About 900 music lovers braved cold winter temperatures Tuesday night in search of Hot Winter Fun.
Almost 20 Branson acts joined forces for about a three-hour show at the Jim Stafford Theatre. The event has become an annual centerpiece of Hot Winter Fun, a key offseason marketing effort for the Branson-Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Branson meaning of offseason has changed during the Big Show’s 14-year run, according to host Jim Stafford. Stafford has hosted all but one of the 14 installments. Prior to the beginning of Hot Winter Fun almost a decade-and-a-half ago, most Branson shows went dark during winter months. During one of his early offseasons in Branson, Stafford drove past a local theater and noticed a parking lot full of cars. His vision: If local theaters are open, visitors will come.
Stafford’s been proven mostly right. While winter tourism numbers don’t approach peak season highs, more and more Branson attractions have adopted the year-round approach.
The Big Show takes a lot of volunteer effort to pull off. Jeannie Horton, general manager at Legends In Concert, has served as volunteer Big Show producer for several years. Horton started working on Tuesday’s show in November. She said it takes a great number of contacts to pull together a show involving so many Branson headliners.
Tuesday’s bill included show performers from Grand Jubilee, Comedy Jamboree, Legends In Concert, A Tribute to John Denver, Bob Nelson, Grand Old Gospel Hour, Up Close and Personal, 14 Karat Country, Rico J’s Hot Hits Experience, Clay Cooper, Jim Stafford, Penny Gilley, Circle B Chuckwagon Show, Island Fire, Branson Divas, New’s Country, Isle of Dreams, Red, Hot and Blue and The Magnificent Seven.
Tuesday’s show was moved from Monday because of bad weather. Frank and Mary Schwartz of Springfield reserved tickets and called Monday to cancel their reservations because of the ice storm. They cancelled their cancellation when they learned the Big Show had been moved a night later. They’re glad they did. Both praised the show and noted the event gives music lovers an opportunity to see unfamiliar acts. The Schwartzes have “been to a bunch” of previous Big Shows, Mary said. Tuesday night, she said, “We’re getting to see a lot of new acts we haven’t seen before.”
The Branson performers who donate their time to entertain Big Show spectators do so for more than one reason. The obvious one: artists are always on the lookout for new customers. But beyond the obvious, Tuesday’s artists by and large say they believe in helping each other and they believe in Branson tourism.
Information courtesy of Branson Daily News