BRANSON, Mo. — —
Dawn Thiesen wanted to see the Titanic Museum Attraction on her first trip to Branson.
“It was wonderful,” the Texarkana, Ark., resident said, after touring the exhibit. “I can’t wait to come back with the rest of my family. The story is so sad.”
Thiesen, 46, said she has a longtime interest in Titanic history and was thrilled to come during the 100-year anniversary of the ship’s maiden voyage.
“I studied Titanic and have watched lots of shows,” she said. “It stunned me how little time they had.”
One particular moment during the tour, the Rose Petal Ceremony in the Memorial Room, made the biggest impression on Thiesen. Guests line up during the silent memorial and pay tribute to Titanic’s passengers, one rose petal at a time.
During 2012, Titanic history buffs worldwide will celebrate the White Star Line’s most famous ship. The Titanic crews in Branson and Pigeon Forge, Tenn., where a second Titanic Museum Attraction is located, have already kicked off the yearlong tribute to the once-thought unsinkable ocean liner.
Rose petal tribute
Jaynee Vandenberg, Titanic’s first class maid and spokesperson, said guests, such as Thiesen, keep the attraction interesting.
To make them feel a special connection to the Titanic experience, they provide each one with a Titanic boarding pass. Each pass represents a Titanic passenger or crewmember who sailed on the ship’s ill-fated trek across the Atlantic. At the end of the tour, guests learn their passenger or crewmember’s ultimate fate.
“By the time they get to our Memorial Room guests become quite invested in the passengers,” Vandenberg said. “They may have seen an artifact or picture or a newspaper article.”
Titanic crewmembers relate stories and details about many of the passengers and crew.
“They see the name on the wall,” she said. “If it’s underlined, that’s good news. If it’s not, not so good news.”
In the Memorial Room, a somber photo-filled gallery, are two cases filled with dried red rose petals. One case has an open top. Guests line up, pull a petal from the open case and deposit into small openings on the other.
“We ask the guests to select a rose petal in honor of the person on their boarding pass,” she said. “At that point, the rose petal will be going into history. All of the rose petals, which are in the millions now, will be sent to Nova Scotia.”
On April 15 — the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s plunge to the bottom of the Atlantic — the United States Coast Guard International Ice Patrol will put the rose petals into the ocean where the Titanic sank, Vandenberg said.
Another new attraction at Branson’s Titanic is a gallery honoring Margaret Tobin Brown.
Brown, known later as ‘”The Unsinkable Molly Brown” was a first-class passenger onboard Titanic. Brown, Vandenberg explained, was a native Missourian, born in Hannibal in 1867.
“Margaret Tobin Brown was very, very wealthy,” she said. “The other passengers on Titanic treated her very shabbily because she came from nothing and became wealthy. She had a heart of gold.”
The wealthy socialite was the only woman who put together an orphans’ program to support children who lost their parents during the maritime disaster.
“On the 100th anniversary of Titanic we’ve created a gallery to salute to her,” said Vandenberg. “Her great-granddaughter has allowed us to exhibit some of the things that were in her home. We’ve got the Egyptian statute on display that she had in her pocket the night (Titanic) sank. She gave it to Capt. (Arthur A.) Rostron of The Carpathia, the Titanic’s rescue ship.”
The Molly Brown gallery also displays the dress Debbie Reynolds wore in the 1964 fictionalized musical account of her life. A Titanic crewmember portrays Brown and answers guests’ questions as they file though the new gallery.