Branson community remembers Gary Hughes

By Administrator on Monday, 16th June, 2014

By Michael J. Frost

mfrost@selectbranson.com

 

“What a legacy Mr. Hughes has left behind.”

Those are words echoed by many across the Branson area and beyond as they remember the life of Gary W. Hughes.

Hughes, 74, of Branson, Missouri passed away Sunday, June 8, 2014, at his home following a long battle with cancer.

Gary is patriarch of the Hughes family of entertainers, and co-owner of The Hughes Brothers Theater, located on 76 Blvd. in Branson. He was influential in building the show, which over the last 20 years has grown from featuring five Hughes Brothers (Gary’s sons), to more than 50 extended family members performing on stage together. It has become one of Branson’s most popular and enduring shows, and today the Hughes Family is known as one of the world’s largest entertaining families.

Gary and his wife Lena were instrumental in “starting it all” as they brought their talented sons to Branson in 1995 to accept a performing contract at Silver Dollar City.

In 2000, just five years after coming to town, Gary and his family purchased the former Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre, which soon became The Hughes Brothers Theater.

“Dad was always the ‘Leader of the Band’. He started ‘it’ all,” said eldest son, Marty Hughes. “But the thing I will always remember most is that Dad gave me his time and he wanted me there to experience what he loved most.”

In addition to being a co-owner of the theater, Gary ran the sound for the show for many years and also became known for his “Papa Hughes’ Fudge.” He is also fondly remembered performing in the role of “Santa Claus” in the Hughes Brothers Christmas Show.

Jeff Topper has worked for the Hughes Family for several years, and said he will always carry fond memories of Gary.

“I have actually known the family for 20 years and have worked for them for almost 10.  Gary was fun to be around, and you always felt better about yourself having been around him.  There were times during the Christmas season when things were so busy that I couldn’t get away for a haircut — and when he heard about it he came to the theatre and cut my hair in the office.  This was not a big deal to him, but it was to me.  He had a knack for knowing what people needed and how he could be of service to them.  Many times he provided service and no one would know that it came from him.  He was honest and exemplified that integrity in everything he did. He instilled that same integrity in his sons, daughters and grandchildren.  He was very funny, and he not only knew how to work hard but play hard as well,” Topper said.

Topper continued, “I don’t have the words to adequately express my love, as well as my gratitude, for Gary Hughes. I will miss his enthusiasm, his kindness, his engaging personality, his work ethic, his sales ability, and his competitive nature. I will miss hearing his testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, his love for the Savior and his expression of love for his family. I will miss his calls asking for B.Y.U. basketball and football scores, I will miss him as Santa Clause in the Christmas show and his rich and beautiful singing voice. He will continue to have an incredible impact on the lives of my family as we remember him and his great example and the way he always left people better off than when he met them. The truly wonderful thing is all those things I will miss about him he has passed on to his sons who all share those same attributes, and my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is stronger for having seen his testimony in action — not just in words.”

Members of the Cole Family, who perform together as Voices of Glory in their own show at The Hughes Brothers Theater, shared their love and appreciation for Gary.

Avery Cole said, “Mr. Hughes is definitely one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. Even to his last day, he was always doing something to make everybody else happy. Even with our shows, he could barely walk, but sometimes he would make it to our shows just to show support — so that spoke volumes. He’s had cancer for about six years, but since I’ve met him, he’s always been uplifting, even on his deathbed.”

Avery said he and his siblings visited Gary about a week ago and sang by his bedside.

“We went over and he was still making jokes, getting up and moving around. He was just so excited to see us. That’s the type of guy he was, just a really nice guy and down to Earth. No matter what, he was always trying to smile,” he added.

Avery and his brother and sister, Michael and Nadia, make up the group, Voices of Glory, who gained national exposure as a finalist on America’s Got Talent.

“Since then, we’ve been everywhere from Germany to Madison Square Garden. We’re just so blessed to be here in Branson,” Avery said.

It was the Hughes Family who helped them secure a place to perform — and Avery said he will always be grateful.

The group was performing at the Andy Williams Christmas show when Gary’s wife, Lena, saw them. “She brought Jason Hughes to see us, and they deiced they wanted us. We sat down and talked with Mr. Hughes and everybody, and that’s how we got into the theater.”

They now perform their show, Ayo, regularly at The Hughes Brothers Theater.

Gerard Cole is an uncle to the siblings and also serves as their manager. Gerard echoed the sentiments of his nephew and expressed his appreciation for Gary and The Hughes’ Family for opening up their stage to the Cole siblings.

“As a manager I thought that was very important, as Gary was somebody who had a lot of influence in the theater area with his children. He has seen a lot of stars and a lot of people perform,” Gerard said, noting his gratitude to him for opening up the theater and welcoming the Cole siblings to their stage.

Gerard said Gary was not only a supportive fan of the group, but a great mentor as well.

“Gary was a tremendous mentor for the children. One of the things I can remember most was during our opening show, I knew he was home and wasn’t feeling well — but I looked up and actually saw him walking into our show. He had his walker with him. He said, ‘I wouldn’t have missed this for anything in the world.’  It was just so touching that he would come and support the children in that manner. He was a complete gentleman.”

Joshua Clark is the entertainment editor for Branson Tri-Lakes News. Clark wrote in his blog, “Each and every time I went to see any of the shows calling the theater home, I always saw him hard at work helping the family build their business. Anytime we spoke, it was always a pleasure and you could see by the look in his eyes he knew he was exactly where he needed to be — surrounded by his family.”

Many fans of the show and friends of the family have been expressing their condolences on the Hughes Family Facebook page.

“Deepest sympathies to Lena, family and all my friends at the Hughes Brothers theatre on the passing of Papa Hughes,” stated local entertainer, Jim Barber.

“It was an honor to know Gary Hughes and his amazing family. He led a truly remarkable life and raised talented, faithful children. My heart goes out to the Hughes Brothers and the entire Hughes family,” stated Deidre Hulse Henderson, Utah State Senator.

“Our condolences and prayers for your family,” shared The Haygoods, who are also a performing family in Branson.

Gary’s wife Lena is quoted in his obituary, “Gary was a loving and devoted husband and father.  He served faithfully as the Patriarch of our large family.  We were all influenced for the better by his passion for life, sports, music, business, gardening, and especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Even in the last couple of months, as he was laid up at home in hospice care, his faith never wavered; he rarely complained and never lost his sense of humor.”

Funeral services are scheduled for Tuesday, June 17, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at 9113 State Hwy 76, Branson West, Missouri (near Notch, Missouri) with Bishop William Mahoney officiating.  Prior to the services, Visitation will be at the Church from 9:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.  Burial at Evergreen Cemetery, located on Hwy 76 between Hwy 265 and Indian Point Rd., will follow the services.

An obituary and an in-depth story of the life of Gary Hughes can be viewed here:http://hughesbrothersshow.blogspot.com/2014/06/gary-w-hughes-beloved-patriarch-of.html.


Branson’s Wild World gets you up close and personal with some of nature’s most fascinating creatures

By Administrator on Monday, 16th June, 2014

Alligators, touch tanks, giant tarantulas, and venomous snakes are all seen up close in an educational tour of Branson’s Wild World. (Photos by Michael J. Frost)

 

By Michael J. Frost

mfrost@selectbranson.com

 

Ready for an interactive animal adventure? Branson’s Wild World gives you the opportunity to feed sharks, get your fingers nibbled on by fish, hold reptiles, pet exotic birds, and view a large collection of venomous creatures up close — a unique and unusual experience in the Midwest.

This interactive public aquarium specializes in up-close and personal interaction, from feeding 150-pound bull sharks, to petting and handling safe animals with a guide who provides interesting and educational facts. There are hundreds of species on display, and it’s growing all the time.

“We’re a little over two years old. This is our third summer season in Branson,” said Jim Kelly, president of Branson’s Wild World, Inc.

“I’m an attraction builder, and I love animals. I’ve been building attractions all over the world for the last 20 years, and never did anything animal oriented. I came down to Branson, and I noticed there was kind of a void for something like this, so that’s why I started it.”

Kelly is based out of St. Louis, MO and also runs a company called Blacklight Attractions.

“I’ve been in 26 different countries and done everything from haunted houses, to laser tag arenas and miniature golf courses,” he explained.

Blacklight Attractions builds both blacklight 3D and non-3D attractions for theme parks, museums, family fun centers, and everything in between.

“We have designed, created and installed custom attractions across the world for major amusement parks like Kennywood, Morey’s Pier, to building custom attractions for companies like Six Flags, Cedar Point, to Kings Island. Our company has also built attractions for bowling centers to family fun centers to major tourist attractions in England, to Wisconsin Dells, to Branson,” he said.

Kelly described Branson’s Wild World as more than an aquarium, but an attraction that caters to many interests.

“It’s a mixture of a family entertainment center, aquarium, and a zoo,” he said.

The experience not only includes live animal displays, but also 3D mini golf and an arcade.

“Families are very diverse, and when they go on vacation, some might like going to an aquarium, while others might be bored. I think the key to a good attraction in a tourist area is to have enough stuff so that there’s a little bit for everyone. I thought we needed more than the aquarium and animals to entice people, so we added the arcade and miniature golf course. With the combination of those three things, it is plenty for the whole family to enjoy,” he said.

Animal encounters remain the most popular draw to Wild World. “We have over 400 different species of animals. Our number one thing we advertise is being able to feed live sharks. We also just opened our new Lorikeet Aviary, and you get to feed nectar to the lorikeets. We’re very heavy regulated, but I try to make the place as interactive as possible,” he added. “We have touch tanks, and we have the reptile hands-on area where people may have a snake around their neck for the first time,” Kelly said.

“What we try to do is things that are different. We’re one of two places in North America that display Bull sharks. I also have a pretty big venomous collection. We probably have 50 or 60 venomous snakes.”

Kelly said many people are surprised at how close they can view these creatures.

“Our enclosures are plenty big for the health of the animals, but they aren’t so big that you never see them,” he said.

“I think that we’ve really utilized our space very well. When people come in, I don’t think they expect it to be as big as it is. Our collection in its entirety is well worth coming to see.”

Indeed, the collection is quite fascinating, including aquatic animals, reptiles and frogs, creepy crawlers, mammals and birds.

Many of the animals have a story to tell.

“A lot of our exotic animals are rescues,” Kelly said, including the sea turtle, Savannah, and the two alligators.

Kelly said while it is unusual to have an animal such as a sea turtle in a facility this far from the sea, Savannah would actually not be able to survive in the wild. “Savannah was hit by a boat when she was younger. She can’t control her buoyancy anymore. Now that’s she in her new enclosure, she’s extremely friendly,” and makes for a great educational display, he said.

“The gators are actually rescues from Florida,” Kelly explained.

“The problem is when a gator ventures out of its natural habitat and goes into a populated area, they became a danger to society,” he said, noting that if they were sent back into the wild, they would only find their way back into a populated area.

“A zoo will adopt them, or they’ll be put to sleep. We love animals, and we were able to adopt two of them. We have Stub and Crooked Jaw – and he is almost 75 years old now.”

Touring the Creepy Crawlers section, visitors will see a variety of fascinating insects and spiders — including the Goliath Bird Eater, known as one of the largest spiders in the world with a leg span up to 12 inches. While it looks extremely intimidating, Kelly said it is not the most dangerous.

“Ironically, it is a little dangerous, but we have a lot more dangerous insects in there that are extremely mean and deadly,” he said, noting the Baboon spider that is part of the Deadly and Dangerous collection.

New this year is “Wolf Woods,” a custom enclosure of a pack of wolf puppies who are also rescues. Now over three feet tall, these British Colombian wolves are a sight to see.

Also new this year is the addition of “Neon Nights.” During June, July, and most of August, Wild World we will be open until 10:00 p.m., and between the hours of 6:00 and 10:00 p.m., the aquarium will transform into a new experience with glowing displays, spectacular lights and lasers, and special effects.

Kelly said with such a variety to see, people often leave with varying memorable experiences. “It’s different for everybody. Some people leave talking about the Doctor Fish, and others are like, ‘I could just stare at the wolves for hours,’ and then the next person will come out and talk about petting the cockatoos,” he said.

“I think we’re a really good value for the money, for the caliber of what we offer. The number one thing we try for is interaction with the animals. We have lots of people who experience a snake for the first time. Those kinds of experiences, especially for kids, are essential,” Kelly said.

Branson’s Wild World is located at 2020 West Highway 76.

For more information, visit http://bransonswildworld.com, or call 417- 239-0854.

 

Here’s what others are saying about Wild World:

 

“The staff was friendly and knowledgeable. We have been to the old ‘Predator World’ and this was so much better. Clean, well organized, feeding animals included, touch tanks for the kids and adults, hand-washing station included, free arcade, nice 3D black light mini golf course and all at a fair price. Gift shop was well stocked and several staff on site who actually take animals out and share them with the kids. This outing made for a satisfied mom and a happy kid! — Jason H.

 

“Branson’s wild world is a small inside zoo that has mostly reptiles, amphibians, and insects. They also have sharks and a beautiful sea turtle that you can feed. The employees are very knowledgeable and are quick to provide information, answer questions, and help in any way to provide the customer with a great day. There is a touch room where you can handle a variety of reptiles as well as a touch tank filled with small sharks, horseshoe crabs and other aquatic life. They offer a 9 hole inside black light putt-putt course that has reptiles and other animals on each hole. Oh, and another bonus is a free play video arcade equipped with at least 20 different video games including full scale racing games. This small animal interaction attraction was a hit with our family.” — Brenda L.

 

“We absolutely LOVED this place. The experience was awesome and you can see the animals up close. We will go again and bring our daughter next time. I thought this place was better than a zoo because you can experience more. There is also a free arcade room when you have finished the tour!” — Katie B.

 

“Very nice for the price, my 11 year old loved it. Saw some alligators, sharks, stingrays, wolves and plenty of cool snakes like cobras and vipers. The staff was very friendly and talkative … they knew everything about the animals. For $2 more you can play mini golf. The arcade was included also, set to free play. Very nice family time.” — Dan H.


Festival set to bring classical music to Branson in casual settings

By Administrator on Friday, 13th June, 2014

By Michael J. Frost

mfrost@selectbranson.com

Sounds of classical music will be heard across the Ozark area over the next couple of weeks as The Taneycomo Festival Orchestra kicks off its 3rd annual season, June 16-28, at venues throughout Branson and Hollister — and the concerts are free.

The Taneycomo Festival Orchestra (TFO) is a nonprofit organization that provides the free concert series of orchestral and chamber music. Larkin Sanders is Founder, Artistic Director, and Clarinetist with TFO.

“I believe that classical music can be enjoyed by anyone, so long as it is presented in a way that makes them feel comfortable. The TFO focuses on bringing music to people rather than expecting them to come to music. We’re not going to force anyone to like something, but if good music is sounding in a place where the audience feels comfortable in a way that removed the pressures of outdated traditions and expectations, then what’s not to like?” Sanders said.

She encourages music lovers to attend the concerts and support amazing musicians.

“All of the concerts are free, and our venues are pretty cool too. We have musicians coming who hail from all over the world, and you will see every instrument you can think of. There will be classical favorites and brand-new music that has never been heard. We will also be holding raffles for fun prizes and the opportunity to conduct the ‘Gallop’ section of Rossini’s William Tell Overture,” she said.

Besides providing a unique concert experience for Branson locals and tourists, Sanders said the TFO hopes to provide a unique experience for musicians to spend a couple of weeks in the beautiful Ozark Mountains to play in an orchestra with other students and local professionals. Students will be hosted by generous local families and may receive grants for travel and expenses.

Sanders talked about her motivation to begin the festival.

“I was inspired to start a music festival after attending Chamber Music Midwest in New Richmond, WI, a music festival that was created by one of my best friends, Clare Harmon,” she explained.

“At CMM, I was the resident clarinetist and composer. My duties included playing any and all chamber music that included a clarinet and to compose new works that would be premiered during the festival. I stayed in Clare’s home with her family and five other musicians. It was an extremely supportive and nurturing environment, and after a grueling year of academic work, it was exactly what I needed — an environment for pure music-making without the pressures of academia.”

At the end of her time at CMM, Sanders said she realized that a festival like this would do well in a place like Branson, her hometown since childhood.

“New Richmond is a small, rural Wisconsin town with far fewer resources than Branson. So, I also concluded that I could create a whole orchestra rather than relying on small groups. I was instantly inspired to start a music festival. I told Clare about my revelation, and she was completely supportive. I joked that I’d call it the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra after Lake Taneycomo, but the name stuck. Three months later, I incorporated the orchestra as a nonprofit organization with the state of Missouri, September 2011.”

Larkin then spent a year planning the event while she finished her master’s degree at Michigan State University.

“It was an exhausting year of administrative trial and error because the only real model I had was Chamber Music Midwest. I knew, though, that I wanted to have several fundamental values in place at TFO: free admission to all concerts, and expense-free music-making opportunity for my musician colleagues, and a high-quality yet casual musical experience for the community members of my hometown,” she said.

“Somehow, I managed to recruit 8 violinists, 4 violists, 4 cellists, 1 double bassist, 2 flutes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 1 tuba, 2 percussionists, a harp, and 2 conductors for the first season of TFO. We gave 8 concerts in two weeks, and it was a bigger success than I ever thought it would be. It never rained during outdoor concerts, and we overwhelmed Vintage Paris with our 200-member audience. For the second year, we increased the size of the orchestra to 70 members and gave 12 concerts. The audiences grew, and the enthusiasm from both the community and orchestra members grew with it,” Sanders said.

In it’s third year, traditions are already developing — including “The Shoe Tradition” that started at the first TFO concert. Sanders explained why audiences may see her barefoot during performances.

“I was wearing some absurdly tall pumps and trying to make my way across Vintage Paris’s brick patio. To avoid twisting my ankle, I took my shoes off and continued warming up and organizing things. Once the concert began, I was in the back row feeling absolutely thrilled to know that my dreams were finally coming to fruition. Then, I saw my forgotten shoes, squarely in the middle of the stage for all to see. There was no use in recovering them, and once the concert ended, many people told me that the really liked the shoes. The shoes became symbolic of the casual nature of our concerts, and now there is a pair of shoes displayed on stage at each concert. Audiences will also see me barefoot at each show,” she said.

Sanders is enthusiastic about the upcoming concerts and pleased with the participation of many talented musicians.

“There are orchestra members that have been involved with the TFO since its brainstorming stages of 2011. There are also brand-new orchestra members this year. Because the musicians are almost all graduate student music performance majors from all over the country, we use their networks to bring in new musicians and to allow the orchestra to grow. We are also collaborating with local musicians and groups like the Branson Chorale to make concerts even more special.”

Even as audiences and the orchestra continue to grow, Sanders said the values and mission of TFO remains.

“We seek to break the 19th century tradition that attending an art music concert is a formal and elitist event by providing an accessible and casual series of concerts and educational programs while continuing to preserve these great works of art in our destination city. Come as you are and enjoy the beautiful music,” she said.

Sanders developed a love for music, particularly classical music, at a very young age.

“I started playing the violin when I was two years old. My father, who is also a musician and audiophile, was constantly listening to great recordings. I was surrounded by the sounds of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos and cello suites, Mozart’s string quartets, Beethoven’s symphonies and the like from birth. I asked my parents for a “biolin” as soon as I could say the words, and I was promptly enrolled in the local Suzuki School as soon as I could be sized for my 1/16 size violin,” she said.

“I’ve always loved music and performing. I loved listening to music, going to concerts, and playing my violin. Anytime I detected some sort of performing opportunity I would take it, whether it meant playing in church, at school, or for my family and friends.

“My grandfather was a clarinetist, and I began entertaining the idea of learning how to play the instrument when I learned that there would be no orchestra program for me to join at school in Branson. I started listening to Mozart’s clarinet music with my dad, and I fell in love with the instrument.

“For many musicians, finding your instrument is like finding your soul mate. Sure, I was happy playing the violin and I loved it, but there was always something missing from my musical experience. Clarinet was ‘the one,’ and it’s my instrument today.

“A good classical music experience is like eating a good organic meal. It’s balanced with lots of variety, and it’s created from scratch. The composer started with pen and paper like a farmer with seeds, and the performers brought it to life.”

“I love music, plain and simple. Nothing gives me greater joy than bringing an excellent musical experience to other people, whether I’m playing the clarinet, teaching a music lesson, composing a new work, or organizing a music festival for my community,” Sanders concluded.

The 2014 concert schedule is as follows:

7:00 p.m. Monday, June 16: “Fever” Art Show at Vintage Paris Cafe

8:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 17: Mana Quartet Concert at Fellowship at Cross Creek

8:00 p.m. Wednesday, June 18: TFO Guitar Ensemble at Mount Pleasant Winery

8:00 p.m. Friday, June 20: Something for Everybody Concert at Branson High

1:00 p.m. Saturday, June 21: Nick Susi, piano at the Old Stone Church

4:00 p.m. Saturday, June 21: Romeo and Juliet Family Concert at Branson High

2:00 p.m. Sunday, June 22: An Afternoon in Paris Concert at the Old Stone Church

8:00 p.m. Monday, June 23: Strung Out on Mozart Concert at Black Horse Pub

8:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 24: Taneycomo Festival Saxophone Quartet at Branson Hotel

8:00 p.m. Wednesday, June 25: New Music Concert at Fellowship at Cross Creek

8:00 p.m. Thursday, June 26: ClarinetMonster Concert at Branson High

8:00 p.m. Friday, June 27: Taneycomo Festival Saxophone Orchestra at the Old Stone Church

8:00 p.m. Saturday, June 28: For Our Friends Concert at Branson High

For more information, visit taneycomofestivalorchestra.org.


10 ways to treat Dad this Father’s Day weekend in Branson

By Administrator on Wednesday, 11th June, 2014
fathers-day-1fathers-day-2

By Michael J. Frost

mfrost@selectbranson.com

This weekend is a special time to show your Dad how much you care with a trip to Branson. Father’s Day, June 15, 2014, will be bustling with a variety of brunches, shows, attractions, special discounts and more. Start planning your weekend now and make this Father’s Day the best one yet. Here are a few ideas to celebrate Father’s Day in Branson this weekend.

1) Take Dad on a Father’s Day dinner cruise

Make Father’s Day extra special by taking him on a “Dinner Cruise” on the Landing Princess. The cruise includes a special Father’s Day Menu and complimentary Champagne.

Cruises are at 12:00 p.m. or 4:45 p.m. Enjoy dinner during the two-hour cruise aboard the 100 foot luxury yacht “Landing Princess” on beautiful Lake Taneycomo amid the majesty of the Ozarks.

According to the website, http://www.mainstreetlakecruises.com/special-events, the menu offers Texas Beef Brisket and Roasted Chicken, and includes Crisp Garden Salad, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Warm Cornbread Muffins, and Bread Pudding dessert, with choice of coffee, tea, water or soda. Vegan meal requests are honored with 24-hour advance notice. Cash bar will also be available.

While dining, Dad can enjoy the beautiful scenery and wildlife on Lake Taneycomo’s shoreline. In addition, there is a view of an antebellum style mansion, the campus of one of the largest Christian sports camps in America “Kanakuk Kamps,” the legendary “Boston Gold Mine” site, and the city of Rockaway Beach, which was southwest Missouri’s first major tourist attraction preceding Branson’s popularity by about four decades, as well as what legend says was a summer retreat for “Al Capone.”

The view of Branson Landing, its $7.5 million fountain and synchronized fire, water, light and music show viewed from the cruise is as unique as it is beautiful and inspiring, as stated on the website.

The Branson Landing Princess is handicapped accessible, climate controlled, and has onboard restroom facilities for guests.

For more information, visit http://www.mainstreetlakecruises.com, or 877-38-BOATS, or 417-239-3980.

2) Take Dad to a Father’s Day Brunch and Car Show at The Keeter Center

A special Father’s Day Brunch and Car Show will be hosted by The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on June 15. Enjoy a special brunch with dad and browse through unique and vintage cars. Cost is $34.95 for adults and $13.95 for children 6-12, and includes both the Car Show and Brunch.

A variety of unique and vintage automobiles will be on display. For those interested in registering a car in the show, contact the reservation line at 417-690-2146 to get more information. There is no fee to enter a car in the show. Three Engraved Plaques will be awarded to Best in Show, Most Original, and People’s Choice.

The culinary staff of students at Dobyns Dining Room offers something for every taste. The Father’s Day menu includes: Smoked Prime Rib, Shrimp & Oyster Display, Grilled Chicken with Roasted Corn Black Bean Relish, Pasta Puttanesca, Cornmeal-Breaded Catfish with Hush Puppies, Herb-Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes, Loaded Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans and Corn, Roasted Squash and Garlic Tomatoes, Carved College of the Ozarks Smoked Ham, and much more.

Call to make reservations at 417-690-2146, or visit http://www.keetercenter.edu.

3) Enjoy a Father’s Day Brunch with Dad at Chateau on the Lake

A special Father’s Day Brunch is planned at Chateau on the Lake, Sunday, June 15 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Dad takes center stage during the Champagne Sunday Brunch, where he may enjoy favorites from breakfast, carved meats, salads, fruits and dessert. “With so much to choose from there’s no better way to say thanks for all Dad does,” said a representative of the resort. Adults are $38, and children 6 to 12 are $18. Children 5 and under eat free with paid adult. Call to make reservations at 888-333-5253. Visit the website at www.chateauonthelake.com.

4) Check out live music and enjoy wine with Dad at Lindwedel Winery

Have an afternoon out with Dad enjoying live music and wine. Lindwedel Wine Garden, located at 3158 State Hwy 265 in Branson, features wines produced in the state of Missouri. As part of their summer concert series, The Denzil and Jonathan Band will play at Lindwedel Winery on Sunday, June 15 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. The Denzil and Jonathan Band brings a variety of sounds with original material as well as sixties and seventies music by artists such as Crosby, Stills & Nash, Buffalo Springfield, Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Everly Brothers, Association, John Denver, Jimmy Buffett, Chad and Jeremy, Rolling Stones, Peter and Gordon and many others. For more information, call 417-338-0256 or visit http://www.lindwedelwinegarden.com.

5) Ripley’s says “thanks” to all Dads with free ticket

Ripley’s Odditorium is saying “Happy Father’s Day” and showing Dads how much they are loved by letting them in free on Father’s Day. Visit http://www.ripleys.com/wp/branson/fathers-day/ to receive a coupon for Dad to get in free on Sunday, June 15. Simply print the coupon, have the coupon emailed, or show it from your mobile device. The offer is good at select Ripley’s locations and Ripley’s Odditorium in Branson.

6) “Rods and Relics” coming Father’s Day Weekend

Street rods will converge on Branson Father’s Day weekend. Rods and Relics Car Club, a dedicated group of Street Rod enthusiasts from southwest Missouri, celebrate the 42nd Annual Rods and Relics event this coming weekend. One of the oldest Street Rod Clubs in the United States, they have hosted the Annual Rod Run since 1973, always held Father’s Day Weekend in June. Known as one of the last surviving original Rod Runs, the three-day event takes place June 13 – 15 at The Outback Roadhouse and Event Center on Hwy 76, with vendors, pinstriping, live music and games. The complex offers a shady location for the Street Rod event, in addition to a hotel, restaurant, and pub on the property. Call The Outback for room reservations at 417-334-7200. Visit the website at http://www.rodsnrelics.com.

7) Head out to Titanic Museum for Bass Pro Shops’ Boat Show

Take Dad to check out the newest boats from Bass Pro Shops’ Tracker Boat Center. The boat show, hosted by the Titanic Museum in Branson and located in its parking lot, is free of charge. The show is scheduled for Saturday, June 14 and Sunday, June 15 from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Dads also get free admission into the Titanic Museum with the purchase of another ticket, featuring a new exhibit on the lives of the 8 musicians aboard the Titanic.

According to Titanic Branson website, “This year, we’ve invited Branson West Marine to drop anchor in our parking lot and show off some of their newest, fastest, hottest models from their show room. This exclusive Father’s Day event is free and open to the public. Perfect gift for Dad!” For more information, call 800-381-7670.

8) Head out for a day of golfing, go-karting

If your dad prefers to spend his leisure time at the golf course, Branson is home to several popular courses. Check out Thousand Hills Golf Resort, Holiday Hills Resort Golf Club or Payne Stewart Golf Club, to name a few. If you’re looking for golfing fun for the whole family, check out Pirates Cove Adventure Golf, or Grand Country Indoor Mini Golf, among many others. Dads seeking a little more adventure can burn rubber on one of the many local go-kart tracks.

9) Race along with Dad during “Dash to the Splash” 5K

On Saturday, June 14, 2014, Patient PAL, The Caring People, and a host of area businesses will present “Dash to the Splash” at White Water in Branson.

The event was created in 2008, with the first 5K run held in June 2009. The race is modeled after the successful “Run to the Lights” event held each November at Silver Dollar City. White Water agreed to partner with The Caring People to bring yet another family friendly race to the Ozarks, Dash to the Splash.

Celebrate Father’s Day by enjoying a day of running — and receive a ticket to White Water as well. The first 500 registered runners receive a ticket to enjoy White Water and its new attraction, Kapau Plummet. This race is limited to 1,000 runners and fills up fast. All proceeds go to The Caring People, a 501-C 3 organization that reaches out to single moms, “with unconditional love and support.”

For more information and to register, visit http://www.dashtothesplash.com, or call (417) 334-0131.

10) Branson’s Wild World offering half-price admission to Dads

Enjoy Father’s Day with Dad and the whole family at Branson’s Wild World. Dads will receive half off their admission on Sunday, June 15. Visit http://bransonswildworld.com, or call 417-239-0854.


Famous stunt dogs fly high in new Branson show

By Administrator on Tuesday, 10th June, 2014
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Chris Perondi and his wife Suhey, along with stunt dog, High-Flying Harley (top) and Perondi and Crazy Confetti (bottom).

(Photos by Michael J. Frost)

 

By Michael J. Frost

mfrost@selectbranson.com

 

Dogs are amazing — even rescue dogs.

That’s the message Chris Perondi, producer of Stunt Dog Experience, a new show in Branson, hopes to get across. All the dogs in his performances have been rescued from pounds and shelters throughout his career, and all have been trained to perform amazing feats in a high-energy act.

Stunt Dog Experience is now open at the Clay Cooper Theater on Highway 76 in Branson and runs through August 9.

The show, produced by Perondi, is his first 90-minute self-standing production. Expanded from his theme park show, Stunt Dog Experience now includes two 45-minute sets, more dogs, bigger stunts, a bigger cast, and comedy skits performed by the Herrington Family comedians, all new tricks, skits, and live music.

Incredible dogs perform amazing tricks in the show, designed to bring laughter, excitement and joy to the whole family.

The Stunt Dog Experience has traveled all over the United States performing to enthusiastic crowds in theaters and theme parks, fairs and festivals, and sporting events.

What began 18 years ago as a hobby for Perondi has turned into a career gaining national exposure and appearances on television shows seen by millions of people, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, David Letterman, Queen Latifah, Steve Harvey, and more.

The last couple of years, Perondi and the stunt dogs have performed at Silver Dollar City for Kids Fest, and were also featured on the Lucy Pet Foundation float in the Rose Bowl Parade on January 1, 2014 in front of 800,000 people.

“I started training dogs in 1996,” Perondi said, a hobby that began with an Australian Cattle dog he adopted and named Pepper.

In 1998, Perondi started Northern/Central California’s first Frisbee Dog Club titled “Northern California Disc Dogs Extreme” and adopted two new dogs, Soaring Sierra & Jumping Jaz. A year later, he and Trish Fitzgerald create the “Extreme Canines Show” with Extreme Pepper, Soaring Sierra, Jumping Jaz, and the 4th original star, Air Ripley.

In 2000, Perondi won the National Finals at the Incredible Dog Challenge and appeared on the CBS Early Show, and was also featured in Sports Illustrated Magazine. He received 45 seconds of airtime on ABC’s Monday Night Football, and performed at every home game for the San Francisco 49ers. He also appeared as host of the Disc Dog Extreme Games on Outdoor Life Network for the Top Dogs TV Show.

In 2001, Perondi made the decision to pursue the job full-time. He left his information technology job, sold his house, bought an RV, and booked a long-term gig at a wildlife park in Long Island New York where the show was marketed as a “Stunt Dog Show.”

Perondi then began to make his rounds in the fair industry, and in 2003, he changed the show name to the “Extreme Canines Stunt Dog Show.” He produced over 230 shows across the country at state fairs. He was soon invited as a guest on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Perondi also appeared in three episodes of Animal Planet’s Pet Star, hosted by Mario Lopez with stars Soaring Sierra and Air Ripley.

In 2004, he booked the entire summer at Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, TN, and continued to have success in the fair industry. In 2005, he landed another long-term gig at the Worlds of Fun Theme Park in Kansas City, MO. After his final year there, he was invited as a guest on the Ellen Degeneres Show.

He continued on the fair circuit, and was invited as a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2008.

Perondi introduced the “Stunt Dog Experience” in 2009, an all-new 6o-minute show featuring challenges, tricks, comedy skits, and a human sized dog mascot. “Stunt Dog Experience” debuted as a headline act at Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson and performed three times daily.

The brand new production is now an even bigger “Stunt Dog Experience” than ever before. “Diggy The Dog” Mascot and the “Golden Bone Showdown” are highlights in the new show.

“I love Branson and I’m excited to have a show in the Clay Cooper Theatre,” he said.

With all the national exposure and attention, Perondi attributes his success to a simple love and appreciation for dogs.

“Almost everyone loves dogs or can appreciate the amazing things they can be taught to do. Also, the fact they are all rescued from pounds and shelters. Lastly, I feel much success can be because of the way I present their talents and how much I love them in the show. You can tell our dogs are having fun and enjoying what they do,” he said.

In addition to showcasing the skills and agilities of dogs, he has a greater mission in mind.

“My mission is to promote responsible pet ownership and pet adoption. The U.S. has a huge over population problem and due to the lack of spaying and neutering it’s continuing to grow. Educating and reminding my audiences of this importance has become a passion,” he added.

Folks are surprised when they see the show and how any dog can be trained to do amazing feats. What surprises the audience most? “I would say seeing the dogs performing incredible feats of high jumping, triathlon racing and unique and one-of-a-kind tricks like hand stands, jumping rope, back flips, dancing and circling backwards or in reverse motion,” he said.

“It’s a fun show for all ages from toddler to adult; with comedy, audience participation, juggling, doggy dancing, and five challenges in the quest for the Golden Bone with a positive message of hope and encouragement,” Perondi said.

He added, “I think it is important to give back to the community and I have selected two of my most passionate causes to support.  Entertaining families brings joy to my life, but helping kids and animals brings fulfillment. These dogs are all rescue animals and love performing for those enthusiastic audiences.”

With that sentiment in mind, Perondi recently held a one-time only special performance to benefit The Shepherd of the Hills Humane Society. The show, titled “Kids and Paws,” raised about $3,500, which goes directly to the creation of an animal exercise and play area at the adoption center.

“We had a decent turn out, but unfortunately we didn’t attract as many sponsors as we were hoping to make it a big of event as I was hoping it would have been. In hindsight we needed to approach potential sponsors earlier in the year. About $3,500 in donations were made so it was a success. I was just hoping it would have been even better. Hopefully, next year,” Perondi added.

Michele Bourk is the fundraising director with Shepherd of the Hills Humane Society. Bourk said she is thrilled with Perondi’s effort to support the shelter.

The shelter houses and cares for rescue dogs and cats needing loving homes. The center has aided in the adoption of more than 500 animals since opening in January 2011.

One of the main projects the shelter is undertaking is to develop more outdoor space for the animals to run and exercise.

“The tricky part of being in Branson city limits is that just out our front door is Shepherd of Hills Expressway. Right now, we’re walking the dogs along grassy areas of the expressway. There’s a lot of traffic, and it’s just not the best environment for them,” she explained.

However, just out the back door of the shelter, there is more than ½ acre of undeveloped land. That’s where money from the benefit will come in handy.

“Our goal has been to have trails, walking areas and play areas, but we just haven’t had the money to move forward. Our biggest issue is a hill that has a 15-ft drop-off between us and the area where we have a ½ acre of land — so the most expensive thing we have to do is grade the land. That is where the real expense comes in,” she said.

You can support the Shepherd of the Hills Humane Society, at 207-807-4951 or e-mail at Strayhome@gmail.com. Visit the shelter website at www.theshepherdhumanesociety.org.

Tickets for the Stunt Dog Experience are available at the Clay Cooper Theatre, by calling 877-317-2604, or online at Claycoopertheatre.com.

For more information about Perondi and the Stunt Dog Experience, visit http://www.stuntdogshow.com


Ozark Mountain Thunder Motorcycle Rally set to storm Branson

By Administrator on Monday, 9th June, 2014
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A past scene from the Ozark Mountain Thunder Motorcycle Rally held at Area 57 in Branson. (Photo courtesy of http://www.ozarkmountainthunder.com).

Ozark Mountain Thunder Motorcycle Rally set to storm Branson

By Michael J. Frost

mfrost@selectbranson.com

If you hear rumbling, it may be the sound of distant thunder — or it may be the hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts gathering for The 2014 Ozark Mountain Thunder Motorcycle Rally coming soon.

The Ozark Mountain Thunder Motorcycle Rally will be held June 19-21 at Area 57 grounds, which adjoins the Ramada Inn, located at 1610 West Hwy 76 Branson, Missouri.

The complex features 5 acres of flat open parking, a large vendor area, on-site hotel, live theater, grill, nightclub and museum. The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature a motorcycle show, vendors, poker runs, live bands, a ride-in movie, and more — and everyone is invited.

Three days of thunder in Branson will be heard as motorcycle lovers from all over the country make their way to town.

Dan Luttrell serves as the event coordinator. “I am the owner of the rally, and I really enjoy seeing old friends that come back every year, and meeting new ones,” Luttrell said.

According to Luttrell, the rally will also help benefit local Shriners and the Central Taney County Fire Dept.

“The Ozark Mountain Thunder is an annual event and this will be the third year. We try and donate some of the funds every year after we get our bills paid,” he explained.

 “The Motorcycle Show is sponsored by FORR (Freedom of Road Riders), and we will be having two Poker runs, one of Friday and the other on Saturday. A portion of the funds will be donated to the Central Taney County Fire,” he said.

FORR is Missouri’s largest Motorcycle Rights Organization. The not-for-profit organization is “dedicated to promoting safety, brotherhood and freedom for all motorcyclists.” Since its inception, FORR has made an impact in Missouri on legislative activities and the creation of a State Rider Education Program with training sites and instructors to reduce accidents. Visit them online at www.forr.net.

Along with the motorcycle show, Luttrell described a host of activities lined up during the three-day event.

The rally kicks off Thursday evening. “We open the Rally Ground at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday with the ‘Kick Stand Down Party’ with $2.00 draws sponsored by the Shriners at their Beer Garden. When the sun goes down, we start the rally with a ride-in movie, then we end the evening with a live band, Against the Grain, a local band from Branson,” Luttrell said.

“On Friday, the rally grounds open at 9:00 a.m. with vendors’ alley, and the poker run starts at 10:00 a.m. with last bike in at 3:00 p.m. Live bands take the stage at 8:00 p.m. with Classic Reunion to end out the night.”

“Saturday, the grounds open up at 9:00 a.m. — a poker run, bike show, and then Classic Reunion takes the stage and opens up for Jasmine Cain until midnight, the closing of the rally.”

Luttrell said the event has been big the past few years, guessing as many as 2,000 were in attendance last year.

It’s free, open to the public and it’s a lot of fun. We would like to make sure everyone has a good time, and its something you’re not afraid to bring your kids to,” he added.

Whether you are a fan of motorcycle shows, or you just want to experience an event of this kind, everyone is welcome at the Ozark Mountain Thunder Motorcycle Rally, Luttrell said.

Vendors are being added daily, with several food tents and merchandisers for all biker needs. The growing list includes: Sick Boy Motorcycle?? Apparel; Sooto’s Patch?es; Smokin’ Wheels BBQ?; Ozark Ink Tattoo?; ?International Cigars; Taney County Shrine Club; Got Sounds Productions; Antelope Creek leather; Gator Wagon; Dirty Goatees; Moblie Dyn; Freedom Of Road Riders (FORR); Fuzzy’s Pin Striping; Wheel Chocks Plus; Krys and Co Inc.; Cowboy Kettle Corn; The Steel Shop; Glowride LED’s; Amsoil???; Custom Engraving by Chigger; Knife Sharpening by Terry C.; Carson Concessions?.

Entertainers include Against the Grain, Classic Reunion and Jasmine Cain Band.

Against the Grain, now based in Branson, was founded by Chris Kendrick in 2004. The band first became a local sensation in Southern California, playing venues from large to small. The band broke up in 2008 when Chris moved to Harrison, AR to be with his family. Chris later brought an ambitious group of musicians together to reform the group in 2012, bringing a variety of songs and music to the Branson music scene, according to their bio. The band takes their musical influences from acts such as Three Doors Down, Eric Clapton, KC and The Sunshine Band, The Sugarhill Gang, and The Beatles. Check them out at http://www.reverbnation.com/againstthegrain7.

Classic Reunion lives up to its name playing beloved rock hits. “Classic Reunion is all about the energy and having a good time,” their bio states. The band sets out to be “not just a bar band,” but a genuine tribute to the Classic Rock Era. The band takes their musical influences from such popular rockers as Kansas, Foreigner, Styx, Journey, Boston, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Queen and many other great rock bands. “What do you get when you put Journey, Boston, Kansas, The Who, Deep Purple and Cream in a blender and hit ‘puree’? If you can wrap your head around that, at least you’re getting close,” the band’s bio states. Check out their sound at http://www.reverbnation.com/classicreunion.

Sturgis, SD native, Jasmine Cain, is said to have paved a way for female rockers in the motorcycle culture. “Living her life through her songs and gypsy spirit like a modern day Janis Joplin, she is a ghost on the road sitting next to you as you take your own musical journey,” as stated on her website, http://jasminecain.com. With three self-released albums (“The Inside” 2004, “Locks & Keys” 2008, “Highway Prophet” 2011) and a newly released music video for her title track single, “Highway Prophet,” Jasmine Cain has sold over 20,000 albums, and gained 5,000 views in the first week of her music video alone, according to her website. Jasmine Cain takes the stage as songwriter, lead vocalist, and bassist for her band of rockers. Her talent has earned her several nationally known tours as the headliner for Easyriders Bike Show & Rodeo Tour for 3 consecutive years, main act for 7 years at the Full Throttle Saloon (which has now become a TruTV series), and the official touring band for Broken Spoke Saloons nationwide.

With great entertainment and a growing list of vendors and sponsors for 2014, Luttrell said his ultimate goal for the future is to see Ozark Mountain Thunder grow into an area-wide, week-long event.

“I’m hoping in the next few years to see an Ozark Mountain Thunder Bike Week, to involve the city of Branson, Hollister, Forsyth and Rockaway Beach.  I want to make sure my ducks are all in a row. I have visited with a few of the city officials already. It’s still in the planning stage,” he said.

Sponsors of this year’s event include 100.5 The Wolf; US 97 Springfield’s Classic Rock; Coors Light; Pepsi; Macadoodles; Taney County Shriner Club; Ramada Inn; Cooper Creek Resort and Campground; Got Sound Production; Allstate Insurance; Advertising Plus; and Rowdy Beaver Restaurant and Tavern.

With miles of beautiful Ozark Mountain roads to ride, action, adventure, adrenaline, lots of fun events, great food, cold beer, awesome bikes, cool vendors, and a lot of good music, this three-day rally is going to be one of those events that you’ll be talking about all year long, Luttrell said.

 

Here is a line-up of events, courtesy of www.ozarmountainthunder.com:

 

Thursday June 19, 2014

• Grounds open 5:00 pm – 12:00 am with Kickstand Down Party

• Vendor Alley Opens, along with the “Shriners Beer Garden”

• A ride-in movie followed by live music (Against The Grain).

 

Friday June 20, 2014

• Grounds open 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

• Vendor Alley opens

• Poker Run — Sponsored by Central Taney County Fire Dept.

• Stunt show

• Live band takes the stage (Classic Reunion)

 

Saturday June 22, 2014

• Grounds open 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

• Vendor Alley Opens

• Poker Run — Sponsored by Central Taney County Fire Dept.

• Stunt show

• Bike Show — Sponsored by FORR

• Live Band takes the stage (Classic Reunion opening for Jasmine Cain band)

 

For more information on the 2014 Ozark Mountain Thunder Motorcycle Rally, visit www.ozarkmountainthunder.com. Check out the facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ozarkmoutainthunder, and follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/dan_danno.

 


Branson gets in line along 76 to do ‘Shindig Shuffle’

By Administrator on Friday, 6th June, 2014
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A scene from the “Shindig Shuffle,” a line dance that stretched along 76 Blvd. Saturday night. (Photo by Michael J. Frost)

By Michael J. Frost

mfrost@selectbranson.com

A continuous line stretched along the sidewalks from Andy’s Frozen Custard on past The Mickey Gilley Theater, and also in pockets all along 76 Boulevard, as Branson locals and visitors, along with entertainers and business owners, got in line to take part in the first-ever Shindig Shuffle on Saturday night.

Folks could be seen “getting shindiggity” and having a great time all along 76 as the official Shindig Shuffle song came blaring out of car radio speakers down the strip, courtesy of My 100.1 radio. Young and old alike took part in the fun, while business owners held up banners, local entertainers helped lead the dance, and a few characters in various costumes got in line as well. There were reports of people lined up in various locations all the way to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater.

What was the purpose of it all? Simply to have a good time, said Cindy Merry, who serves as marketing chair for the League of Branson Theatre Owners and Show Producers, the group behind the event.

“I think we had a great turnout. There were people all the way from Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater and people at different businesses along 76. God and Country Theater had a bunch of people, Clay Cooper Theater had a bunch, and the Adventures of Marco Polo from the White House Theater came up Gretna and stretched out all along Highway 76 with their whole cast, and of course the Duttons had a huge turnout as well — and that’s 3.1 miles. Everybody had a great time, and I thought that the radio station, 100.1, did a great job of adding excitement,” Merry said.

“I was totally happy to see the community so involved in doing something fun like that, and everybody that I talked to afterwards wants to be back next year,” she added. “Same song, same dance next year.”

The event wrapped up the inaugural Ozark Mountain Shindig spring celebration. The Ozark Mountain Shindig promoted two months of springtime events, such as “Hootenanny in the Park,” Kayak Branson Flotilla adventures on Lake Taneycomo, The Branson Elvis Festival, The Shindig Shopping Spree, “Savor the Flavor” at Welk Resort, the “Wheels for Freedom” Car Show hosted by Branson Veterans Task Force, and more.

The springtime celebration culminated into the block party on May 31 at 10:30 p.m. when the sidewalks of Highway 76 became the scene of the “Shindig Shuffle.” The line dance, along with an original song, was written and choreographed by the Hughes family (“it” at the Hughes Brothers Theater) and the Cole family (AYO starring Voices of Glory).

The League of Branson Theatre Owners & Show Producers, also known as the Branson Show League, designed the spring celebration specifically to promote events and attractions in the Branson area in an effort to bring more visitors during spring months. The Branson Show League is also the group behind the Ozark Mountain Christmas and Hot Winter Fun events. They had decided it was time to ramp up attendance in the spring season, which has generally been a slower time.

There are several great events that already take place during that time, and many people may not be aware of all there is to do, Merry said. The idea behind the “Shindig” is to bring more awareness to these events, and to also create some new, fun activities in the area, such as the Shindig Shuffle.

Merry explained the inspiration behind creating the “Shindig Shuffle.”

“The inspiration started with the Branson Show League focusing on increasing visitors in April and May by creating a two-month event called the Ozark Mountain Shindig – A Springtastic Celebration. During that time, individual businesses were asked to create compelling reasons for visitors to be here. From that, Lena Hughes of the Hughes Brothers Theatre came up with the idea of doing a line dance on Hwy 76 – a Shindig Shuffle. She then asked her family and the Cole family to create, write, perform, and produce both the song and the dance,” Merry explained.

The idea caught on quickly. Throughout April and May, guests at these shows were able to learn the dance, and lessons were held for anyone who wanted to learn.

Members of the Hughes Family and the Cole Family, who created the original song “Shindig Shuffle,” also choreographed the special dance number that includes moves called the shindig, the jig, and more. Those interested in being a part of the party were encouraged to learn the dance by visiting OzarkMountainShindig.com to view an instructional video.

Last Saturday night, folks were asked to tune their car radios and outside speakers to My 100.1 Radio. The song played at 10:30 p.m.,10:35 p.m. and again at 10:40 p.m. as they took to the sidewalks to dance.

An official music video of the Shindig Shuffle was recently uploaded to YouTube and other websites. Various shows, individuals, and Branson businesses participated in the making of the video, including: The Duttons; Acrobats of China featuring the New Shanghai Circus; 70’s Music Celebration starring Barry Williams; Barbara Fairchild and her husband Roy Morris; wait staff and customers of the Golden Corral Branson; Kayak Branson; Andy’s Custard; Purple Heart Recipients; Kanakuk Kamp Counselors; Baldknobbers Jamboree; Buck Trent Country Music Show, and more. The video was sponsored by the Vacation Channel and produced and co-directed by Jason Hughes.

According to Merry, there was a great response initial response to the Shindig Shuffle and the music video helped generate even more interest.

“We loaded that on YouTube last Thursday, and now it’s up to 3,190 views,” she said Monday afternoon.

“We’re hoping to keep pushing the video out there so that more and more people will see it,” she said.

The Branson Show League is also working on editing video footage from the block party. “Once we get the line dance video edited, we’re going to post it as well.”

Merry said as far as the song itself, “We wanted to create a unique combination of musical genres that really reflects the dynamic and diverse nature of Branson’s musical scene while still paying homage to the musical roots of the Ozarks.”

As Merry stated, Lena Hughes was the inspiration to create a “Shindig Shuffle” song and dance. “As the matriarch of the ‘World’s Largest Performing Family’ she inspired her family and the rest of us to get Shindiggity.”

“The kids were really involved in creating the song and the dance,” Merry said of the Hughes family and the Cole family.

“It was fun to see the enthusiasm that they all put into creating this, because the whole purpose of doing the Shindig Shuffle, with the music, the song, the dance, and the video, is all part of a greater plan for marketing the spring – and to see the kids grasp that whole concept and to dive into it to make it work, I thought was really great,” Merry added.

The Hughes Family performers include vocalist Jesse, vocalist & violin Kristina, drummer Jacob, dancer Derek Hughes, and the entire family of performers including Marty, Jason, Ryan, Adam, and Andy Hughes with their wives and children. Currently, the family stars in two shows in Branson – from January through October they are in “it” and the Hughes Brothers Christmas Show in November and December.

The Cole siblings, Michael, Avery, & Nadia, are all vocalists on the “Shindig Shuffle” song and contributed to the creation of the music and dance. Michael, Avery, & Nadia Cole are also known as the Voices of Glory and are famous for their performances on America’s Got Talent where they were in the top 5 during their season. While traveling all over the world to perform, their home base is Branson where they star in the show the co-produced, “Ayo”.

The band in the official music video consists of Timothy Dutton on banjo, Nathan Agdeppa on fiddle, Ray Harris on keys, Steve Harber on guitar, and Jared Lee on bass. “Lyle the Janitor” is played by Dallen Gettling.

Merry said she believes next year’s event will be even bigger as the music video and footage from Saturday night’s line dance circulates.

Merry concluded, “I think I can speak for everybody that participated that we are thrilled, and as Rena Johnson, our executive director with the Branson Show League, texted me that night from her position and said — hey we got shindiggity!”

Check out video footage of the line dance in action at http://youtu.be/VIHATE-jB-8

Here is a link to the official Shindig Shuffle music video:

http://www.ozarkmountainshindig.com/events/2014/5/21/shindig-shuffle-song-released-on-youtube.


10 Things to Do in Branson on rainy days

By Administrator on Friday, 6th June, 2014
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It’s always beautiful in the Ozarks, even when it rains, but beauty can be found at Branson’s many indoor attractions as well, such as The Butterfly Palace (left). (Photos by Michael J. Frost)

By Michael J. Frost

mfrost@selectbranson.com

Beauty occurs naturally in the Ozarks, especially when it rains. Lately however, there seems to be more rainy days than many visitors to the area may have hoped for. Even if rain and storms keep you from enjoying all the outdoor fun that Branson has to offer, it’s important to note that many of Branson’s show and attractions are open regardless of weather — and there are a lot of fun things to see and do indoors.

“Caverns and caves, museums and matinees are all great to fill those rainy days,” according to Lynn Berry, Director of Communications with the Branson / Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

Check out a list of 10 things to do that can fill up several days with activities, rain or shine.

1) Explore caverns and caves

The Branson area is home to a variety of caves that can provide a sense of adventure and natural wonder that many who come to the area are seeking, Berry said.

Marvel Cave is located within Silver Dollar City theme park. A tour of Marvel Cave is included in park admission. Guests can tour Marvel Cave and then spend the rest of the day enjoying the many rides and attractions of Silver Dollar City. Tours of Marvel Cave typically last one hour, and take visitors nearly 500 feet below the surface of the earth. While stairs and ramps have been placed within Marvel Cave to make the excursion a bit easier for visitors, guests can still expect physical exertion as they traverse nearly 600 stairs back to the opening of the cave.

Located about 10 minutes west of Silver Dollar City are Talking Rocks Caverns, one of Missouri’s most beautiful caves. However, Talking Rocks Cavern is less of a single cave and more of a complete outdoor activity park, according to its website. Talking Rocks Cavern itself offers tours much in the same vein as Marvel Cave, with stairways built to make traversing the cave easier. “This is perfect for those who have no interest in the art of caving and simply want to experience some amazing sights firsthand, but leaves a little to be desired by those wanting a true adventure. Nestled amidst a 400-acre nature preserve, there’s much more than Talking Rocks Caverns to explore on the premises. Those not wanting to exert a high level of physical energy will certainly find Talking Rocks Cavern to be the cave they’ll want to explore while visiting.” Talking Rocks Cavern tours typically last around 50 minutes and are available daily, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

However, those up to the challenge will find two other cave tours located on the premises to offer a little more than your standard walk through. Powell Cave offers a moderately strenuous walking tour that lasts roughly two hours, while Mud Cave gives a high intensity time of cave exploration that can last anywhere from four to six hours. Both of these tours are also offered seven days a week, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

?For more information, call 417-272-3366.

2) See The Butterfly Palace

“Take the time to teach the kids about the wonders of our natural world at Butterfly Palace,” Berry suggested.

The Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure, located at the west end of the Branson strip, brings you up close and personal with more than 1,000 live tropical butterflies in an interactive, educational, and entertaining family experience.

Imagining thousands of butterflies fluttering all around you is almost like something out of a dream. However, that experience becomes reality as you walk among them in The Butterfly Palace’s main attraction, The Butterfly Aviary, which is a living rainforest exhibit that is home to these winged beauties.

The Butterfly Palace is located at 4106 W. Hwy 76. For more information on hours and tickets, call (417) 332-2231. Visit online at www.thebutterflypalace.com.

3) Check out The Dewey Short Visitor Center

“Another educational opportunity awaits, if you are already out at the lake, at Dewey Short Visitor Center, adjacent to Table Rock Dam,” Berry said.

“Here you can learn about the history of our area and follow that raindrop all through the White River watershed with an incredible interactive display. Even more knowledge can be gained by sitting outdoors at the Visitor Center, out of the rain under the cantilevered balconies, watching the water run off the parking lot into a retention pond designed to support some of the Ozarks’ native plant life,” she added.

The new visitor center and Discovery Shop opened in 2012 and has been called the “crown jewel” of Table Rock Lake. Exhibits at the visitor center include a state-of-the-art interactive map of Table Rock Lake, artistic wall murals, and a replica of an Ozarks bluff. There is also a Native American artifact exhibit and an interactive water safety demonstration. Maps and information about recreation opportunities on Table Rock Lake and the Branson area are also available at the visitor center. The Discovery Shop offers souvenirs, educational games and toys, and hard-to-find field guides. Visit www.tablerockdamtours.com for more information.

4) Catch a matinee

Branson is known for its many quality shows — and the show schedules aren’t just in the evening hours as most theatres host matinee performances in the afternoon. Simply check online show schedules, Berry suggested.

One new afternoon show perfect for the family is the Stunt Dog Experience, which opened at the Clay Cooper Theater on Highway 76 in Branson on May 28. The show will run through August 9.

According to show producer, Chris Perondi, “some of the most incredible dogs perform amazing tricks in the show, designed to bring laughter, excitement and joy to the whole family.”

The Stunt Dog Experience has traveled all over the United States performing to enthusiastic crowds, and has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres, David Lettermen and many more. The last couple years they have performed at Silver Dollar City for Kids Fest and were featured on the Lucy Pet Foundation float in the Rose Bowl Parade on January 1, 2014.

Performances are at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., depending on the day. Tickets are available at the Clay Cooper Theatre, by calling 877-317-2604, or online at Claycoopertheatre.com.

Another attraction great to visit rain or shine is Dixie Stampede, which is celebrating its 20th season here in Branson in 2014. John Richardson, marketing director, hyped up the 2014 season as a foot-stomping good time with a new show highlight, “the amazing Roman Ride of Fire.”

The show has become known for its dramatic demonstrations of horsemanship and nearly impossible feats of skill and agility, and 2014 is no exception. During the production, trick riders once again demonstrate their intensive training while doing rapid vaults and handstands with precise timing. A tasty four-course meal is served during the events.

Guests are encouraged to make reservations early. For more information regarding show times and ticket prices, call 1-800-520-5544, or visit dixiestampede.com.

5) Visit the new Branson Auto Museum

The Branson Auto and Farm Museum opened earlier this year in its new home on the world-famous 76 Strip. The newly constructed, 90,000 square foot interactive museum dedicates itself to the preservation of classic automobiles and working farm tractors. The museum is a showcase of more than 125 classic and cool cars, nearly 90 tractors, and much more.

The sparkling new facility features two large showrooms – one displaying cars and trucks of all different periods, and the other featuring antique farm equipment.

Jack Baker serves as The Branson Auto and Farm Assistant Manager. “We have some of the nicest cars and tractors under one roof, and we are open to the public for viewing in a climate-controlled environment,” he said.

The museum hours are 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The museum is only closed on Christmas. Check out the Facebook page for more information, www.facebook.com/bransonautomuseum, or browse the inventory of vehicles and other items for sale at www.BransonMuseum.com.

6) Experience The IMAX Theater

In 1993, the Branson IMAX Entertainment Complex opened among a flurry of theaters, shows and attractions that were taking root in Branson in the early 90’s, a period considered the “boom.” Twenty years later, the IMAX Entertainment Complex, under the parent company ITEC Attractions, still boasts the largest IMAX screen in the Midwest, according to marketing director, Tom Forster.

While the entertainment complex features a movie theater, live shows, shopping, restaurants and more, the IMAX Theater is the core of the operation, Forster said.

“Today, we are still the largest IMAX in the Midwest. We’re not the only one anymore, but we’re still unique from the standpoint that we have the largest screen, and we probably have the largest auditorium. We seat about 550 people in the IMAX Theater,” Forster said.

The IMAX experience is currently featuring Jerusalem, Great White Shark, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar, Rocky Mountain Express, and it’s exclusive presentation, Ozarks Legacy & Legend.

For more information on show times, etc., visit http://www.bransonimax.com

7) Tour the Historical Owen Theater

Branson’s first theatre, The Owen Theatre in downtown, is now a bustling hub of activity and entertainment, with unique shows and special events planned throughout 2014 — and it still stands in honor of its creator, Mayor Jim Owen (1903 – 1972).

Diana Allynn is very enthusiastic about bringing quality entertainment to “the place where it all started.”

“Built in 1936, it literally is Branson’s first theater,” she said, noting that Jim Owen originally constructed the building as a movie house.

Owen was known to have a lot of connections in Hollywood, as celebrities would often visit the area to take one of Owen’s famous float trips down the White River. One of those was a writer, Paul Henning, who was inspired so much by the Ozarks that he went back to Hollywood and wrote The Beverly Hillbillies.

“Everybody needs to come and see the theater and enjoy its history. This is Branson’s first theater — and we cannot lose our history. It’s our foundation. It’s who we are and why we’re here. We also give free historical tours all day along to honor Jim Owen for what he started in Branson,” she added.

Check out all of the entertainment options at The Owen Theatre, located at 205 South Commercial St. Branson, MO 65616, and stop in to take a tour. For more information, call 417-464-8945.

8) Visit the Ralph Foster Museum

Speaking of The Beverly Hillbillies, the original vehicle used in the TV series is on display at The Ralph Foster Museum, on the campus of the College of the Ozarks.

According to its website, the primary focus of the Ralph Foster Museum today is to collect, preserve, interpret and exhibit items relating to the Ozarks region. In addition to The Beverly Hillbillies vehicle, visitors will find antiques, weapons, dolls, natural history and other items from around the world.

The Museum is located at College of the Ozarks on Point Lookout, which is only two miles south of Branson, Missouri. Call 417-690-3407 or visit www.rfostermuseum.com.

9) See the World’s Largest Toy Museum

Those who love history and antiques will be especially interested in a visit to the World’s Largest Toy Museum, located at 3609 West Highway 76.

The World’s Largest Toy Museum, also known as the Antique Toy Museum, is like Christmas morning every day as guests rediscover the joy of their favorite toys and reminisce about childhood heroes. Remembering childhood has never been so much fun as over a million toys, some dating as far back as the colonial days, are on display. “You’ll see toys you had, toys you wished you’d had, toys you wish you had back, and toys you forgot all about having had in a wonderful trip down memory lane,” as stated on the website. Call (417)-332-1499 or visit http://www.worldslargesttoymuseum.com

10) Go wild at Branson’s Wild World

Branson’s Wild World is an indoor animal attraction for kids and adults alike with all sorts of opportunities to interact with animals, feed them, hold them, and learn about them. Staff members are available to answer questions about the animals. There is also a Jungle Arcade, 3D Mini Golf, and more. New in 2014 is the completion of an outdoor wolf pen, mountain lion enclosure, “Deadly and Dangerous” attraction, and more. Visit www.bransonswildworld.com.


Hughes Brothers delight audiences by keeping “it” all in the family

By Administrator on Friday, 6th June, 2014
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Highlights from “it” at The Hughes Brothers Theater (from top left): The Hughes Brothers in action; the brothers and their wives and kids during a Broadway tribute; one of the Hughes kids delivering “Maybe” from the musical, Annie; Andy and Becky Hughes’ family perform together. (Photos by Michael J. Frost)

By Michael J. Frost

mfrost@selectbranson.com

When headed out to see “it” at The Hughes Brothers Theater, you may be wondering what you’re in for. Is “it” a Hughes Brothers’ concert? Is “it” a musical revue? Is “it” something completely unexpected?

What is “it,” exactly?

That’s the question The Hughes Family want the audience to be asking themselves — and most are pleasantly surprised to see that “it” is all of the above, and much more.

The featured performers of “it” are The Hughes Brothers themselves, but the show actually stars the immediate family as a whole — nearly 50 of them. All five brothers, their wives, and many of their children (32-plus) fill up the stage, showcasing various talents much to the delight of the audience.

“It” is not only the name of the show starring one of the world’s largest entertaining families, but “it” is the embodiment of the Hughes’ vision to provide audiences an entertainment experience that engages them to “see it, hear it, feel it and love it.”

The production encompasses many elements that make “it” a wonderfully entertaining evening. The Hughes family makes up a large ensemble of singers, dancers and musicians. While their talents are remarkable, the best part is seeing such a big family on stage together, performing everything from pop, to Broadway, to gospel.

“People ask us, do you get along that good all the time? And I always say, yeah we get along perfectly all of the time — except when we’re fighting,” Jason Hughes, director, stated. “The truth is, we’re a regular family. But I think what we do as a family is extraordinary. To be able to work together as a family and to do something for as long as we have together, on the scale that we do, is a very unique thing.”

The show kicks off with a rousing song and dance number featuring a large ensemble. At first, the audience isn’t immediately made aware that these are all family members performing together.

Next, The Hughes Brothers themselves step out to showcase their comedic skills, vocal harmonies, and showmanship with a medley of familiar tunes from various genres of music.

The brothers are Marty, Jason, Adam, Ryan, and Andy. According to their official bio, they have been performing together for 31 years, 16 of which have been in Branson. Raised in a musical family with parents who were performers in Taylorsville, Utah, the brothers developed their musical skills naturally as they were growing up. They have been harmonizing and performing as a group since the youngest brother, Andy, was two years old.

When they made their way to Branson – only two of the brothers were married with children at the time. Since then, the three other brothers have married and now have kids of their own. Marty, Jason, Adam, Ryan, and Andy are married to Cindy, Mara, Vikki, Carina, and Becky, respectively — and all of their wives are featured performers in the show. None of the wives are strangers to the stage, however, as they have been singing, dancing and acting most of their lives, according to the bio.

In January of 2000, the Hughes Brothers took over the former Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre. The family not only performs there six days a week, but also owns and manages the theater.

Parents, Gary & Lena Hughes are active in the theater as well. Lena is said to proudly wear a nametag that reads M&M, which stands for “Mom & Manager.” She manages the business end of the operation. Gary is said to sport a nametag says “Chief Indian,” and he runs Papa Hughes’ Fudge Shop.

Today, the stage show includes the brothers, their wives, and 32-plus of the Hughes children. They proudly carry the title of the “World’s Largest Performing Family.”

The show is a sight to behold as a family of this size comes together to perform.

After the brothers and their wives gave featured performances, the audience was in for a real surprise as all the kids lined up with their parents across the stage. Together, they performed a harmonious medley including Queen’s “Somebody To Love.”

Then it was the kids’ turn to showcase their talents. From high-energy choreographed dance routines to covers of current Top 40 radio hits, it was clear to the audience that these kids “grew up” on stage. It appears that keeping it in the family is just what the Hughes Brothers intended to do. As the family has grown, so has the presence of the children in the show, they said. Soaring instrumentals and upbeat dance numbers highlight the kids’ performances.

One of the most inspiring moments of the show was the strings segment, when several of the older kids performed together on violins, led by Kristina Hughes, who is the oldest of all the Hughes Brothers kids.

The show is not only set apart by keeping it all in the family, but also by its presentation of variety. The second half of the show featured an excellent tribute to Broadway productions, complete with full costume and choreography involving the whole cast. Classic Broadway showtunes were staged, including hits from Oklahoma, Guys and Dolls, and Will Rogers Follies, while the Hughes kids took their turn presenting material from Annie, Wicked, and Newsies.

The family also presented a moving tribute to men and women in military service, and rounded out their performance with a stirring arrangement of gospel classics.

While the family was at the center of the show, a live band added another element of excellence to the performance. Lighting design and sound, also ran by family members, enhanced the overall production.

Check out “it” – where the Hughes family combine singing, dancing, and musicianship to create an engaging entertainment experience, with everything from Broadway to country, to comedy to patriotic, to gospel and rock – making it the ultimate family show.

The Hughes Brothers Theater is also home to 70s Music Celebration starring Barry Williams, AYO starring Voice of Glory, and The Hughes Brother Christmas show.

Hughes Brothers Theatre is located at 3425 W 76 Country Blvd, Branson, MO 65616, across from the Jim Stafford Theatre and next door to the Lodge of the Ozarks, west of the intersection of Hwy 76 and Gretna Road, on the west side of Branson. Call 417-334-0076, or visit http://www.hughes-brothers.com.

Check out what others are saying about The Hughes Brothers “it”…

This is a family show. Children and adults show off their talents of playing the violin and other instruments. They perform and sing all kinds of genre. This is an exciting show and all the children and adults are involved in all the aspects of singing, dancing, and playing the instruments. I would recommend this to all. Loved their patriotic and gospel section. — Barbara M.

We loved IT!! Front row seats. Such a great family show!! Very impressed. I recommend this show for everyone. I must see! It had it all, singing, dancing, musical instruments and lots of fun. I couldn’t stop smiling. Take the whole family. — Jill L.

We’ve seen “IT” several times and just can’t get enough. Great show with lots of talent. One of the best shows in Branson. A must see for the whole family. Lots of variety. Singing, dancing, musical instruments and lots of performers. — Laurie E.

The Hughes Brothers are the patriarchs of a large musical family, all of whom participate in this entertaining show. There are 5 brothers, their wives, and 37 children! The show is basically the same as last year, but it is always entertaining, and it’s fun to watch the children perform. You always feel like you’re part of the family when you’re at the show and the theatre! — Sue N.

I have been to this show many times and every time is awesome. Because of the number of performers and different talents the show is different every time. But always amazing! I love the Hughes Family and recommend this show to family and friends and especially at work with all the visitors we have asking me what show I recommend. I always recommend “IT” with much enthusiasm. Thank you for sharing your amazing family and talents! — Cari W.

We love Branson and have seen many of the shows. The Hughes Brothers show was something we had never gone to before, so we decided to try it. We now have a new favorite! We just HAVE to go back every year to see how all the children have grown! What a bunch of talent all in one huge family. This show is a must see for everyone visiting Branson. — Diane Kay W.

 


Summer blockbusters hit Branson theaters

By Administrator on Friday, 6th June, 2014
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By Michael J. Frost

mfrost@selectbranson.com

Now that the summer movie season has officially begun, moviegoers will be making many informed decisions over the next few months as big-budget blockbusters and big-name studio releases take over Branson multiplexes from Memorial Day until Labor Day.

2014 has already been dubbed the year of sequels and remakes. There are reportedly more than 20 movie sequels to be released throughout 2014.

This year has also proven to be a blockbuster season at the cinema, as Godzilla reportedly earned a domestic total of $178,083,000, as reported by boxofficemojo.com, whereas Maleficent’s opening weekend has already garnered $82,835,248.

The summer movie blockbuster has certainly arrived.

So, what should you add to your list to see this summer? If you are one of the few out there who has yet to see Godzilla, or if you are still waiting on the word from your friends about Maleficent, here’s a little advice — go see them both.

Godzilla was resurrected on May 16th to kick off the summer season, and he has stomped all over the box office. This big budget remake promised to take the original story from Toho Co., Ltd, the Japanese filmmakers who created the monster in the 1950s, and present a more thrilling Godzilla movie than ever before — plus the tallest Godzilla seen on screen to date.

Much of Godzilla’s popularity in the United States can be credited with TV broadcasts of the Toho Studios’ monster movies in the 70s and 80s. As a kid, I spent many a night staying up late watching TBS in the 80s, or watching “Super Scary Saturday” hosted by Grampa Munster on Saturday afternoon, all because of Godzilla. That’s where I discovered the monster, which was a response to the new nuclear realities confronting the world and Japan in particular. Godzilla rose with fright, fury and with one mission, to lumber through the streets stomping everything in his path while warding off another giant threat. Fun, huh? For a 10-year-old kid, it was pure, absolute joy.

The storylines seemed much less important at the time, as all I was interested in watching was a monster showdown. Somehow, the epic battle you had just imagined with your He-Man and the Masters of Universe Bashasaurus vs. Tyrantisaurus Rex was suddenly realized on screen with two very different giant monsters. It was pure 80s awesomeness. These are images that never leave your brain. (Another image that never leaves the brain are the two tiny priestesses that accompany Mothra, and who also speak for her in unison. That’s just creepy.)

Although I have enjoyed watching Godzilla movies since I was a kid, I can’t claim to be an expert, nor can I claim to have seen every Godzilla movie to date. However, I do enjoy a good monster fight, making it a point to see films such as Cloverfield and Pacific Rim.

So, the 10-year-old in me (and obviously in millions more) was very excited to hear that a Godzilla reboot was in the works, particularly after “big letdown of 1998.” Ya’ll know what I’m talking about, too — that ill-fated attempt to bring a Godzilla to the screen that looked more like something out of Jurassic Park, when all he needed to be was an upright, towering creature that could breathe radioactive fire. Although I found that movie somewhat enjoyable when I saw it at the theater, it was the design of the monster himself (or perhaps it was a “she” since it laid eggs) that kinda made it a let-down for most fans at the time.

Because Godzilla is the King of Monsters, there were high expectations for the latest release, to say the least.

There’s no let-down with the 2014 Godzilla.

From the get-go, we are drawn into a compelling storyline of a husband and wife, employees of a nuclear plant, who experience tragedy when the plant is mysteriously destroyed due to “seismic activity.” Years later, the couple’s son heads to Japan to help his estranged father, who is desperately searching for the truth behind the destruction of the plant. The father and son find themselves back at the site of the incident, where the Japanese government is hiding something — something huge that threatens humanity.

Interestingly, just days before seeing Godzilla, I had watched The Atomic Café as an assignment for a World History class. The Atomic Cafe is a documentary film that combines actual footage of bomb detonation and government propaganda that revolved around nuclear testing in the Pacific in the 1940s and 1950s.

It was a strange, eerie feeling to see a few of these images of nuclear holocaust reflected in the opening credits of Godzilla. “Those nuclear tests in the Pacific — not tests. They were trying to kill it,” as stated in the film. This is just the kind of tension that the filmmakers were hoping to create.

The build-up to the appearance of the Godzilla monster is slow-paced and tense, but when he appears, it is not disappointing. Here, you see the monster as you hoped you would — taller than ever before, with a skin that no man-made weapon can penetrate, with radioactive breath and a deafening roar, fighting to restore a necessary balance in nature, but with no regard for the destruction it leaves in its wake. In the end, we are riveted by a monster showdown with the MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), as the 10-year-old in all of us jumps up and down with excitement. The reboot will reportedly become a trio of movies.

A second entity destroying all of its competition, albeit in a much different way, is Maleficent.

As with any retake on a familiar story, there will be lovers and haters. I must say I was quite surprised by the direction the storyline took. The film was dark, beautiful, and for me, a bit melancholy.

Having a three-year-old daughter at home, I am now quite familiar with the story of Sleeping Beauty, as the 1959 Disney animated classic is one that she loves to watch over and over. Princess Aurora is, of course, one of the many Disney creations that she loves to pretend to be as she dresses up and sings “Once Upon a Dream” while waltzing through the living room.

Before we took her to see Maleficent, we wanted to check it out ourselves to be sure nothing in the film would scare her, as the trailers had made the film seem a bit on the dark side. However, without giving too much away, Maleficent may not be the absolute evil entity that you may recall from Sleeping Beauty. In fact, her relationship with Aurora in the film might surprise you.

Angelina Jolie is striking as Maleficent, a fairy with stunning black wings who protects a magical, peaceful forest kingdom — until invading humans threaten the land. Maleficent suffers the heartbreaking betrayal of a human who she has loved since childhood, leaving her mentally broken and physically wounded. This act of betrayal sets the young man on a path to become king. Seeking revenge, Maleficent places a terrible curse upon his newborn princess, Aurora. As the child grows and the unstoppable curse lingers, Maleficent forms an unlikely relationship with Aurora that could change everything.

Again, Maleficent in this movie is not exactly as we know her from the original animated movie, but she does have her moments of being cunningly evil.

The film is a great, dark fantasy. Growing up in the 80s, I enjoyed movies such as Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Legend, Willow, The Neverending Story, Beastmaster, and The Princess Bride, and today I own a lot of them on DVD. Somehow, the feel of Maleficent, with its fantastic creatures, magical forest, and compelling story, reminded me so much of the fantasy films I enjoyed as a kid, and still do today.

We did take our daughter to see Maleficent as well. Elle Fanning is delightful as Princess Aurora — and yes, my daughter already wants to get that new Aurora costume! The comedic fumbling fairies, charged to raise and protect Aurora, kept the film from getting too dark.

Both Godzilla and Maleficent are playing at Elite Cinema III and Branson Meadows Cinema 11. For tickets and showtimes, visit http://www.bransonimax.com, http://www.bransonmeadowscinema11.com, or call 417-332-0464, or (800) 419-4832. Be sure to like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BransonMeadowsCinemas and also https://www.facebook.com/BransonIMAX. Both are shown in either 2D or 3D, and Maleficent is also being shown on the IMAX screen.

Two other highly anticipated films set to become summer blockbusters are X-Men Days of Future Past (now showing), and Transformers: Age of Extinction, to be released June 27.

Branson Meadows Cinema 11 is inside The Shoppes at Branson Meadows, with 11 screens showing top Hollywood movies, and Elite Cinema III is inside Branson’s IMAX Entertainment Complex.

Both theatres are owned and operated by ITEC Attractions Inc., the same family of businesses as the IMAX Entertainment Complex, McFarlain’s Family Restaurant, Montana Mike’s Steakhouse, Florentina’s Ristorante Italiano and the Little Opry Theatre.