BRANSON, Mo. —
Marty Schmitt loves her job.
"It's a pleasure to come to work each day, and I'm not sure how many people can say that," said Schmitt, who manages Silver Dollar City's annual National Harvest Festival. "What's so wonderful about my job is that every year the festival changes. You are allowed to be creative and think outside the box and try new things."
This season is a special one for Schmitt: It's the final year for one of Silver Dollar City's long-loved festival features, the Salute to the Great American Cowboy.
Through Oct. 26, thousands of visitors will mosey down to the park and witness gunfights in the streets, listen to cowboy poets tell tall tales and watch as riders in big hats and leather chaps guide their steeds around the Red Gold arena.
"'Cowboy' fits us," Schmitt said, outlining the final season's Western lineup. "It fits Silver Dollar City and faith and family, and the idea that an honest handshake is a seal, and an honest day's pay for an honest day's work. All of those great things."
Schmitt is proud of the diverse acts and performers the park has assembled during the six years that the salute has been a part of the festival. This year's features include celebrities from old TV Westerns as well as stunt riders, including Buck Taylor, Austin Anderson and the Texas Trick Riders.
This year, park staff constructed a new arena inside the Red Gold hall to accommodate the trick riders' needs.
"It's the biggest arena we've had to date," said Schmitt. "They're going to be Roman riding and trick riding and gun slinging -- just wowing our guests."
While feats of equestrian skill will entertain many park visitors, others will be drawn to the festival's musical performers. D.A. Callaway, Schmitt's associate and the park's event manager, books much of the musical entertainment for the National Harvest Festival.
"He does a fantastic job at booking rising talent," Schmitt said. "But we will have the festival staples like Riders on the Sky and the Quebe Sisters (Band) and Syd Masters. He books the best music and cowboy poetry. We've dedicated the opera house to (music) and cowboy poetry, which is fun for our guests to go and listen as (the poets) spin a yarn."
A highlight of this year's festival is Taylor, who is best known for his recurring role as Newly on "Gunsmoke."
"He's a delightful man, and what a talent," said Schmitt. "He does water color like it's never been done. He doesn't care if he sells anything. That's the honest-to-gosh truth. He just wants to take photos with his fans, and he's got a bunch."
For many the appeal of the festival has nothing to do with cowboys or Western music and heritage -- it's all about the crafts and artists the event showcases. Schmitt said that the cowboy experience resonates well with visitors, but many come for the artists.
Best of Missouri Hands is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing the state's foremost artists to public attention. It has been a staple of the festival for many years, and 42 artists with that group will be featured in the carousel barn and on Main Street.
Crafts are still popular as well, Schmitt said. The artisans on display are asked to demonstrate or educate for at least 80 percent of their time in the park.
"It's asking a lot because the artists have to work at their craft and talk to guests at the same time," she said. "It creates an emotional connection. If you watch a person do a piece of art and go 'Wow, I saw them do that. I want to have that.'"
National Harvest Festival attracts thousands to Silver Dollar City
BRANSON, Mo. —
Marty Schmitt loves her job.
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