The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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October 26, 2012

Dinner show stampedes toward Christmas

BRANSON, Mo. — John Richardson understands why Christmas at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede touches so many families during the holiday season.

“We embrace the true meaning of Christmas and celebrate family traditions,” said Richardson, who handles sales and marketing for the dinner attraction. “We hear over and over again that families create traditions around Dixie Stampede.”

Offering a good value for families makes an impact on families’ pocket books, too, he said.

“We’ve always tried to give our guests the most value we can serve up,” he said. “The ticket price includes a great meal and a terrific show that every generation of the family will enjoy. We hear from families who say that the kids and grandparents all had a great time and that’s not an easy combination to achieve.”

They don’t want to over feed anyone at Dixie Stampede, Richardson noted, but they don’t mind sending leftovers home with guests to their homes and hotels for a late-night snack or lunch the following day.

“That’s just an added bonus,” he said. “In the case of the kids, they are so mesmerized by what’s taking place in the area that they don’t eat all of their dinner. Parents can bag that up and take it with them. When I hear a parent say that their children came to the show and left so exhausted after and fell asleep in the car on the way home, that’s one of those bonuses that a parent gets to enjoy.”

One attraction of the live variety show is that adults and children get to act in a way that may not always be encouraged in other venues.

“Kids get to do all of the things they can’t do at home,” Richardson said, laughing. “They eat with their fingers and make a lot of noise. We and stomp and kick, and the adults get to act like kids, too.”

The Dixie experience begins on your way from the parking lot, Richardson said.

“All of the show’s four-legged stars greet guests in the stables,” he said. “The stable members and cast members are there in the stables to converse with you on the way into the theater. Kids like to pick their favorite horse and then watch for that horse during the show and cheer them on.”

A pre-show in the theater’s carriage house offers guests jugglers, rope tricks, plate spinners, comedy and other kid-friendly entertainment, all meant to get the crowd set for the show inside the arena.

Richard said a holiday feast is served as performers set up the show’s North and South rivalry. At Christmas time that changes to the north pole and south pole, and a visit from Santa is included.

The arena show includes trick riders, singing and dancing cowboys and cowgirls wheeling horse-drawn wagons, and a Christmas nativity complete with camels, sheep and other traditional nativity scenery, which descends from above. Other features include portrayals of the Nutcracker and Sugar Plum Fairy.

The key to Dixie’s success is the performers Ñ both two- and four-legged.

“Our performers enjoy the show so much that they return year after year,” said Richardson said. “There are a lot of young athletic performers, who like working with horses every day. They have a sense of showmanship and perform multiple times a day, seven days a week. These are folks who really have a flair for showmanship and the horses do, too. You can see it in the horses’ faces. Their ears are forward and their faces are animated and they look forward to a cheering crowd.”

Dolly Parton’s endorsement and welcoming message is a centerpiece of the show, too.

“Dolly cherished her fond family memories,” Richardson said of the attractions namesake. “By the magic of video she appears and opens the show and reminds folks of her childhood Christmas, selecting the family Christmas tree with her dad and celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is all about tradition. We want to take people back to when they were kids and experience the emotion they felt growing up and celebrating Christmas with the family.”

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