Getting a head start on Christmas in Branson, Missouri

merob_1Does this Christmas tree costume make my butt look big?

Judging by the comments on social media after I posted pictures of my husband Rob and me participating in the tree brigade of Branson’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year parade, it was my childish regression that loomed large. And the fact that we were celebrating Christmas the minute Halloween had snuffed out its last pumpkin candle.

Like some twisted version of Cinderella, pumpkins turned to Christmas trees. Goblins to Santas. Ghosts to angels.

It may have seemed as though it happened overnight, Branson’s preemie jump on Christmas. However, as in the case of Silver Dollar City amusement park, it had been carefully choreographed behind the scenes. The park starts stringing its 6.5 million lights on July 5, said Pete, part of the Herschend family that has operated the one-of-a-kind old-time-artisans-meet-thrill-rides park since the late 1950s.

SDC LIGHTS_1

Silver Dollar City all aglow

The Saturday evening following the Most Wonderful parade, Silver Dollar City debuted its overachieving Christmas season with dazzling displays, holiday treats, a lighted parade of its own, and Branson-quality big-music productions of A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. Even its cave, the 500-feet-deep hole in the ground from which the park has grown, switches on an underground holiday display of lights.

Everywhere I went in Branson those first few days of November, Christmas unabashedly asserted itself. The lunch cruise production on the Showboat Branson Belle culminated in a rousing round-up of holiday song and dance choreographed to a level of Vegas showmanship. Sans the liquor. Sans the sin.

Because Branson stakes its squeaky-clean reputation on over-the-top entertainment production in a wholly wholesome vein, viewed through a lens of patriotism and faith.

100% Chance of Shows

Marquee show venues cram Branson’s legendary entertainment district, all of them holiday-skewed from Nov. 1 through year’s end. At one of the most popular holiday shows, the Andy Williams Ozark Mountain Christmas Show, I witnessed stars of yore evoking emotion and nostalgia. Stars that included the Lennon Sisters and Jimmy Osmond against a backdrop of vintage video: They pay tribute to one of the most iconic names in the annuls of holiday and Branson entertainment. From a Cirque Christmas show with the world’s only aerial acrobatic violinist to a quartet harmony, the Christmas performances in Branson are as dynamic as they are spectacular.

The probability of live shows during a holiday visit to Branson greatly out-percentages the likelihood of snow. The area averages only 10 inches a year, despite its mountains.

On the flip side of the town’s reputation for BIG entertainment, its propensity for amusement attractions prevails. Wolfe Mountain recently opened a snowless (astro-turf-like) snow-tubing experience that had me flying down an undulating hill like one of Santa’s reindeer. I flew again at Fritz’s Adventure’s latest Aerodium outdoor wind tunnel.

Other attractions follow the head-start Christmas protocol to the point where you forget it’s actually NOT December. Luminary pathways and period decorations at Titanic, for instance, turn one of the town’s most-well done museums festive. Others, like the World’s Largest Toy Museum, build on the Branson’s number one sales chip: nostalgia.

Old-time stars, stores like Dick’s 5 & 10 , and a return to family values attract not only its signature senior bus-tour clientele, but also multi-generational families to Branson.

But Why So Early?

As one regular Branson visitor put it to me: Branson lies in the heart of the Bible Belt. “Since Christmas is the Super Bowl of Christianity, they make it last as long as possible,” she said.

The Herschend family of Silver Dollar City and Showboat fame claims responsibility for nudging Christmas onto the November calendar. Since 1988, it has promoted Branson as America’s Christmas Tree City, with a map to of 350 decorated public trees to prove it, and even brought in the Rockettes for a time. Resident Tony Orlando (of “and Dawn” fame) likes to take credit, too, having gotten Bob Hope involved through his “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” classic and tributes to veterans.

So, whether or not that somewhat awkward Christmas tree costume made my butt look big as I marched with a forest of others along lakeside Branson Landing, Christmas trees and the holiday in general are supersized in Branson, a friendly and genuine town that just cannot contain its holiday exuberance to a single calendar page.

IF YOU GO

Information: Explore Branson

CHATEAU_1Accommodations: Chateau on the Lake resort, turns merry and bright with decorations that include a candy house village and a Nativity scene handmade in Italy, whose only other look-alike starred in the movie Home Alone.

Must-try holiday treats: Fruitcakes made by students at the College of the Ozarks, pumpkin pie concretes at Andy’s Frozen Custard, apple dumplings at Silver Dollar City, and pumpkin donuts at Hurt’s.

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