Branson’s entertainment scene sparks record boom

Branson, Missouri’s first boom in the early 1990s established the southwest Missouri town (population 7,000) as the Live Music Capital of America and this year, the world watches as Branson booms again.

With more than 57,000 theater seats in 49 state-of-the-art theaters and over 100 live shows, many of them headlined by legendary stars whose Top 40 hits, movies and TV shows beckon the next generation of travelers, Branson’s popularity as an entertainment mecca sparked a record $173.5 million in new construction permits in 2005.

This year, visitors will be treated to an unprecedented variety of live entertainment and vacation thrills. The $420 million Branson Landing shopping, dining, Hilton Hotel lodging and waterfront lifestyle development, the largest of its kind in the state’s history, is set to open beginning May 26. Silver Dollar City is developing a whole new area, The Grand Exposition, with 10 new family thrill rides, doubling the number of rides at the theme park. The new interactive Titanic: The World’s Largest Museum Attraction is set to open in March, with April openings to include Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater Complex starring Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers and other ‘50s and ‘60s rock legends.

2006 marks the second boom in Branson’s phenomenal history as one of the country’s top family vacation destinations and promises to bring visitors more stars, more music, more shopping, dining, luxury accommodations, championship golf courses and vacation housing opportunities, according to Ross Summers, president and CEO of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Branson’s first boom brought big stars to town for the first time, and this year our line-up reads like a who’s who of five decades of legendary stars,” Summers said.

Big Stars, Big Music Shows

Internationally-known entertainers appearing for limited engagements in 2006 include B.B. King, Martina McBride, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Regis Philbin, Petula Clark, Crystal Gayle, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Lee Greenwood, Mel Tillis, Ray Price, Ronnie McDowell, The Osmond Brothers, Debbie Reynolds, Neil Sedaka, Daniel O’Donnell and many more. These entertainers will join the likes of long-time Branson headliners such as Andy Williams, The Lennon Sisters, the Oak Ridge Boys, Mickey Gilley, Jim Stafford, Yakov Smirnoff, Dino Kartsonakis, Buck Trent, and Shoji Tabuchi.

Baby boomers and their families will be treated to even more of the country, pop and rock n’ roll music they grew up with performed by stars like Pam Tillis, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Comets, Fabian, the new Liverpool Legends Beatles Tribute show, and The Road to Rock show.

Righteous Brother Bill Medley says, “Branson is an entertainer’s town. It’s like we’re in a playground designed for people who really love music.”

Branson’s family shows are hotter than ever. The Baldknobbers Jamboree, open since 1959, has added three new 20-something cast members this year, all third generation members of the founding Mabe family. Their youthful enthusiasm promises to capture the heart of a new generation. The Duttons, the Hughes Brothers, the Presleys, the Braschlers, the Lowe family, the Haygoods, the Doug Gabriel family and many others continue the time-honored tradition of bringing wholesome family fun to Branson audiences.

Yakov Smirnoff, America’s most famous Russian comedian, says, “All of the new shows enhance Branson’s musical diversity, which is already strong. Only in America can a Russian and a Japanese own a theater in the middle of the Ozarks!”

Not only is Branson’s star power brighter than ever, but the diversity of entertainment is out of this world. Lizhi Zhao of the Acrobats of China said, “In Shanghai we describe Branson as the melting pot of entertainment.”

Variety, Variety and More Variety

Families of all ages find music, comedy, magic, Broadway-style production shows and more at places like the newly-constructed New Shanghai Theatre, which opened in 2005 to celebrate the Acrobats of China’s eighth season in Branson.

Siegfried and Roy’s protégée Darren Romeo introduces a new illusion at the Welk Resort Theatre involving NASCAR’s #24 ‘fire and f’ames’ Chevrolet driven by Jeff Gordon. Fans of Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner and Show will be treated to the return of the stampeding buffalo, and an all-new surprise, “Dreams Take Flight,” highlighted by a breathtaking aerialist acrobatic display. Silver Dollar City’s World-Fest brings in the world-renowned Moscow Circus along with the Zunyi Acrobats of China and performers from around the world, April 6 – May 7.

The Promise returns to Branson this year and joins Celebrate America at the Mansion America Theatre. The Magnificent 7 Show can be seen at the White House Theatre. Spirit of the Dance is back for the seventh season at the Branson Variety Theatre and will share the venue with Broadway! The Star Spangled Celebration starring Merrill Osmond, and a series of exciting guest star concerts by the likes of Frankie Avalon and Brenda Lee. Neil Goldberg’s Cirque is a sight and sound fantasy at the Remington Theatre. The line-up of ‘legends’ at Legends in Concert includes John Mellencamp, The Beatles, Toby Keith, Mick Jagger, Celine Dion, Lionel Richie and Ray Charles to name a few.

Thrills, Chills & Cool Cars

Thrill seekers of every age will be delighted to learn that the number of rides at Silver Dollar City is nearly doubling this year with the addition of The Grand Exposition, an $8 million two-acre expansion inspired by the world’s fairs and expositions of more than 100 years ago. From the high-flying swing ride to a family-sized coaster, there are seven new rides that parents can ride with their kids, and three new rides that smaller kids ride alone.

Celebration City, the city “Built for Kids” partners with leaders in kids’ entertainment to present new adventures for 2006, including the extreme, cutting-edge “X” sport Mountainboarding, interactive Movie Magic that actually involves kids in Hollywood movies, a hands-on ultimate LEGO play area, and the introduction of two 2006 VeggieTales movies.

Titanic, the World’s Largest Museum Attraction, opens March 8 with over 400 priceless artifacts, photos taken aboard the ship immediately before its fateful voyage in April, 1912, and a recreation of the Grand Staircase. Television star Regis Philbin will be in town to christen the Titanic on April 7 (he’ll perform live in concert at The Grand Palace on the same date).

Roy “Dusty” Rogers, Jr., of the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum and Happy Trails Theater says, “It looks like they’ve built the Titanic right there in the middle of Highway 76. It’s simply amazing!”

The Patch Collection, a 1950s lifestyle exhibit featuring more than 50 fully-restored classic automobiles (all 1957) will be housed inside Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater Complex.

The new Butterfly Palace and Rainforest will offer guests the opportunity to walk among thousands of exotic butterflies, watch a 3D movie about their life cycle, and experience the sight and sound of a real rainforest.

Spa Retreats, Golf Courses & Conventions

In addition to the wide variety of live entertainment and attractions awaiting guests in Branson this year, the AAA four-diamond Chateau on the Lake Resort, Spa and Convention Center is opening a newly-constructed 14,000-square foot, $5.5 million Spa Chateau in May complete with 10 treatment rooms, a highly trained staff, and a picturesque setting overlooking Table Rock Lake. The Spa will include a studio for yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi, a Barber Spa for men, and electric, hydraulic-operated massage tables. Signature treatments at Spa Chateau will include the nurturing Rhythm Massage and the Royal Shave.

Two new championship golf courses will join Branson’s 11 other outstanding scenic courses over the next two years. The Tribute, a course honoring the memory of Payne Stewart will open in the new Branson Hills residential development. Murder Rock Golf & Country Club will join the highly-acclaimed Branson Creek Golf Club in the distinctive Branson Creek residential master-planned community, making it the only development in the area with two golf courses.

Branson’s popularity as a vacation destination has spurred tremendous growth in the vacation housing, condominium, time-share and lakeside resort markets. Several new developments will offer guests enticing extended-stay options and the ability to bring larger groups to town for family reunions, military reunions and conferences. Scheduled to open in 2007, The Branson Convention Center (managed by Hilton Hotels and located across from the Branson Landing) will give meeting planners the opportunity to schedule events for groups as large as 4,500. When fully completed, the Branson Landing development on the Taneycomo lakefront will include a Belk Department Store, Bass Pro Shops, two Hilton Hotels, more than 100 unique shops and full service restaurants, and a new town square featuring a $7.5 million water, music and fire attraction designed by the makers of the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

$240 Million in New & Better Roads

The City of Branson, Taney County and the Missouri Department of Transportation have spent over $240 million in new and improved roads and streets to and within the greater Branson/Lakes Area over the past 10 years. These roadway improvements were spurred by an influx of millions of new visitors following the 1991 60 Minutes television program that introduced Branson to the world. With several additional improvements planned for the coming months, government agencies are prepared for the next generation of travelers who will discover the exciting and dynamic Live Music Capital of America – Branson, Missouri.

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