The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


May 6, 2011

Dave Woods: Despite heavy flooding around Branson, show must go on

BRANSON Mo. — Everywhere I went in Branson last weekend, the story was the same. Area residents talked about high water and shared photos of Table Rock Dam violently pouring millions of gallons of water into Lake Taneycomo.

On the Branson Landing visitors snapped pictures and marveled at nature’s power as docks -- with boats still fixed in their slips -- floated by, headed down the White River toward Bull Shoals and beyond.

Much like folks around our area do when floods or tornados assault, Branson residents rallied in the face of disaster and helped their neighbors grab what they could before the floodwaters engulfed homes and businesses. Even a few of Branson’s well-known entertainers suffered damage from the quickly rising water.

By last Saturday afternoon, the level of Table Rock Lake had dropped a little, but the threat of more rain loomed. In typical “show must go on” fashion, Branson’s entertainers put on a smile, donned their show clothes, welcomed thousands of visitors into their theaters and put the spirit-dampening disaster on hold for an hour or two.

I talked to a Branson couple during the intermission at the Kirby Van Burch show. They told me their home was under water. They were living in a motel until they could figure out how to get back into their home to assess the damage.

They were in good spirits given the circumstances. They told me all they wanted was “a little magic” to distract them from their problems. They got it. As we walked out of the theater talking, the couple -- who asked that I not use their names -- said their spirits had been lifted. That, to me, is the magic of Branson.

I settled back into my room at Castle Rock Resort and Water Park after the show. The irony of my chosen lodging wasn’t lost on me.

While dozens of kids laughed and played and splashed around in the park’s 30,000 square foot indoor water park, I couldn’t help but think about all of the displaced folks from spending the night in hotels because they had to, not because they wanted to. Many had spent the last week splashing around in a very different way.


Stay-cation time

The economic impact of the flooding isn’t yet known and the area will take months, if not years, to completely recover. This disaster, coupled with the slowdown in tourism because of high food and gas prices and the uncertain economy, makes for tough times in a tourism-based community.

We can help. Just visit Branson. The Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau will even help offset your travel expense with their annual Gas Busters program.

The Branson Landing is open for business and offers a front-row seat for Mother Nature’s big show. Many of the Landing’s restaurants, which had to close their doors temporarily because of the flood, will pump their basements, dry out and reopen.

The view of Table Rock Dam in full flow is impressive and worth a visit and a photo. Even the Showboat Branson Belle is sailing,  winds permitting. I’m sure the view from the Belle’s observation deck -- four stories above the lake -- is a sight.

It won’t take long for many of the lake-based businesses and attractions to clean up and reopen for business. The Ducks will again plunge into the calm waters, catamaran tours of Table Rock will sail from State Park Marina and pontoon boats will again be ready for rental at Lilleys’ Landing. Lake life will be back to normal, almost.

As you decide where to take the family this spring and summer for a stay-cation, remember Branson. I’ve made a couple of weekend visits recently, caught a few shows and talked with dozens of visitors and entertainers.

In the coming weeks look for features on Kirby Van Burch and his Joplin connection, The Haygoods and the Americana Theatre’s new lineup and the Showboat Branson Belle, which recently opened a new show and offers a new menu this season. Water park fans should get ready to get wet at White Water’s new Aloha River at Hula Hula Bay and I will soon feature the Starlite Theatre’s “Cirque Montage.”

We have a series of Branson contests and promotions coming is spring and summer. You might even win a family getaway to White Water along the way.

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