By Angie Roberts Harris
A recent controversy in the Ozarks involves the ongoing changes and new face of Branson, Missouri. The phrase can be heard, “It’s not your grandma’s Branson anymore.” What does that mean and how can it possibly be true?
The Early Years
During the 1950s and 60s, folks visited the resort community of Branson exclusively during the summer months for the lakes, outdoor activities, and Marvel Cave (located at Silver Dollar City). At that time, many businesses were only open from June – August and the visitors mainly consisted of fishermen and their families. The outset of the entertainment industry started in 1959 when the Mabe brothers opened the first live music show, ‘Baldknobbers’, in downtown Branson.
The Boom Years: 1990s – 2000s
A huge boost to the entertainment industry occurred in 1983 when Roy Clark built a theatre on the strip and invited top entertainers to perform on his stage while promoting big name artists to live and work in Branson. The industry skyrocketed as many of the founding families of entertainment built beautiful new facilities and performed on Branson stages, including Andy Williams, Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson, The Osmond Brothers, Tony Orlando, Kenny Rogers, Wayne Newton, Loretta Lynn, The Radio City Rockettes, Mickey Gilley, Mel Tillis, Jim Stafford, Moe Bandy, Buck Trent, and the Gatlin Brothers. Another boost that brought our sleepy little town of Branson alive came in December of 1991 when 60 Minutes aired a special program declaring Branson the "Live Music Capital of the Universe”.
Winds of Change.
The expansion of the entertainment and live music theatres during the boom years brought new business to the Branson area and the visitor count continued to increase each year. Although families were still the primary visitors, the typical three month summer season extended from March until mid-December and demographics began to change. Retirees had the freedom to travel outside of the summer season and older groups began to arrive by coach. Grandmas were everywhere, enjoying and loving Branson!
The 2016 Boom
2016 is proving to be a banner investment year. A drive down the strip will prove that the face of Branson is changing and there are more than a dozen new things to see and do to attract younger audiences. However, this doesn’t mean that families will be able to visit Branson all year long and that there is nothing left for Grandma to do!
Who does Branson belong to?
I will tell you whose Branson it is; those who stand up and respect the American flag, take off their hats during a prayer, and travel with multiple generations. Hard working people who recognize wonderful hospitality, great value, wholesome family entertainment, and the beauty of the Ozark lakes and hills. Branson has always and will forever belong to families, veterans, students, newlyweds, and YES, the grandmas!
“Not your grandma’s Branson”? The eloquent statement “Branson is a wonderful playground of fun and entertainment” by 60 Minutes stands as true today as it did twenty-five years ago, regardless of age.
“My parents taught their grandchildren to love live music by taking them to Branson in the 1980s. That’s when Branson was still asleep!” Angie Harris, Going Out The Door
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Angie Roberts Harris has been living and working in Branson, MO since 1992. Her career in sales and marketing has given her a special opportunity to work with many businesses and entertainers.