Branson is a city in Stone and Taney counties in the U.S. state of Missouri. It was named for Rueben Branson, postmaster and operator of a general store in the area in the 1880s. Historically, Branson was a small city. Today it is sometimes referred to as a “Family-Friendly Las Vegas” because of the numerous shows and attractions, as well as the flashy building decorations and neon lights. The population was 6,050 at the 2000 census. The Branson Micropolitan Statistical Area embraces Stone and Taney counties.
The foundation of the entertainment industry in Branson has humble beginnings. Several family groups opened shows in various Branson locations from city hall, roller skating venues to natural caves. The Mabe family lays claim as being the first, but was shortly followed by the Presley, Braschler and Plumber families. These families have laid the foundation for other family groups such as the Haygoods, Duttons and Warnocks; while also helping to attract national known headliners. Today there are over fifty theatres producing over 100 live shows. Theatres are no longer metal storage containers. They cost several million dollars and come in many shapes and sizes. The largest is known as The Grand Palace, with seating for over 4,000. The Palace has one of the largest laser systems in America and eighty feet above the audience, various harness and trapeze equipment allow entertainers to fly, even parachute from the ceiling to stage. Following closely behind the Palace is the 3,200 seat Mansion. Andy Williams performs in a twelve million dollar 2,000 seat theatre featured in Architectural Digest. Mr. Williams’ theatres exterior is covered in lush waterfalls and Koi filled ponds, while the interior is decorated with million dollar works of art by artists ranging from Jackson Pollock to Andy Warhol. Shoji Tabuchi’s theatre is known for its exquisite million dollar restrooms filled with crystal chandeliers and gold leaf pool tables. Entertainers who have or had established theatres in Branson are Roy Clark, Lowe Sisters, Boxcar Willie, Cristy Lane, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Mel Tillis, Mickey Gilley, Jim Stafford, Ray Stevens, Andy Williams, Bobby Vinton, Charlie Pride, Lawrence Welk, Wayne Newton, Tony Orlando, Barbara Fairchild, Oak Ridge Boys, Kenny Rogers, Yakov Smirnoff, Osmond Family, Glen Campbell, John Davidson, Moe Bandy, Loretta Lynn, Shoji Tabuchi, The Duttons, and The Hughes Brothers. Famous Celebrities in Branson have included Barbara Mandrell, Louise Mandrell, Irlene Mandrell, Phyllis Diller, Rich Little, Ann-Margaret, Lennon Sisters, Charo, Dino Kartsonakis, Petula Clark, Robert Goulet, Captain and Tennille, Pat Boone, Gladys Knight and Shari Lewis. In the spring of 2006, the surviving members of the original Bill Haley & His Comets began a long-term residency at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater. Branson has also played host to several production shows, some with big named celebrities and others simply known for their choreography. Direct from Las Vegas the Country Tonite show was quickly joined by Legends in Concert. Other shows have included Will Rogers Follies, The Promise, Spirit of the Dance, Cirque, Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Opening its doors in 2008 is the Strasburg, Pennsylvania based Sight and Sound Theatre’s production of the musical Noah. A theatre is being built specifically for the companies large productions that include live animals, elaborate sets and a 300 foot wrap around stage.
Over the years Branson has grown to include more than 100 live shows in nearly 52 theaters; other tourist attractions include museums, three pristine lakes, 12 championship golf courses, year-round festivals and events, nearby mountains and wilderness areas. Other local attractions include Silver Dollar City, Celebration City, Dixie Stampede, White Water, an IMAX Theater, Big Cedar Lodge, Titanic Museum, Showboat Branson Belle, Chateau on the Lake, The Shepherd of the Hills, Stone Hill Winery, Ride The Ducks, Branson Landing, the Tracks and Splash Country. In 2006 the Titanic Museum joined nearly a dozen other area museums. The Titanic Museum includes artifacts from the actual wreck. Also on display are models of the ship, a full scale replica of the grand staircase and recreations of various rooms of the ship, in addition to eye-witness accounts of the events that occurred. Another museum in Branson is the American Presidents Museum, one of only six similar museums in the nation, the American Presidents Museum showcases the lives and Presidency of those that have led the United States. The American Presidents Museum is under the direction of the National Center for Presidential Studies, a private non-profit educational organization. Branson Landing opened in the summer of 2006 on the Lake Taneycomo waterfront in downtown Branson. The lakefront project includes retail space with Bass Pro Shops and Hudson Belk as anchors in an outdoor shopping mall of 100+ stores and restaurants. “The Landing” as it is also known contains a boardwalk as well as a fountain that performs hydrotechnic shows every 15 minutes. Also, every hour on the hour, The Star-Spangled Banner, Moondance, or Rocky Mountain Way by Joe Walsh is played. In addition the site also offers condominiums located above the retail space, and a Hilton hotel sits at the key entrance of it all. The new Branson Convention Center, which is situated between the Landing and Historic Downtown Branson, opened September 7, 2007. In June 2007, As the World Turns shot on location in Branson, venues included Silver Dollar City and the Moon River Theatre. Developers are laying out plans for Pinnacle Falls to be located adjacent to Celebration City off of Highway 76. The first Phase, a $250 million dollar European-themed development, is planned to open in 2010 and will contain year-around attractions including an indoor water park, aquarium and themed restaurants and shopping.