track him down myself.
Branson isn't hurting in the way lots of places are in the current economy. The shows all seem packed even though many ticket prices hover around $50.
I thought I'd be able to walk to a lot of things during my visit here, but quickly learned the area is pretty spread out. I flew into Springfield Thursday afternoon and picked up a rental car for the hour long drive figuring I'd leave it parked when I arrived. WRONG!
The show venues are spread out over 10 miles or so, so this is no compact walking distance town. And although they're sometimes steep hills, instead of mountains, the terrain can also be daunting. I spent a big part of today at Silver Dollar City, a charming, 50-year-old amusement park that grew around a cave tour. Its founders moved in century-old Ozark log cabins, churches and businesses and invited crafters to demonstrate in them as a way to occupy folks while they waited for their cave tours.
Today food is a big emphasis with homemade cinnamon buns and pastries, ice cream and succotash all made in front of those who will be eating it. Giant skillets are filled with all manner of good food which is sold to those who line up to purchase it.
The entire 70-acre park is on wooded hills, with amusement rides sited in the valley so as not to visually detract from the old timey village feel. Lots of seniors rent scooters to help them get around the grounds. Some even tote portable oxygen tanks, refusing to let their disabilities keep them from having a good time.