It was an easy 372 miles from Purcell, OK to Branson, MO. About half of it was $19 worth of turnpike in Oklahoma and then the rest mostly Interstate while in Missouri. We are staying at Ozark Country Campground which is a wonderful campground just a short distance from the Branson strip. We have a 50 amp full hookup, pull through site with good Verizon coverage and a clear shot to the satellite. We are in one of the four new sites they constructed this year which are really nice - level, concrete pads with a nice concrete patio complete with patio furniture. They are well worth the Passport America rate of $23.
Shortly after arriving it started snowing. No matter where you went or where you looked, all you could see was white heads. Of course there was a bald one here and there but this is definitely retirement central. After getting set up, we contacted a ticket agent and ordered tickets for 12 shows. Tuesday, November 1, was the start of the Christmas shows and we saw Yakov Smirnoff in the afternoon and Mel Tillis and his daughter, Carrie, that night. Yakov was very good but most of the show had similar material to what we had seen before so it wasn't quite as funny as the first time, but still enjoyable - all Americans should be as patriotic as he is! Mel Tillis was also very good ,though at 79 he is starting to lose his memory. He still sounds good and his daughter, Carrie, has a great voice. Her version of "O Holy Night" was probably the best we have ever heard. She has classical training and you can hear it.
Wednesday we saw George Dyer in the morning, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers in the afternoon, and the Andy Williams Christmas Show that night. George Dyer is fairly new to Branson and has a great tenor voice. Previous to Branson he spent most of his career doing opera in Europe and although he did a good job on the popular tunes, he was at his best when singing classical music. The Gatlins also put on a good show singing a lot of their hits, most popular being "All the Gold in California." Larry is also a good comedian and kept us pleasantly entertained. The Andy Williams show was without an ailing Andy Williams but still a good show. It was a large production with many acts that you normally wouldn't see as they filled in for Andy. Most notable of these was the Lennon Sisters of which Kathy and Janet are the only originals left and younger sister Mimi has replaced Dianne and Peggy. They still have the same harmony and though their voices are not what they were, they still sound good. The surprise act for us was Pasha & Aliona which is a husband and wife Russian dance team that has excelled in the quick costume change department. This video
shows most of their act. We still haven't figured out how they did the costume changes?? Even though Andy wasn't in the show, we were fortunate to have him walk by us twice on the way to and from the control booth.
Thursday we started off with Shoji Tabuchi in the morning, followed by Jim Stafford in the afternoon and the Osmonds that night. Shoji Tabuchi absolutely puts on the best show in Branson. His Christmas show was no exception. He spares no expense in creating a great venue as well as costumes, theatrical gadgets or anything else. He still has the greatest restrooms in town!!! Jim Stafford is a great comedian in case you didn't know. Yeah, he plays music and is a heck of a guitarist, but the best part of the show is his dry humor. His son (18) and daughter (14) have also turned out to be great musicians as well. The son turned in a great piano rendition of "Phantom of the Opera" which had the audience going crazy. The Osmonds were much better than we expected. The principle brother left is little Jimmie which isn't so little any more. Brothers, Jay and Wayne, joined him to make it a trio. They still have very good voices and were entertaining.
I didn't take my camera to all of the previous show because I figured they wouldn't let us take picture but they did. So, starting Friday I took the camera and they didn't let us take pictures except for Tony Orlando - what can you say? Friday, we saw the Hollywood Christmas Spectacular in the morning, the Miracle of Christmas in the afternoon and then Tony Orlando that evening. The Christmas Spectacular wasn't spectacular. It was OK and had some good Christmas music. It was just too young for us. The main singer had a fantastic voice but too often she was imitating Beyonce and the constant warbling was not to our taste. The Miracle of Christmas has replaced Noah at the Sight and Sound Theater. Like Noah, it has the huge sets and lots of animals and very realistic presentation. It was also very good but we were disappointed, not in the production or message, but the tremendous size of the set doesn't really let you see the actors close enough to see what they look like. They never have to worry about being recognized as they walk down the town streets! Tony Orlando put on the best show of the bunch. It was high energy, extremely patriotic, religious, and a great time. He sang his hits of course, but also included a lot more from other artists. Unlike the other shows, he doesn't seem afraid to do other artist’s material and gives you the best of it all. He had a Garth Brooks imitator that was extremely realistic. We couldn't make up our mind whether it was Garth or not until the end.
Saturday and Sunday we took a much needed break (three shows a day can wear you out) and watched football. The Gators finally got back on the winning track so all is good in the world!
Monday we saw the Christmas edition of the Dixie Stampede. It had the same food as always but we liked the Christmas show more than the regular show even though most of the "competitions" are the same. Instead of having the battle between the North and South of the regular show it was now the North Pole against the South Pole. The South still won!!
Tuesday we added another show (which made it a baker's dozen we had seen), the Red Skelton tribute show. Tom Mullica plays Red Skelton and you would swear Red was on stage doing Freddy the Freeloader, Clem Kadiddlehopper and more. It was a very entertaining show and we were glad we added it on.
We leave for Red Bay, AL tomorrow. Red Bay is the home of the Tiffin factory where the Mothership was born. We plan on having a few little things done there such as adding a couple of slide shelves in our base cabinets for easier access and getting an air operated brake system installed on Libby to help slow us down when she is being towed. We will stop somewhere between here and there for an overnight to break up the trip but that entry will mostly just discuss the campground we stop at and maybe show a few pictures of our route.