One of Branson’s most popular attractions, the Dixie Stampede Dinner Show, is unveiling some new and exciting changes to its show for the 2009 season. The changes will add to the already stellar combination of a delicious four course feast, entertaining show featuring 32 horses, equestrian stunts, pig races, Longhorns, ostriches, the “Spirit of the Bird” aerial show and, of course, a friendly little North/South Rivalry that is in interactive fun for the whole family.

The changes begin with the Carriage Room Pre-Show event. Previously this show has featured various musical acts or cowboy roping teams, but this year they will welcome comic juggler David Lucas to the stage. His routine, which is still somewhat secret, will feature flying machetes, a unique version of “Malaguena” and enough comedy to keep everyone from the toddler to the Grandpa laughing. The opening act Carriage Room Pre-Show event begins 50 minutes before the regularly scheduled show time.
Dolly Parton, the brains behind the Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction, is contributing a new song to the show, titled “Sha-Kon-O-Hey.” The Cherokee word translates to “Land of Blue Smoke.” The song was originally written for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 75th anniversary, which is being celebrated this year. As an “ambassador” for the park, Parton felt this song aptly represented her Tennessee home. It also fit in nicely at the Show because it highlights the land we love, the America we call home.
Last summer, Branson’s Dixie Stampede introduced the “The Missing Man Table & Honors Ceremony.” At that time, it was only available to military reunion groups. Now, they have made it available to any military groups of 15 or more. The ceremony acknowledges the military’s missing men & the missing comrades of our soldiers. The special event can be arranged, in advance, through Group Sales at the Dixie Stampede.
The most top secret event to be unveiled this year is “Skeeter’s New Event.” The folks at Dixie Stampede are releasing few details regarding the new show element, but they do promise that it will be an amazing new addition. You’ll just have to attend the show to see how thrilling it really is!
Dixie Stampede begins its 2009 Season on February 27. Dixie Stampede tickets are on sale now.

Dino and Cheryl Kartsonakis will get the chance to relax at home during the 2009 holiday

season — sort of.

On Wednesday, the couple announced that they would be presenting their 2009 Christmas show (68 in all) at the Yakov Smirnoff Theatre in Branson.

“We are very excited about joining Yakov for the holidays,” Dino Kartsonakis said. “Branson is our home and it will feel good to spend Christmas here.”

The show will open Nov. 2.

During Branson’s regular tourist season, the couple travels.

“We perform across the country,” Dino Kartsonakis said, “and we also tape our weekly television show on Trinity Broadcasting Network in New York.”

Smirnoff said he looks forward to working with the Kartsonakises.

“I’ve been working with them in the same town for years,” he said. “It’s going to be wonderful having them here.”

Smirnoff’s regular show begins April 22, and he said he will have a morning Christmas show for the holidays.

“Dino and Cheryl will have an afternoon or evening show,” Smirnoff said. “Visitors can come see my show in the morning and then come back later in the day for Dino’s show.”

Dino Kartsonakis added that the couple has a history with Smirnoff’s theater.

“That building was the first legitimate Branson theater we performed in about 18 years ago,” he said. “Back then, it was called the Will Rogers Follies. We had a lot of fun and it’s going to be great to be back.”

This time, however, the inside of the building will look a little different.

“One reason I wanted Dino’s show was because the elegance of his show matches with the changes I’ve made in my theater over the last five years,” Smirnoff said. “The decor and their show matches up really well.”

Information courtesy of Branson Daily News

A unique Branson attraction — restrooms at the Shoji Tabuchi Theatre — will get national exposure this summer.

Last month, the theater was visited by the Travel Channel, which was there to film the restrooms as part of the cable channel’s “Extreme Series.”

When the “extreme bathrooms” concept was decided upon, the Travel Channel’s research team went to work searching for the best bathrooms and discovered the Shoji Tabuchi Theatre.

Jonda Sleppy, Shoji’s executive administrative assistant to the producer, worked directly with the Travel Channel on the production.

Sleppy said the film crew spent a day shooting the extraordinary restrooms.

Sleppy said the cast and film crew had a lot of fun filming the story, and with many productions there are always few good outtakes.

“One of our child cast members shared that being in the ladies restroom was just like being in Cinderella’s bathroom,” she said.

Information courtesy of Branson Daily News

As some parts of the country brace themselves for more bone-chilling weather, plenty of Americans are looking to get away. But with the sinking economy on everyone’s minds, where can you go for a break, without breaking the bank? ASTA recently asked its travel agent members what they saw as the most budget-friendly destinations for travel in the United States in 2009. Not surprisingly, perennial favorites Las Vegas and Orlando/Disney World were ranked first and second, respectively, with Branson, Mo., New Orleans and Los Angeles rounding out the top five.

“Travel agents are experts at finding the best value for their clients,” said Chris Russo, ASTa president and chair. “When every penny counts, using the services of a professional ASTA travel agent can mean the difference between enjoying a vacation with friends and family or staying home.”

Travel agents cited Las Vegas’ multitude of choices in lodging and entertainment, competitive hotel prices and great bargains on airfare and dining. Not surprisingly, one of the reasons Orlando/Disney World sits among the top five budget-friendly destinations is the sheer number of package trips available and Disney’s “Kids Fly Free” packages. Branson, Mo., was rated highly for its senior-discount travel packages, as well as the fact that for many in the country it’s within driving distance.

New Orleans, too, made the top five list thanks to numerous travel packages at discounted prices that are available year-round and for special events such as Mardi Gras and other music and cultural festivals. Coming in at number five was Los Angeles, cited by ASTA travel agents as providing visitors with a host of options on everything from lodging to dining and entertainment.

Information courtesy of ASTA

The very successful “Ozark Mountain Christmas” event in Branson Missouri has spawned a new seasonal event in the Ozarks, “Ozark Mountain Spring.” This major event will begin March 1 and run through Memorial Day Weekend. There will be many activities and festivals during Ozark Mountain Spring, as well as the popular Branson Shows visitors & locals alike enjoy.

The highlight of this year’s “Ozark Mountain Spring” event will be the “Great American Pie Show.” Traditional in theme, the “Great American Pie Show” aims to celebrate the basics of American living, which undoubtedly means delicious, homemade delectables. The Pie Show is scheduled for April 24 & 25 and will be located at the new Branson Convention Center near the Branson Landing. National Television Personality Al Roker will be a celebrity judge at the event.
Another event new to the Branson Stage this year is the “Hand in Hand Branson Honors Purple Heart Recipients.” This event is also scheduled for April 24 & 25, and includes several activities, including an Opening Ceremony at the Hamner Barber Theater, Fishing Tournament at Moonshine Beach & Purple Mountain Majesty Twilight Ceremony.
One event occurring during the “Ozark Mountain Spring” event is a tradition in and of itself, Kewpiesta. This event is an annual commemoration of the “Kewpie Doll” and serves to honor both its creator, Rose O’Neill and the undeniable image of the “Kewpie.” The event will be held at the Ramada Inn Resort Conference Center in Branson, April 22 – April 26. Some of the activities include exhibition and auction of Kewpie Dolls & Collectibles, as well as the annual meeting of the International Rose O’Neill Club. A necessary addition to any lover of Kewpie Dolls is a visit to Bonniebrook, the O’Neill Family Homestead. Located 10 minutes north of Branson, this historic site features many unique & delightful artifacts & documents pertaining to the kewpies and their creator.
More and more details regarding the “Ozark Mountain Spring” event are being released daily. Be sure to check back often for the latest on Branson Missouri show schedules and Branson Lodging options.

A new guidebook that lists the top 100 towns in America has recently recognized Branson.

The book, called “The Great Towns of America,” by David and Joan Vokac, was written with both travelers and urban escapists in mind.

The book is subtitled “The All New Guide to the 100 Best Getaways for a Vacation or a Lifetime,” and is a completely revised follow-up to the original compilation of the entire nation’s greatest towns — first released in 1998.

Since then, 12 of the original 100 towns have been replaced by other communities. A press release said the Vokacs described Branson as the “recreation capital of the heartland.”

Gina Brubaker and her husband, George, both of St. Louis, were at the Keeter Center on Thursday as part of their week spent in the Branson Area.

“We come here three times a year with our friends,” Gina Brubaker said. “It’s always fun and I think it’s great that Branson would be in a book like this. It put it on the top of my list.”

“I love to read about fun places,” said Rachel Johnson, of St. Louis, who was traveling with the Brubakers and her husband, James. “That is definitely a book I would like to buy.”

According to the press release, the guidebook offers information on each of the 100 cities, which was gathered by the Vokacs traveling more than 80,000 miles doing research. It also offers information about the weather in each location.

Information courtesy of Branson Daily News

Legends in Concert is an energetic, fast-paced show that is home to some of the best tribute artists in the country. Their uncanny renditions of superstar performers such as Shania Twain, Alan Jackson, The Temptations, Elvis, The Blues Brothers and many more make guests feel as if they are seeing a medley of some of the greatest performers to ever grace the stages of music. The wonderful thing about Legends in Concert in Branson, MO is how there line-up changes four times throughout the year. So, no matter when you visit, there’s always someone new to see!

Branson’s Legends in Concert also has a new home this year. They are now located at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater. Showtime’s are at 3 & 8pm, and Legends in Concert is open every day except Wednesday.

The Legends in Concert Line-Up through February 12 – May 19:
Tina Turner
Rod Stewart
Alan Jackson
The Blues Brothers
Elvis

Bob Anderson had been a fixture of the Las Vegas entertainment scene for more than 30 years, but he was finding it difficult to find work in 2003.

The entertainment philosophy was changing — bigger shows, fewer headliners. Lounge entertainment was disappearing from the Strip, where the likes of Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Don Rickles, Buddy Hackett, Shecky Greene, Alan King and the Mary Kaye Trio had helped make Vegas the Entertainment Capital.
At the urging of his pal, country singer Mickey Gilley, Anderson packed up the family and moved to Branson, Mo.
Anderson returns to Vegas to perform Friday and Saturday at the Cannery.
“There’s more entertainment in Branson than in Las Vegas,” the 58-year-old singer and impressionist says by telephone from his Branson home. “I think Vegas has about 83 showrooms and Branson has like 150.”
Overall the shows aren’t as spectacular as those in Vegas, but they are less expensive — in the $35 to $60 range, he says. You can see a variety of entertainers including Andy Williams, Yakov Smirnoff, the Oak Ridge Boys and Bill Medley. There’s even a wax museum.
“Mickey invited me to come down here because he knew things were getting tough in Vegas,” Anderson says. “He said ‘Come on down here, but don’t do no country — we got enough of that. Just do what you do.’ ”
At one time country music and cornball comedy dominated the Branson entertainment scene, but Andy Williams and others began to broaden the horizon.
“I came here at a time when they were trying to diversify,” he says. “When I came here I brought something totally different from what they’re used to.”
Anderson has been called a saloon singer who does impressions. He has about 100 in his repertoire and focuses on vintage Vegas entertainers, including the Rat Pack, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles and Bobby Darin. His cabaret act is backed by a three-piece combo.
Anderson worked at Gilley’s showroom for a couple of seasons, moved to Club Vegas and then to Club 57, where he has performed since 2006.
The Detroit-area native performs five nights a week April through December in the 150-seat supper club. The other four months are mostly spent entertaining in such places as Chicago, Palm Springs, Great Britain and Florida.
He’s been doing a lot of symphony dates with musical director Vincent Falcone of Las Vegas. They recently performed with the Utah Symphony in Salt Lake City.
“I’ve been doing a lot of big band jazz stuff and a lot of corporate dates,” Anderson says.
He’s looking forward to his homecoming in Vegas.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun for me, a lot of great music,” he says. “And I’ll catch up with a lot of friends I haven’t seen in a long time.”
While here he may be talking to venues about possible long-term engagements, although it’s hard to believe Anderson would give up the bright lights of Branson for little ol’ Vegas.
Information courtesy of Las Vegas Sun

Family entertainment and fun are an important part of the Branson tradition. The Baldknobbers Jamboree, now celebrating their golden anniversary, started that tradition, in 1959 when the four Mabe brothers began entertaining visitors coming to Branson. The tri-lakes area has been a popular tourist destination since the publishing of the Shepherd of the Hills in 1907. The family legacy continues to wow audiences with a variety of country music and hilarious comedy. The highly successful Baldknobbers Jamboree, owned by The Mabe Family, is the longest continuously running show in Branson, Missouri.

Today’s Baldknobbers Show is a musical powerhouse featuring a talented cast of dynamic singers, musicians, comedians and entertainers as they perform your favorite country classics, hot new country hits, toe tappin’ gospel and lots side-splitting comedy.

The Mabe brothers adopted the name of an Old Ozarks vigilante group that held their meetings on a treeless hilltop or “bald knob.” So when they started Branson’s first show, it was just natural to take a regional name.

With 50 years of experience in the Branson tourism industry, the Baldknobbers is the ticket for your next trip to Branson. Guests are entertained from the moment they step foot in to the theater. The Baldknobbers Jamboree is two hours of power packed music and comedy guaranteed to entertain all ages that established the benchmark for what Branson is today, the “Live Entertainment Capital of the World!”

Tim Mabe, comedian and Baldknobbers producer says, “Family comedy has been a central part of the show. My dad and uncles framed good clean comedy around great country music and the formula they started still exists today, not only in our show, but many of the Branson shows. Granted, the costumes are brighter, our cast is bigger and our song selections is more varied, but we still give people coming to Branson what they want to see, hilarious comedy and wonderful music! “

Brent Mabe, second generation Baldknobber and Band Leader says, “My earliest memories go way back. I grew up around the show and that was all I knew. When I was a baby my mom and dad would put me in a guitar case to sleep during the show. There is nothing better than playing great music with my family and friends. We have the best job in the entire world,” said Brent, who started playing the guitar at the young age of 10 and joined the show in 1985.

“Almost every night someone comes through the autograph line at intermission and tells me, that they came with their parents as a kid and now they’re back with their children, I am very proud to be a part of my family’s tradition of great country music and comedy that has lasted for generations!” says, Brandon Mabe.

Known as the “Show That started It All” in Branson, Missouri where celebrating American entertainment is a family tradition. Show times are 8:00 P.M. Monday ~ Saturday. The Baldknobbers Jamboree Show, is located on the famed 76 Country Music Boulevard. Join the Baldknobbers in 2009 as they celebrate their golden anniversary and be part of the legend!

Information courtesy of The Baldknobbers

One of Branson’s longest running craft shops is closing its doors and making way for a new attraction all about automobiles. The Engler Block craft mall is converting its space into a car museum, something owners feel represents the changing of the times. The following information was released through the Tri-Lakes Tribune:

“I’m printing the lease now,” said Bill Skains of Engler Block as he spoke of the recent decision to close the craft shops and convert to a unique car museum. The switch came as a response to the economy and the changing times in Branson.

The new attraction will be the, “Only museum of this type in the central United States,” said Skains. Visitors can view the automobiles and will actually have the option to purchase. He remarked that if you went into the Smithsonian Museum and wanted to buy some dinosaur bones, “They would escort you out.” Here, it is possible to drive away with the car you always wanted or that your father once had.

Skains referred to the area on Hwy. 76 between Dixie Stampede and Hwy. 65 as the “dead zone” and that the new attraction could help improve tourist traffic with items more akin to visitors’ interests and evolve the location.

It was not an easy decision to close the nationally known craft mall and Skains expressed “mixed emotions” and would have preferred to keep it open. It was a business decision to adjust to the changing times. He went on to say he wished all the crafters well and hoped for their success.

“The market is just not there for crafts,” he cited, and visitors are not buying crafts the way they once were. Engler Block hosted upscale items and was better known in Chicago, New York City, and Dallas than in Branson, according to Skains. The crafts in Engler Block were works of art, and many of today’s shoppers are looking more toward functionality and cost.

Skains gave the example of an Iowa woman examining woodwork priced between $500-$600. She made a comment she could buy it much cheaper at Wal-Mart. Overhearing, a California woman said it was art and said she could sell it for much more. Indeed, the California woman purchased the work and sold it for $1,500 in her home state, but most visitors to Branson aren’t buying art.

Citizens have expressed their sadness seeing the shops close, but Skains, not intending to be derogatory, asked a very poignant question: “When was the last time you shopped here?” People aren’t buying the items as they used to. “Times change,” mentioned Skains, “and perhaps it will come back into vogue.” He pointed out, “Disco was big in the ‘80’s, but it isn’t now.”

“It’s not right and it’s not wrong,” declared Skains, “It’s just what has happened.” Guests would enter and were impressed with items at Engler, but “We were not a museum; we were a retail shop.”

People’s needs have also changed, noted Skains, and many of the crafts “aren’t applicable.” He mentioned fire places with crafted mantels, candles for special occasions, unique glass blown items and how similar, functional manufactured items can be purchased at major retail outlets for much less. In these economic times, people are more concerned about maintaining health insurance than purchasing handcrafted art at a higher price. Skains stated, “People have got to do what it takes to survive.”

In addition, the Branson Landing “changed the structure of Branson,” remarked Skains. He noted that now people go there and spend four or five hours and don’t venture to his shops the way they once did. He repeated, “It’s not right and it’s not wrong; it’s just what has happened.”
The inability to get low interest loans and credit for small businesses has impacted crafters too, said Skains. Crafts are a business and vendors “have to have access to inexpensive capital.” He noted crafters living off cash flow and the difficulty purchasing product. “They don’t get a bailout,” expressed Skains, and cited the previous administrations lack of insight for the small business owners.

One vendor expressed he had his best year ever in 2008 at Engler Block. Skains articulated that wasn’t the case with all the vendors and that overhead for them was now higher.

Also, there aren’t as many crafters as there once were. Kids aren’t growing up to carve or blow glass, Skains indicated. “Times have changed,” he said again and that not only where there less crafters in the future but how computers with amazon.com and ebay have reduced store-shopping for the items.

According to Skains, the location was purchased in 1963 by his father-in-law Mid Harris. Harris built Lugenes for Lou Shaefer and Gene Keckler that made souvenir items. In 1985, Pete Engler began Engler Block.

Most leases for the vendors end Feb. 1. Two vendors stated they discovered the change to a car museum only two weeks ago. Rumors had been circulating since before December, but it was only recently officially finalized.

Skains said that it is necessary for businesses to evolve and that for crafts, “There is no evolution.”

It was discussed that the younger generation has difficulty associating with crafts and the way of life the items represent. The middle aged and older might remember grandpa’s works, but this generation has no specific recollection of that. This generation, however, may remember their grandpa’s car that will now be featured in the new museum and be available for purchase.

Information courtesy of Tri-Lakes Tribune