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.