By Dave Woods
Digital market development manager
BRANSON Mo. —
People ask me the same question time and time again: How are folks in Branson?
They come up to me in grocery stores, restaurants and bars wanting to know how the entertainment and resort community’s residents are faring in the wake of their leap year tornado.
Memorial Day weekend is here and I figured this was a good time to update Joplin residents and potential Branson travelers on the progress made along the 76 Strip. No community understands the ravages and recovery of — and from — Mother Nature’s assault more than Joplin.
On Feb. 29, an EF-1 storm bounced its way through the Midwest’s Music City. It ripped roofs off of theaters and motels, damaged dozens of glitzy showbiz signs, collapsed the walls of retail outlets and dampened the spirits of a community ready to kick off the spring travel season. No lives were lost and Branson residents and officials stress that their weather event paled in comparison to the EF-5 that leveled miles of Joplin more than a year ago.
Like Joplin residents, Branson folk are a scrappy lot. In the same way Branson residents rallied and raised funds in support of their neighbors only a couple hours to the west — Joplin residents were quick to help.
Instead of canceling their spring break trips to Table Rock Lake and to Lake Taneycomo, they showed their support for Branson by hitting the highway, making hotel reservations and buying show and attraction tickets; lending a hand with debris clean up and storm recovery.
Most of the storm’s wrath left along the Strip is gone. Damaged theaters, restaurants and retailers now sport new signs, roofs and a lot of hope. Plenty of accommodations are available and, as the old saying goes, the show must go on.
A few updates
The storm-damaged Branson Landing quickly cleaned up the debris and reopened. I was down a couple of weeks ago and it’s business as usual downtown.
The Convention Center Hilton, which lost windows and suffered significant damage, is on schedule to reopen later this year. The Convention Center is serving its business get-together clientele.
Level 2 Steakhouse a favorite dining spot of mine — relocated to The Hilton Promenade. Black Oak Grill has opened on the Landing. The all-American steak and chophouse offers a great Taneycomo view from the patio, a meaty menu and solid service.
Cantina Laredo remains one of my favorite spots for Sunday brunch on the way out of town and Waxy’s, The Landing’s Irish pub, still draws ‘em in.
The former Shorty Small’s is shuttered, but rumors regarding it’s rebirth are running rampant. I’ll keep you posted.
Up the strip, at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre, Legends in Concert is open for business. The theater suffered damage in the storm and closed for a while.
Now open, the show is back on schedule. Performing for summer 2012 are musical doppelgangers for Elvis, The Blues Brothers, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Michael Jackson. Downstairs from the theater, at Dean Z’s Club ’57, live music, a full bar and a good spot for a nightcap add flare to the attraction.
Moon River redo
At Andy Williams’ Moon River Grill, the summer season is in full swing. The theater and grill endured some damage during the storm. Andy’s namesake theater required significant repairs, but the crooner’s extensive art collection was spared. The theater required a new roof and a clean up.
Andy’s crew opened the season on time and managed to make several improvements to both theater and grill. Now offering a revised menu, expanded cocktail selection and late night focus, MRG is one of my favorite spots for a pre-show meal and after-show drink.
With “The Finalists Live” on stage at Andy’s you might just catch a glimpse of “American Idol” finalists grabbing a bite or perched on a barstool at the grill after the show.
A new patio gives patrons a view of The Strip and a new “Mad Men”-styled cocktail collection appeals to younger customers. Bands perform on weekends and special themed events are drawing a younger clientele to The Grill.
Check out the Moon River Grill on Facebook for weekly specials, themed events and monthly cocktail recipe contests.
Andy, who is taking a break from the stage to treat his bladder cancer — celebrates 75 years in show business this season and many — me included — anxiously await his return to the Moon River this fall.