By Dave Woods
The Joplin Globe
BRANSON Mo. —
Dan Lennon’s message is clear: Branson is open for business and ready to welcome spring break families to town.
“Almost the entire town is open,” said Lennon, director of the Branson Tri-Lakes Convention and Visitors Bureau and a member of the famous singing Lennon family. “Out of our 60 theaters, only five or six are damaged. Only two of those are significantly damaged and even they will be open in about a month.”
During the early morning hours of Feb. 29, an EF-2 tornado touched down near Kimberling City and cut a 22-mile path of damage as it chewed its way down Highway 76, the city’s entertainment strip. The storm, with winds estimated at more than 100 mph, tore the roofs off some older buildings and damaged several of the theaters along 76 Country Boulevard. No lives were lost and only minor injuries were reported.
Lynn Berry, director of public relations for the Branson CVB, echoed Lennon’s message.
“We are so blessed that the major attractions were not touched,” she said. “Silver Dollar City, Sight and Sound Theatre, Titanic, Showboat Branson Belle, the Hughes Brothers Theatre, Hollywood Entertainment Complex, Imax complex and RFD TV-Theatre are all unharmed.”
The Branson Variety Theatre, Americana Theatre and Dick Clark’s American Bandstand theaters sustained some damage, but will most likely make their scheduled opening dates later in the spring, Berry said.
While the Branson Convention Center Hilton sustained enough damage to close the 12-story building for a few months for repairs, the convention center itself should be operational within a month. Berry said the majority of damage to the city’s theaters and historic downtown is cosmetic and will be quickly repaired.
“The storm damage is really localized to sections of 76, our wonderful Strip,” she said. “Recovery and rebuilding efforts are underway in earnest with all of the volunteers coming into town.”
A section of Branson Landing shops were damaged, but the majority of the retail operations at the lakeside retail development are open, according to CVB officials. The Tanger Factory Outlet Center was unaffected by the storm and the Grand Village Shops remain open.
Only a few hotels and motels were impacted by the storm and accommodations for spring break vacationers and volunteers are abundant.
“We have 200 hotels and motels and only a dozen were affected,” said Lennon. “There are probably 13 or 14 thousand rooms that are still available. There’s plenty of lodging down here.”
Families in search of a Branson spring break will find plenty to do and many opportunities to volunteer and aid in the community’s recovery, Lennon said.
“The best thing that can happen is to keep the economy strong,” Lennon said. “We want people come down and have a meal and catch a show and spend the weekend. Visit the lakes and do the things they always like to do in Branson. That would be a wonderful way to help our economy.”
For an updated list of Branson-area shows, attractions and accommodations welcoming spring break visitors, go to www.explorebranson.com.