By Dave Woods
Digital market development manager
BRANSON, Mo. —
Kristy Merritt is proud to be associated with the Branson Area Receptive Association.
"A receptive is a local expert on the Branson area," she said. "They are the go-to persons in Branson who know about all of the events and theaters and shows."
Merritt, marketing director at The Oak Ridge Boys Theatre, said Branson's travel concierge association embraces the Tri-Lakes area's annual international event.
"See the World in Branson lasts about six weeks," she said of the event, during which local Silver Dollar City theaters, restaurants and retailers don international colors and celebrate the Ozarks' diverse heritage. The association's music festival at Welk Resort and Theatre is a two-day event set for Wednesday and Thursday.
"During the festival there's a big tent with all sorts of theaters and businesses with booths and food and entertainers," said Merritt. "Each booth represents a different country. They decorate for that country. They have a passport stamp for that country and, as guests, you move around the tent and get to experience the countries the acts represented and get your passport stamped."
Each theater chooses its theme based on the ethnic lineage and international ties of its show.
Plus, Merritt said, "It's free and just a fun time in the tent."
"On Wednesday we will have 'No. 1 Hits of the Sixties,'" Merritt said. "Ambrus Presley is going to sing the national anthem. New South will be there. George Dyer, 'Oh, What a Night' from Andy Williams Theatre, and The Rankin Brothers."
On Thursday, Merritt said, The Hughes Brothers, Doug Gabriel, The Cat's Pajamas and Paul Harris and The Cleverlys will perform. And country crooner Clay Cooper will play a special role.
"Clay is emceeing our Wednesday event," Merritt said. "Paul Harris will emcee our Thursday event. It's a lot of activity both days."
The association's participation offers a taste of Branson entertainment and attractions to interested visitors.
"The show is meant to wet the palette for what Branson has to offer for the rest of the season," Merritt said. "It's nice for people to come out and see a snippet of an act and then come back and to see the whole show later on during the year."
The organization's participation is ramping up in its second year under the big tent at Welk Resort.
"We have a cooking demonstration this year called 'Savor the Flavor,'" she said. "We have four celebrity chefs each day who are going to do cooking demonstrations every 30 minutes. We are going to have food sampling in the tent. That's a new element."
Shows each day begin at 2 p.m. The tent's activities are free, but the show inside the Welk Theatre is $31.
"During the two days of the event, visitors will see over 20 Branson acts," she said. "The Oak Ridge Boys are closing the show on the first day, so it's really exciting. "
Meet and greet
"We started with this festival just last year," she said. "We all try to promote the World Fest event out at Silver Dollar City and all of those international acts. They are great, and it's a wonderful festival, and we do our part on the 24th and 25th."
Merritt promises autograph sessions, food tastings and the opportunity to meet a variety of Branson entertainers and theater acts.
"It's fun for (visitors) to go around with the passport and get it stamped," she said. "Also, out at the tent, we are going to have tethered balloon rides. That's something for the kids as well."
Merritt said Joplin-area residents have always supported the Ozarks' signature international festival. She said the quality of the performers speaks for itself.
"The entertainment is great," Merritt said. "Our Joplin market is famous for loving Branson entertainment. Some of the entertainers down here are like family to them. It's a great way to come out and see a lot of entertainers in one location for two and a half hours on each day. Guests get to meet them, and the entertainers get to invite them to come back later in the year."