I just came back from Branson.
Say it with your teeth gently clenched and just barely move your lips. “Muh-Zuhr-Uh. It’s fun.
The list of places I don’t want to go on this earth is very short, but Branson has always placed high on it.
My daughter’s show choir was scheduled to perform there this spring, so I took off my travel snob hat, put on my parent pants and booked a room.
I try to find the good in every place, so I set to work to find the silver lining. Very quickly, I started to panic. I came across this prophetic quote by Kevin Wohler:
“Branson is like Nashville and Las Vegas had an illegitimate child and dropped it off at Granny’s to be raised on whiskey and Pop Tarts.”
Sometimes you have to accept reality, so I set out to find THAT Branson.
It wasn’t hard.
The road to our hotel was guarded by the world’s biggest chicken, beckoning us to enjoy it’s barn-shaped diner. The TV in our room explained that Branson was the 4th fastest growing community in the country, but I’m not sure the zoning committee understood its task. When Branson started to boom, mini golf, go-carts and pole shed theaters popped up like dandelions.
And just as quickly, some things started to wilt.
In Branson, you can shop at Crazy Eddie’s Apocalypse Supply and then cross the street for refreshments at The Rowdy Beaver. The National BB Gun Museum is an akward neighbor to The World’s Largest Toy Store.
While most communities are satisfied with a single Welcome Center, Branson has sanctioned one on nearly every corner. They frantically welcome you, sell you discount tickets, and hope you don’t notice the man behind the curtain. It can be a thin veneer.
“During the busy season, unemployment is low!” was a pitch I heard more than once.
But sometimes, the façade is just too much to prop up. Faded theaters, abandoned amusement parks and unfinished developments mingle uncomfortably with the living strip. Stories of intrigue and deceit haunt the remains, like The Kirby VanBurch Theater, whose faded marquee reads “Thanks for a great season.”
I don’t think they were talking about this season.
*****You’re not going to believe this…but I actually enjoyed my time in Branson. It’s just so kitschy that it’s easy to pick on. Don’t peg me as a meany-pants…I’ll show you the other side of town in the next blog.*****