Memorial Day Weekend in Branson sparks fireworks, remembrances, kick-off to summer fun

By Administrator on Monday, 19th May, 2014
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Veterans’ Memorial Garden is one of the many ways Branson pays tribute to men and women who have served in the military. (Photo courtesy of the Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau).

By Michael J. Frost
As school is winding down and people everywhere are gearing up for summer fun, Memorial Day Weekend serves as the official kick-off to the season for many — and it’s also one of the most popular times of the year for visitors to head to Branson, MO.

“Three-day weekends are some of the busiest times in Branson,” said Lynn Berry, Director of Communications with The Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

What draws people to the area on this special weekend? Berry said there are many reasons factoring in on the fun to be found all across the beautiful Branson area. From fireworks, events, remembrances, patriotic displays, and family fun, Memorial weekend can be a time that defines what Branson is all about.

Not only is it a long weekend, it marks the beginning of the outdoor season in Branson, highlighting the natural beauty of the Ozarks that draws many visitors to the area year after year.

“For the folks that love our lakes, this is the start of their favorite summer fun,” Berry said.

For example, Table Rock Lake offers Branson locals and visitors nearly 43,000 surface acres of aquatic fun and adventure, including sunbathing, swimming, boating, kayaking and more summer activities.

Across the Branson landscape, there’s also golfing, ziplines, hiking and fishing. Really, just about any activity for the outdoors enthusiast can be found in Branson.

A new zipline experience, Parakeet Pete’s Waterfront Zipline, is an adventure inside Branson’s city limits that launches from the south end of Branson Landing, zips across Lake Taneycomo, and ends up at an observation platform on Mount Branson.

Berry said all outdoor activities seamlessly blend with Branson’s many live shows, attractions, shopping and other activities to provide a unique vacation destination for families and a great weekend getaway.

“With all the choices from outdoor adventure to Silver Dollar City to live shows, there is truly something for everyone,” Berry added.

Speaking of Silver Dollar City, the theme park is right in the middle of its annual Bluegrass & BBQ Festival, which runs through June 1. This festival is touted as one of the best Bluegrass events of the year with top musicians and great BBQ flavors like Memphis dry rub, Texas style tastes and Kansas City style. Bottle Neck Bros. Sauce Shack will be allowing guests to sample more than 200 different barbecue sauces. Some of the entertainers at the 2014 festival include Special Consensus, The Boxcars, Joe Mullins & Radio Ramblers, Balsam Range, Flatt Lonesome, Blue Highway, Kruger Brothers, and many more.

The theme park is also promoting a year-long theme, “Celebrate America,” — a theme that is reflected throughout the entire Branson/Lakes Area.

Along with the thrills of Silver Dollar City, Memorial Day weekend will also be the first chance for thrill-seekers to experience the new KaPau Plummet ride at White Water. Branson’s biggest water park will be open over Memorial Day Weekend, and it is considered the grand opening for KaPau Plummet. The $1.7 million attraction is touted as a heart-pounding, drop-floor thrill slide atop a four-story tower. It features a near-vertical 70-degree plunge through two 240-foot dueling slides, followed by a spiraling loop – an experience promising to far exceed the thrill factor of any water ride ever built at the 13-acre tropically-themed water park.

In addition to serving as a summertime kick-off, Memorial Day is particularly a time to celebrate patriotism, as this federal public holiday is set aside to honor United States men and women who have died serving their country in the military. Many people will visit memorials and cemeteries to celebrate those brave Americans.

One such place is the Veterans’ Memorial Garden in Branson, started six years ago by Ben Kinel.

Kinel said Monday that volunteers are busy preparing the gardens for the season. While fluctuating weather patterns have kept the gardens from blooming out this spring as he had hoped, Kinel said the coming summer months will provide visitors more of an opportunity to see the gardens in full glory.

“We’ve provided something here for the veterans and their families, to honor them for the service that they provided. I’m an ex-marine myself,” Kinel said.

The Branson Veterans’ Memorial Garden was founded in 2008 when Kinel secured a long-term lease from the owners of the property, the same owners of Silver Dollar City. He then set out to contact local businesses and individuals, asking for contributions of money and materials to make the garden a reality. Kinel helped transform the property, which was grown up with weeds, into a beautiful memorial garden honoring veterans.

“Through six years of perseverance and a lot of hard work, this weed patch was transformed by many volunteer workers into a real show place on a location most folks call the Gateway to Branson,” he said.

Veterans’ Memorial Garden has become a gathering place for anyone who wants to remember those who sacrificed everything to protect our great nation. Kinel said he is very proud of the project and what it stands for.

“This Garden is a public statement by the Branson Community to those who live here and to our visitors, to honor and remember the military personnel from all branches of services and from all wars,” according to Kinel.

Volunteers and donations keep the gardens alive. Find out more about the project at www.veteransmemorialgarden.com.

Closely linked to the patriotic mood set forth across Branson this weekend, there are all-American celebrations and events planned across the area.

There are two popular fireworks displays on Memorial Day weekend, both on Sunday night at Big Cedar Lodge, and at Chateau on the Lake Resort.

Berry points out that Memorial Day Weekend is one of Branson’s busiest weekends and suggests advance reservations for lodging and shows to ensure the best accommodations and seating.

Visit www.selectbranson.com for a complete guide to shows, lodging and attractions.

Below is more information on weekend happenings throughout Branson, courtesy of Berry and the CVB.

Memorial Day Sidewalk Sale at Tanger Outlets

Tanger Outlets in Branson hosts its Memorial Day Sidewalk Sale Friday, May 23 through Monday, May 26. Find extra savings in brand outlet stores during the 4-day sale event. Visit tangeroutlet.com/branson/coupons for the latest sales and information.

Sight & Sound to show JONAH on Memorial Day

Although shows usually do not run on Mondays, Sight & Sound Theatre will perform it’s hit musical JONAH on Memorial Day. Tickets are available at www.sight-sound.com

Memorial Day Fireworks at Big Cedar Lodge

A fireworks display is set for Sunday, May 25 at Big Cedar Lodge. Phone 417-335-2777 for more information, or visit the website: www.bigcedar.com.

Memorial Day Celebration at Chateau on the Lake

A celebration is set for Sunday, May 25, at Chateau on the Lake with a fireworks display that concludes an outdoor BBQ event with live music. For more details, call 888-333-5253 or visit www.chateauonthelake.com.

Flag Decoration at Springfield National Cemetery

Flag decoration is set for Monday, May 26, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Springfield National Cemetery, 1702 East Seminole Street. The Springfield National Cemetery is a thirty-minute drive from Branson, and includes graves of soldiers dating as far back as the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Graves are decorated with small United States flags the day before Memorial Day and are removed immediately after the holiday. Phone (417) 881-9499 or visit online at www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/springfield.asp.


New KaPau Plummet set to make a splash this weekend at White Water

By Administrator on Friday, 16th May, 2014
ka-pau

KaPau Plummet, White Water’s new thrill slide, opens to riders Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City Attractions).

By Michael J. Frost

Although cold and rainy weather cancelled the first sliders event that had been scheduled for earlier in the week, Branson White Water’s new thrill slide, KaPau Plummet, will open to riders on Saturday, May 17 as scheduled.

The first sliders event planned for May 14 was to have featured local children and Branson entertainers, such as members of The Haygoods, taking the inaugural plunge. Although rain put a damper on the event, the forecast is now looking brighter. Warmer temperatures are expected this weekend and throughout next week as well.

“This coming weekend is our soft opening,” according to Martha Hoy Bohner, Publicist with Silver Dollar City Attractions and Herschend Family Entertainment, “with Memorial Weekend as our Grand Opening.”

Bohner noted that White Water begins a seven-day operation starting May 24th, Memorial Saturday.

In honor of KaPau Plummet opening this weekend, the park is offering a special online half-price ticket for Saturday, May 17 or Sunday, May 18 for $19.99 + tax, online only. The first 500 sliders on KaPau Plummet will receive a free commemorative wristband with your slider number on it.

Bohner touted the attraction as a “substantial 1.7 million dollar investment into the Branson tourism landscape.”

Designed to be “The Biggest Thrill in White Water History,” the new slide is described as a heart-pounding, drop-floor thrill slide atop a four-story tower. It features a near-vertical 70-degree plunge and two-story rider free fall through two 240-foot dueling slides, followed by a spiraling loop — an experience promising to exceed the thrill factor of any water ride ever built at the 13-acre tropically-themed water park in Branson, Missouri.

“KaPau Plummet offers a thrill like no other ever at White Water,” said Cory Roebuck, White Water Director of Operations. Roebuck said ‘kapau’ is a U.S. surfer slang term meaning the next big wave or the next big thing, pronounced KA-POW.

“The AquaLaunch trap door builds anticipation for an incredible drop below, and then the plunge will literally take your breath away,” he said.

A press release from Silver Dollar City Publicity Department describes the experience in detail. “Those brave enough to dare the drop will experience a heart-pumping, breathtaking thrill that begins at the top of the 40-foot tower. Two encapsulated slides are the starting points for loading riders into launch capsules. Once inside, the countdown begins: 3…2…1 KAPAU! The bottom of each slide drops out, creating a rider free fall for two stories at 70 degrees, speeding at 26 feet per second into a looping 240-foot translucent waterslide before final splashdown. Spectators will be able to watch the riders’ rocket-like plunge and see them spiral through the loops.”

KaPau Plummet joins White Water’s array of water rides, slides and attractions. The park’s thrill rides include the 7-story, 6-slide Kalani Towers, and raft slides such as Raging River Rapids and Ohana Falls. For a more relaxing adventure, Aloha River is an 800-foot themed river, where tube riders float the twists and turns under fountains, misters and geysers. Splashaway Cay is an interactive family attraction with slides and geysers, and Coconut Cove is a play area specially designed for smaller kids.

While KaPau Plummet is the centerpiece for White Water’s new season, there’s more coming in 2014, according to Roebuck.

The popular nighttime event “Night Water” is set to be bigger than ever with the addition of more “Dive-In” movies on Friday nights in July and August. Films to be featured this year include hits such as “Frozen” and “The Little Mermaid” as well as classic family favorites such “ET” and “Back to the Future.” Movies are shown on a 10-foot screen above the 500,000-gallon Surf’s Up Wave Pool as guests float on the cool water.

Also new this year for Night Water, “Red, White & Boom!” fireworks fill the sky above the wave pool at park closing on Saturday nights. During Night Water, guests can play all day and into the night as White Water stays open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays July 3 to August 8, and then Fridays and Saturdays through August 30 (open evenings only on August 22 and 29). In a first-ever midnight-splash event, White Water will stay open until midnight on August 9.

Also new this year, White Water hosts the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson on Friday, June 20, an event to promote water safety and drowning prevention for kids, partnering with hundreds of water parks and facilities in dozens of countries around the world.

To extend the summer fun, White Water adds an extra weekend this year, September 6-7. For details, schedules and information call 800-831-4FUN(386), or visit www.bransonwhitewater.com.

Dare-to-Drop Facts for KaPau Plummet:

  • Tower height – 40 feet
  • Speed – 26 feet per second
  • Two translucent slides, 3’ in diameter
  • Length of flume slides: 243.8’ & 246.2’
  • AquaLaunch capsules with drop-floor plunge
  • Capacity – 360 riders per hour with 2 slides
  • Waterflow – 1,000 gallons per minute
  • Manufacturer – WhiteWater West, Ltd., British Columbia, Canada
  • Budget: $1.7 million

Farmhouse Family Restaurant still welcoming guests after 38 years

By Administrator on Friday, 16th May, 2014
farmhouse
By Michael J. Frost

A trip to downtown Branson wouldn’t be complete without stopping by the Farmhouse Restaurant for some famous home cooking. It’s been a staple of the downtown scene for almost 38 years.

The restaurant also has quite a story to tell as a business that rose from the ashes after a fire temporarily shut it down not long after it opened.

The Farmhouse Restaurant has become known as one of Branson’s favorite eateries, where tourists and locals alike go for their favorite home-style meals.

Located in the historic downtown area, the Farmhouse Restaurant offers country cooking with hearty menu choices such as fried chicken, country-fried steak and mashed potatoes, chicken and dumplings, whole catfish, flamed grilled pork chops, and more. Breakfast is served anytime.

Then, there’s the Farmhouse signature creation — blackberry cobbler. It is said that folks drive for miles just to have it.

Roger and Joey Davis took ownership of the building in 1976 and established the Farmhouse Restaurant. The husband and wife team still run the business today.

Joey recalled how the tourism scene was much different during their first full season of operation.

“The fall was a busy time, and we would be packed day after day through the end of October — and then you would walk out at the first of November and you wouldn’t see anybody on the sidewalks,” she said. “The season stopped at the end of October.”

Joey said it was also a much more difficult time to start a business — “and then we had a fire our second year.”

A grease fire that had started in the kitchen struck during peak dinner hours. Patrons were rushed out to safety.

“In God’s providence, the young boy that was there kept the fire down with the fire extinguisher. There was a lot of smoke damage that covered every nook and cranny, but there was not an extreme amount of burning. The fire department said we wouldn’t be able to reopen for months, but we were open in one week — partly out of desperation,” she said.

Roger and Joey were supporting a family at the time, and the restaurant was their only source of income. “It was difficult time. It cost us to do the repairs. Our first year of business, we didn’t have too much to go on. My husband started working on cleaning it that night, and then we brought in a crew to help, too” she added.

Employees and people from their home church worked to get the restaurant reopened as well. An evangelist deemed the restaurant as the “Miracle Café.” A reporter at the time took the story and published it with that title, and it forever became a part of the restaurant’s legacy. The article is now on display at the front entrance of the restaurant.

As the story goes, when Roger and Joey took over the business in 1976, it also included The Loft Lounge, a bar located above the restaurant. Being people of renewed faith, the couple began to feel conflicted about operating the bar, although it served as a major source of income at the time.

After the fire, Roger and Joey had to step out on faith to reopen the restaurant without the bar. To this day, Joey believes it was intervention from above that brought the restaurant from the ashes and helped it become a successful business on its own.

“In the first few years it was tough,” she said, especially finding good, dependable employees. “We’ve now got employees that we’ve known for years, that we go to church with, and that our son grew up with,” noting several workers who have been with the restaurant long-term.

This is now the 38th season for The Farmhouse. While the business has seen its ups and downs just like any restaurant, Joey said much of what has helped it survive over the years is repeat customers.

“We have a lot of repeat business from all over the states and here locally,” she said. “It give us great pleasure to hear customers come in and say, ‘oh, we’ve been coming here for years. Our parents used to bring us here to eat,’ or ‘we always come here,’ whether they’re from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas City or St. Louis, or even further away. Of course we still get those who come in for the first time. After they eat here, they want to keep coming back,” she said.

These days, folks line up out the door for seating. Joey said the most popular items from the Farmhouse menu are chicken-fried steak, whole catfish, and the soup and salad bar.

“A lot of people come for just our soup and salad bar,” she added.

The restaurant has also become famous for it’s homemade blackberry cobbler. “People come in and ask for it. The tell us ‘that’s what we came in here for.’ We’re known for it.”

How is it prepared?

“It’s a secret recipe,” she laughed.

“I can’t claim to be the cook,” Joey added. “Our main cook has been here for 35 years, Amy McKenzie.”

In addition to their home cooking, Joey said customers often leave good comments on the service they receive.

“I think not only are we known for our food, but for our downhome friendly service. We have genuine servers who are top-notch on caring about the customers,” she added.

After the meals, or perhaps while waiting to be seated, patrons may visit the upstairs area, which serves as a quaint gift shop featuring a variety of home décor items and unique gift-giving merchandise. Shoppers can find local cookbooks, Farmhouse mason jars, mugs, shirts, salt and pepper shakers, t-shirts, jams, jellies and more. There is also Feed on the Word Scripture Dinnerware, Leanin’ Tree greetings, aprons, wall art and signs of humor, “little books” of encouragement and humor, EMU oil and lotion, Fireside flavored coffees and teas, Shepherd of the Hills books and CDs, fashion jewelry, scarves, handbags, music, Aurora plush animals, and more.

“We just feel like the Lord has blessed us with this business, with excellent employees, and with great customers,” Joey said.

The Farmhouse Family Restaurant is located 119 W Main St, Branson, MO 65616. Call 417-334-9701, or visit http://www.farmhouserestaurantbranson.com
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‘Kids and Paws’ Stunt Dog Show set to benefit local humane society

By Administrator on Thursday, 15th May, 2014
Stunt Dog

(Photo courtesy of Stunt Dog Productions)

 

By Michael J. Frost

mfrost@selectbranson.com

 

Chris Perondi, producer of the popular Stunt Dog Experience show, is planning a one-time only special performance to benefit The Shepherd of the Hills Humane Society. The show, titled “Kids and Paws,” is set for Saturday, May 31 at 2:00 p.m., at the Clay Cooper Theatre.

Children from the Boys & Girls Club of the Ozarks will also be involved in the event “because kids and animals go hand-in-paw.” Proceeds will go directly to the creation of an animal exercise and play area at the adoption center.

Stunt Dog Experience opens at the Clay Cooper Theater on Highway 76 in Branson on May 28. The show will run through August 9.

According to Perondi, some of the most incredible dogs perform amazing tricks in a 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.

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

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.

“We met with Chris and decided that this would be a great event. His stunt dog show was performing at Silver Dollar City. He was a premier performer there for years.”

Bourk said one exciting aspect of Perondi’s show is that all the canine performers are rescues. “It really shows that you can take any dog and train them to use their gifts,” she said.

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.

Bourk said those who formed the board first opened a thrift store in downtown Branson. “We then decided we needed to open up an adoption center to house animals that are homeless and needed a chance to find homes. We purchased a strip mall on the expressway, and we’ve operated there for three years.”

The Humane Society not only has a thrift store in downtown Branson at 306 Veterans Boulevard, but also a second one next door to the adoption center at 2837 Shepherd of the Hills Expressway. The thrift store on Shepherd of the Hills includes a bookstore inside, Bourk said.

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. We’re hoping to get over that hurdle with this event and to develop that back area with walking trails, an enclosed patio area for meet and greets, rock pathways, and park benches,” she said.

“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. We’re hoping to raise between $5,000 to $10,000 with this event,” Bourk said.

She encourages families to come to the show, support a great cause, and be highly entertained by the Vegas-style presentation that features more than 50 tricks enhanced by sound, fog and lights.

Bourk said all those who come to the show would be “making a difference for a very good cause in their own community.”

Another incentive is a discounted ticket price for this show only, including a family ticket package in which two adults and three children between 4 and 17 years old can come for $75. Regular ticket prices for adults will be reduced to $30 each for the event.

“The Boys and Girls Club will come and hand out flyers and talk about what they do. We just felt like kids and animals go hand in hand,” she added.

Tickets are available at the Clay Cooper Theatre, by calling 877-317-2604, or online atClaycoopertheatre.com.

Sponsorships for this special benefit show are available by contacting Bourk, Shepherd of the Hills Humane Society, at 207-807-4951 or email at Strayhome@gmail.com.

Visit the shelter website at www.theshepherdhumanesociety.org.


Ducklings hatch in Downtown Branson — on Mother’s Day

By Administrator on Wednesday, 14th May, 2014
Ducklings hatch on Mother's Day

Folks strolling down Main Street in Branson on Mother’s Day happened upon a beautiful site as a mama duck, perched safely in a large flowerbed, cared for her baby ducklings as they hatched. The mama duck may have wandered into town from Lake Taneycomo and has apparently been looked after by downtown merchants, who have brought Cheerios and water to the flower bin. For video of the hatching ducklings, visit our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/SelectBranson. (Photo by Michael J. Frost)

 


CVB ‘delighted’ to be working with American Idol to bring ‘bus tour auditions’ to Branson

By Administrator on Wednesday, 14th May, 2014
American Idol logo

By Michael J. Frost

mfrost@selectbranson.com

 

American Idol, the popular television talent search, is set to make a bus stop in Branson, MO during its round of 2014 auditions.

The announcement was made Wednesday night as Fox, the network which airs the hit reality show, rolled out a press release naming major audition cities and bus tour audition stops as the show gears up for its 14th season.

Lynn Berry is Director of Communications with The Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). The CVB was instrumental in getting Branson on the American Idol radar.

“We’ve been pursuing American Idol for probably five years. We have so many folks that pass through here, whether they were American Idol finalists, or en route to auditioning for American Idol. We have a lot of ties that bind here in Branson with American Idol,” Berry said.

“We’re delighted,” she added.

The bus tour auditions are different than those held in the larger cities across the U.S. “It’s more of an effort to drum up the excitement and to get people to those major cities where they will be on stage before a judge,” she explained.

According to an American Idol production manager, “American Idol is planning on bringing our ‘bus audition tour’ to Branson this summer. In case you haven’t heard, this is very different from our regular ‘arena’ auditions. We bring a tour bus from town to town, set up a few pop-up tents, and just let people who are wandering by step up and audition.”

Through this process, more hopefuls have a chance to sing for producers, and perhaps be sent on to one of the major audition points. According to the bus tour rules set forth for last year, if you are selected to move forward to the next round of auditions, you will be given a “Golden Ticket” on the audition day and informed of your selection to move forward to the next round of the audition process.

Berry said communications with production managers are still ongoing, and plans are moving right along to secure a date and a location for the Branson event. The tour will likely stop here in mid-July. Branson Landing is one of the locations in discussion.

Some of the biggest names in the music industry have started on the Idol stage. The bus tour offers another way for hopefuls to audition, according to www.americanidol.com.

American Idol will be headed out on its annual bus tour auditions beginning later this year. In addition to Branson, cities to be visited include Portland, OR; Portland, ME; Reno, NV; Columbus, OH; Richmond, VA; Albuquerque, NM; Amarillo, TX; Myrtle Beach, SC; Tallahassee, FL; and Kansas City, MO. More details about the bus tour are to be announced.

Visit americanidol.com to follow the bus as it makes its way around the country and also for exclusive videos, interviews and photos, as well as special behind-the-scenes information and Idol news.

American Idol auditions in major cities will be held as follows:

• Minneapolis, MN Wednesday, June 18 Mariucci Arena, University of Minnesota

• New Orleans, LA Wednesday, June 25 Lakefront Arena, University of New Orleans

• Long Island, NY Wednesday, July 23 Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum

• Nashville, TN Wednesday, July 30 Nashville Municipal Auditorium

• San Francisco, CA Monday, September 29 Cow Palace San Francisco

Once again, hopefuls may also submit online at www.americanidol.com through Tuesday, July 1, 2014. Hopefuls will have the opportunity to audition by submitting an audition video online.  Entrants should demonstrate their stellar singing ability by choosing one of the songs from the approved list and performing it a cappella. Videos are limited to one submission per person. Check www.americanidol.com for submission rules and terms and conditions.

For more information, visit?http://www.americanidol.com/news/american-idol-xiv-announces-auditions-in-15-cities-across-america

American Idol is produced by 19 Entertainment, a division of CKX, Inc., and FremantleMedia North America, Inc.


Clay Cooper’s Country Music Express Knocks it Out of the Park

By Administrator on Wednesday, 14th May, 2014

Editorial review by Mike Shanta

If you like powerful vocals, amazing musicians, exciting, lively dancers, and very funny comedy; I have just the show for you.  That would be Clay Cooper’s Country Music Express. This show is a high energy, country music variety show that will make you hoot, holler and do a lot of clapping. It mixes old country, contemporary country, and even a little bit of rock and pop with talent, style and panache all its own.

The pre-show started with a very old looking gentleman being quite silly getting himself tangled up in his suspenders and microphone.  Then he pulls out a battery operated egg mixer, put’s a guitar around his neck and proceeds to play some amazing Spanish guitar.  It doesn’t take you long to realize he’s not an old man after all, but I won’t ruin the surprise of who it is, Not Clay Cooper.

After the audience was warmed up, a countdown for the show began, and the excitement started building.  Then we were in trouble, as in “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” Travis Tritt style, sung with a playful rebelliousness by Clay while six lovely ladies tore up the stage with some great dancing.  During the song, we were given just a taste of what was to come when each of the musicians did a small solo. Wow!

Next, Clay sang “Rodeo” by Garth Brooks with a baritone that you could feel, and a passion that made it his own.  Of course, the very talented musicians and dancers help keep you engrossed in the emotion of the song.

Next up, Johnny Lonestar hits the stage with some old time cowboy stuff that hasn’t been seen in years.  This guy can spin his six-shooters around his fingers and flip them around in the air all while taking them out and putting them back in his holster, flawlessly.  On top of that, this guy can crack a whip like no one’s business, and do some serious rope tricks as well.  It is truly amazing to watch.

You can tell Clay has a special place in his heart for a lot of the older country artists and their music.  You could see it in the say he sang Glen Campbell’s, “Rhinestone Cowboy” or Conway Twittty’s, “It’s Only Make Believe”, and “Hello Darlin’”.

Clay Cooper interacts with his audience in a way that’s not seen very often.  He builds a relationship with his audience through song, humor, and getting down in the audience and having conversations with people.

Of course Clay would tell you himself that a big part of what makes him shine, are all those very talented people in his show.  From the phenomenal musicians who can all sing very well themselves, to his very lovely and extremely talented wife, Tine, who choreographs all the dances, on top of dancing and singing in the show herself.  Then there’s his son Colt, who is learning to hold his own singing and taking part in the comedy skits, as well as, the very talented dancers, and the cowboy trickster himself, Johnny Lonestar.

Let me share some highlights of the show for me. One was when Dave Clark walked to the front of the stage, and did a very moving and cool bass solo of Amazing Grace, we were all mesmerized. Another was when keyboard player, R.P. Harrell did a solo singing “I Dreamed of a City Called Glory”, with a heart and soulfulness that showed he was singing a prayer, and not just a song.

Then there was Matt Gumm who is a multi-talented performer in his own right, and the best hammer dulcimer player I’ve ever seen, dressing like a nerd with the rest of the crew and doing Huey Lewis and the News, “It’s Hip to Be Square”.   Next was Colt Cooper with his mom, Tina, dressed like Sonny and Cher singing, “I’ve Got You Babe”, it was sheer fun.

Some of the other fun impersonations were Dwight Yoakum singing, “Guitars, Cadillacs and Hillbilly Music”; Hank Williams Jr. singing “Born to Boogie”; Rod Stewert singing, “If You Want My Body”; Michael Jackson singing, “Billie Jean” while pulling off some of his signature dance moves; and The Oak Ridge Boys singing “Bobbie Sue”.  Then to complete that segment, Clay and Colt Cooper came out dressed as the Blues Brothers dancing and singing, “Soul Man”.

Toward the end of the show we were treated to some beautiful and moving gospel numbers, followed by Clay talking to and honoring our veterans, and little Colt Cooper coming onto the stage and leading the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Then R.P. Harrell played and sang “America the Beautiful” with lots of heart and soul.

The final song, which I believe was called “America Stand Strong”, was written by Tina Cooper; and performed by Clay Cooper with the whole cast singing back up was a true tribute to the American people who help make this Country great.

You don’t want to miss Clay Cooper’s Country Music Express show when you come to Branson; it definitely gets an A+ from me.


The “Price is Right, LIVE” in Branson so Come on Down!

By Administrator on Wednesday, 14th May, 2014

Editorial review by Mike Shanta

Okay, for you game show junkies, fans, or just curiosity seekers, “Come on Down” to Branson for your chance to play “The Price is Right”.

I’m not a big game show kind of guy, but being in the crowd for “The Price is Right, LIVE!” was actually fun, and I couldn’t help but try to figure the prices to all the different products they brought out.

A man named Andy Taylor was the announcer for the show, and if you closed your eyes, you’d think you were at home listening to the real “The Price is Right” announcer.  Andy has a great sense of humor and played perfectly off the host of the show in Branson, Jerry Springer.

Jerry Springer brings years of experience to the stage, and fortunately he brings the better part of it to Branson, He has a quick wit, and has a lot of fun with the contestants; both poking fun and helping them feel more comfortable on stage.

For about 45 minutes to an hour before the show, the lobby is buzzing with excitement and anticipation while contestants sign up and plan their strategy to get chosen to play the games.  After all, the more excited and bizarre you act, the better your chances are for getting on the show.

There were people with funny hats and strange costumes, people pumping each other up with encouragement, and some who were cool as cucumbers; but the one thing they all had in common was, each of them vying for a chance to get to play.  It’s really quite amusing to watch that many type “A” personality’s together, you just never know what they’re going to do or say. :)

When it was time to move into the theater, the music came on loud and exciting.  People were dancing in front of their seats, waving their arms in the air and jumping up and down trying to get the most attention.  There was a stage hand running back and forth across the stage, as well as, up and down the aisle taking pictures of the crowd, and looking for the most animated people.

Before Jerry Springer came out, we were treated to clips of some of the funniest moments from “The Price is Right”; and it had people roaring. Everything leading up to the show built excitement and anticipation for what was to come.  And as I said, the crazier you act, the better your chances of getting called up to play.  Of course if you’re more of a spectator like me, the show is golden just to watch.  I’m a people watcher, and the people watching opportunity on “The Price is Right” could not be better.  Most of the time I had a grin on my face while shaking my head back and forth. :)

For those of you who don’t know, the way the game works is four people are called to the front of the stage, and they each make a guess at the price of an item.  The person closest to the price, without going over wins the opportunity to get on state and play one of “The Price is Right” games.

When I was there, some of the games played were Punch a Bunch, Cliff Hangers, The Big Wheel and Hole in One.  Although some of the prizes were kind of weird, some of them were great like a car, a gas grill, quality luggage, iPad, and more.

One of the women playing “The Big Wheel” won $450.00 when I was there, which was very exciting; and a couple of other contestants one some smaller prices.  Honestly though, the fun was in the excitement of the game and atmosphere more than any prices won.  Everyone walked away having had a great time.

If you want to be a part of a show in Branson where you can really cut loose and have a great time, plan to “Come on Down” to Branson and to be a part of “The Price is Right, LIVE!”.


It’s Like an Evening with the Beatles Here in Branson, Missouri

By Administrator on Wednesday, 14th May, 2014

Editorial review by Mike Shanta

Branson is smoking hot with entertainment this year, and one of the shows at the top of the list is the Liverpool Legends.  These guys are unbelievably good!  Not only do these guys look the part, but musically and vocally you could not tell them from the original lads from Liverpool.  These guys are so good; they were picked over every other Beatles Tribute band in the world by television and film producer Jerry Bruckheimer to portray the Beatles.

Something that amazed me beyond how much they sounded like the Beatles was the persona they each took on.  It was Paul, John, George and Ringo to a tee in the way they joked with each other, the nuance and inflection of their voices, and in how they played their instruments; including Paul playing left-handed bass.  From the beginning of the show you’re transported back in time.  During the first half of the show they even share microphones like the Beatles did in the beginning.

For me, it was not just a show, it was an intimate concert with the Beatles, and everybody loved it.  My hands actually hurt at the end of the show from all the clapping I did.  I knew this was going to be special from the beginning; and when they started with an Ed Sullivan impersonator welcoming the Fab Four to the stage, it was history relived.

The show opened up with “Please, Please Me” and it was 1964 all over again.  Next it was “I Feel Fine”, then “All My Loving”; “Do You Want to Know a Secret”; “I Saw Here Standing There”; “Mr. Postman”; “Roll Over Beethoven”; and “Hard Days Night” which they made the crowd work for. :)

Next the stage grew dark except for the spot light on Paul, the other Liverpool Legends stepped off the stage; and Paul sang a haunting and mesmerizing solo of “Yesterday”.

After that, the other lads came back on stage and played “Can’t Buy Me Love” then turned it over to Ringo for his song, “Act Naturally”.  And every time you think this can’t get any better, they play another one of my many favorite Beatles songs, “In My Life”.  Every time hear that song, I want to play it over and over because of the way it reminds me of those most important to me.

Then the show continued with more Beatles’ classics like, “The Night Before”; “Day Tripper”; and “Twist and Shout” which had people on their feet.  As a matter of fact, my sides were a little sore the next day from a little too much twisting and shouting on my part. :)

After that, the lads had mercy on us, and let us take a short intermission before we over twisted something.  Toward the end of the intermission, the creator and biggest fan of the group, Louise Harrison, George Harrison’s big sister came out to talk to the audience.  Louise Harrison is a sweet and spunky young lady of nearly 82 years.  She loves to talk about George, the Beatles, and her current favorite group, the Liverpool Legends.

Although the second half of the show is every bit as good as the first, it’s their older songs that bring back the most great memories for me  There are a few exceptions to that statement, such as “A Day In The Life”, “Here Comes The Sun”; “Let it Be”; “Lady Madonna”; “Something”; and “Birthday”.

Of course, at the end of the show, when the lads took a bow and walked off the stage after playing “Birthday” the crowd stood and applauded until they come out for an encore.  And what do you think the encore was? Yes, indeed it was, “Hey Jude” which had the crowd swaying and singing along.

This is a show that you really don’t want to miss when you come to Branson.  You will feel like you’ve gone back to a simpler day and time.  You will also walk out of the theater with a smile on your face, and Beatles songs stuck in your head for the rest of the evening. :)


When Is It Cool to be a JEERK in Branson, Missouri?

By Administrator on Wednesday, 14th May, 2014

Editorial review by Mike Shanta

The answer is, when you’re a talented group of guys from Sweden who go by that name.

Okay, without a reference point, it would be very difficult to describe this amazing show.  If you watch the following short YouTube videos (watch this one) and (watch this one), you will better understand what is so cool about the show, and why I like it so much. Crazy, right?

Now that you’ve seen JEERK in action you can better understand these guys who wear red plaid pants, custom tap shoes made from sneakers, play all their own original music, play bottles, and beat out rhythms using vent pipes, power tools and everything in between.

These guys are amazing, and that’s putting it lightly.  JEERK has toured worldwide, even making an appearance on “So You Think You Can Dance”.  It’s totally crazy how they can each be tapping out a separate rhythm, then come together at points punctuating that rhythm with a stomp.

This show is so different that it’s hard to put a label on just what it is.  One minute JEERK is playing rhythmic drums, with driving lead, rhythm and bass guitars on an original song; and the next minute they are playing a fun melody by blowing in half filled bottles; or tapping out complicated rhythms on the stage.  And while all this is going on, they are engaging the audience with humor and drawing them into each performance. I found myself asking, “What kind of mind thinks these routines up?”  These guys are a breath of fresh air, who keeps you sitting on the edge of your seat wondering what’s next.

One of their routines involved them coming out in full hockey gear, and tapping really cool rhythms with their feet and hockey sticks.  Their foot work is amazing, and made it seem more like they were on skates than shoes.

Next they introduced the three matadors which were three of the members of JEERK coming out in matador outfits each with a mat in his hands, which they shuffled and tapped on to the audiences delight.  Again, I just had to ask myself, how do they come up with such original and entertaining routines?

One of my favorite parts of the show was when JEERK came out with huge wooden electrical cable spools, hammers, electric grinders, and a number of other tools and did an amazing rhythm routine with tapping feet and tools all around the stage.  Then at one point while one of JEERK was tapping on one of the spools, two other members had electric grinders shooting sparks across the stage in both directions behind him.

The second half of the show, just like the first half was fantastic, and filled with original songs and dances.  A couple of my favorite parts from the second half were a very funny routine done with walkers; and a haunting, melodic song that was more like a musical journey than just a song.

These guys are both unique and amazing, making complex and entertaining music with everything from air conditioning duct elbows and vents to soda bottles and power tools, JEERK gets a solid three thumbs up from me.  Well, I only have two thumbs, but if I had three, they would get them all.