Branson Travel Guide

History

In 1882, Reuben Branson opened a general store and post office in the area. Branson was formally incorporated in 1912 and construction of the Powersite Dam nearby on the White River which would form Lake Taneycomo was completed.

In 1894 William Henry Lynch bought Marble Cave (renamed Marvel Cave) and began charging visitors to tour it. Hugo and Mary Herschend leased the cave for 99 years in 1950 and began hosting square dances in it. The Herschend Family modernized the cave with electricity and concrete staircases, and in 1960, the Herschends opened Silver Dollar City which was a re-creation of a frontier town that featured five shops, a church and a log cabin with actors that played out the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Harold Bell Wright published his novel about the Ozarks, The Shepherd of the Hills, in 1907. The Old Mill Theater began its first outdoor production based on the novel in 1960. The show known as The Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama & Homestead was ended with a final performance of its outdoor drama on October 19, 2013. It is also the home of Inspiration Tower, the Sons of the Pioneers show, and other attractions. The Harold Bell Wright Museum is located within The World's Largest Toy Museum complex.

Mayor of Branson for 12 years & entrepreneur Jim Owen built the 1st theater in 1934 on Commercial Street, originally called "The Hillbilly Theater" which began to attract people from far and wide to tour the area.

1959 saw the completion of Table Rock Dam on the White River, which created Table Rock Lake. In 1959 The Baldknobbers Jamboree opened the first live music show in Branson.

In 1962 Paul Henning, inspired by a Boy Scout camping trip to the Ozarks, created The Beverly Hillbillies which ran on first-run television until 1971. The first five episodes of Season 8 in 1969 are set in the Branson area when the Clampetts returned to their home. Henning later donated for the Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area near Branson. He also donated the modified 1921 Oldsmobile truck used as the vehicle in the series to the College of the Ozarks where it is on display in the Ralph Foster Museum.

The Presley Family (no relation to Elvis Presley) became the first to move their show (Presleys' Country Jubilee) to Highway 76 in 1967, followed a year later by the Baldknobbers. Eventually Branson would have more than 50 theaters, most of them located on Highway 76.

In the early 1980s Chisai Child's Starlite Theater (not to be confused with the current theater by the same name) was one of the first to introduce stage sets, horn section, elaborate costume changes, and music outside of the traditional country music normally played. It helped to launch the careers of Shoji Tabuchi, and many others.

In 1983 Branson began its transformation into a major tourist attraction when the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre opened and began to bring famous country music stars to Branson. Many of the performers who have had their own theaters in Branson first discovered Branson when they performed at this venue.

Also in 1983 the 7,500 seat Swiss Villa Amphitheatre opened in Lampe, Missouri. The outdoor amphitheatre brought in acts like Def Leppard, Lynyrd Skynyrd, REO Speedwagon, Steppenwolf, and Ozzy Osbourne. Closing in the early 2000s, it reopened in 2010 as the Black Oak Mountain Amphitheatre.

In 1987, Box Car Willie became the first internationally known entertainer to purchase a theater in Branson and have a permanent performance schedule there.

In 1989, Shoji Tabuchi opened his first theater in Branson (converting the Ozarks Auto Museum on West 76 Highway into a theater). He then built a new theater on Shepherd of the Hills Expressway in 1990; while Mel Tillis moved into Shoji's old theater. In 1990-1991 several nationally known stars such as Jim Stafford, Ray Stevens, Mickey Gilley, and Moe Bandy opened their own theaters. Along with these national stars many home-grown shows also had theaters. The Lowe Family featured their show and hosted nationally known stars like Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Vern Gosdin, Waylon Jennings, and others. 76 Music Hall (now known as the Grand Country Music Hall) became the first theater to have three different shows a day performing in different time slots. Buck Trent became the first nationally known star to open a morning show.

The increasing number of theaters and other attractions opening in Branson drew the attention of "60 Minutes", which aired an episode about Branson on December 8, 1991, and called Branson the "live music capital of the entire universe".

Andy Williams, built his theater in Branson, opening on May 1, 1992, as the Moon River Theatre.

The Glen Campbell Goodtime Theatre opened in 1994 starring Glen along with his "Goodtime Band," daughter Debbie Campbell, the Matthew Dickens Dancers, and comedian ventriloquist Jim Barber.

In 1998 the Acrobats of China arrived in Branson making them one of the first international shows to call Branson home. They opened their theatre, the New Shanghai Theatre, in 2005. In 2006 Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theatre opened and is the most recent new theater to be built on W. 76 Hwy. Branson has continued to add theaters (the most recent new theater is Sight & Sound Theatres) and shows; and today refers to itself as "the live music show capital of the world".

Theatres in the Branson area currently include the Shoji Tabuchi Theatre, The Starlite Theatre, New Shanghai Theatre, Jim Stafford Theatre, Hughes Brothers Theatre, Kirby VanBurch Theatre, Mickey Gilley Theatre, RFD-TV The Theatre (Buck Trent continues to perform his morning show at this theater), Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theatre (home to Legends in Concert and The Bretts), Baldknobbers' Jamboree Theatre, Sight & Sound Theatres, Hamner Barber Theater, God and Country Theatres, Dutton Family Theatre, Grand Country Music Hall, Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama, Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, The Mansion, Oak Ridge Boys Theatre, Pierce Arrow Theatre, Showboat Branson Belle, Yakov Smirnoff Theatre, Clay Cooper Theatre, Presleys' Country Jubilee Theatre, Black Oak Amphitheatre, Caravelle Theatre, White House Theatre, Branson Variety Theatre, Branson IMAX Little Opry Theatre, Circle B at Branson Central, and the Americana Theatre.

Scenes from the family motion picture Gordy were shot here in 1995.

In the motion picture, She's Out of My League the family is getting ready to go on vacation to Branson, and they invite the new couple, provided they wear bright yellow sweatshirts emblazoned with "Branson Bound."

The closest commercial airport is the newly developed Branson Airport which opened in May 2009, constructed at an originally projected cost of $155 million on land formerly owned by Tennessee Ernie Ford. This airport is privately owned, and it is thought to be the largest privately owned commercial airport in the United States. Its construction involved flattening the tops of a series of Ozark Mountains and is thought to be the largest earth moving project in the history of the state. Previously, the closest commercial airport was Springfield-Branson National Airport northwest of Branson, owned by the City of Springfield.

2012 Tornado

Just before 1 a.m. Wednesday February 29, 2012, the city of Branson sustained damage from an EF-2 tornado in the 2012 Leap Day tornado outbreak. At least 37 injuries were reported, most being just cuts and bruises. Most of the tourist attractions and businesses were undamaged and remained open after the storm, although at least 11 buildings suffered more than $3 million in total damage. As of November 2012, most of the damage was repaired. Mary Jane Rice a spokeswoman for Branson Area Chamber of Commerce told the AP that February is generally a slow time for business and most of the damage would be cleaned up in the next few days. The tornado followed a path from Kimberling City, Missouri across Table Rock Lake and along the entertainment strip Missouri Route 76 before hitting the downtown area where it blew out or cracked windows in 219 of the hotel rooms in the 12-story/295 room Hilton Branson Convention Center. The tornado extensively damaged three of Branson’s 50-plus theatres — (Americana Theater, Branson Variety Theater and Dick Clarks’ American Bandstand Theater) and there was damage to portions of Branson Landing on Lake Taneycomo and the Veterans Memorial Museum. Vehicles at the Ride the Ducks water/land attraction were flipped over, but officials said they were not damaged enough to be put out of service Other towns were also heavily damaged from the same weather system that hit Branson, including Harrisburg, Illinois which was hit by an EF-4 tornado that killed 8 people.

source: Wikipedia

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