On the Road Again – Day 6

And Just Like That . . . Everyone was Vaccinated!!

Branson, Mo. rescinded its “Mask Mandate” effective April 16.  While masks were not required, businesses were free to require them if they chose to do so.  On May 13, the day we arrived in Branson, the CDC revised its mask guidance.  No longer were they needed outdoors and no longer were they needed indoors for fully vaccinated people.

Most thought the change was a blessing. 

A few thought it was a curse. 

On May 14 -day two of our trip -when we visited Silver Dollar City, I hoped Silver Dollar City would update its guidelines regarding mask wearing and social distancing to match the CDC guidance issued the day before.

The first clue that they had not was when we approached the turnstile to enter the park.  A security guy advised us “You cannot enter the Park unless you are wearing a mask.”

We complied, but when we entered the Park, hardly anyone was wearing a mask.

So neither did we. 

Social distancing was another matter.  As soon as the park opened, my wife and I and our neighbors headed to the Opera House as fast four septuagenarians not riding souped-up mobility scooters can make it.  The Opera House is about as far away from the front gate as you can get but I still thought we were close enough to the front of the line to get into the theater. 

I was wrong. 

After a 30-minute wait, the line began to move.  With about 25 people left in front of it, it stopped.  After a couple of minutes, a half-dozen more people were allowed inside the theater.

To much grumbling, the usher then advised “Folks, if you want to see the NEXT show after this one that starts in one hour and fifteen minutes, I advise you to stay right where you are!”

Not wanting to spend the entire morning in line to see one show, we did not heed the usher’s advice.

We left the line and while our bride’s waited patiently, my neighbor Tom and I rode the Barn Swing and the Outlaw Run Roller Coaster.  Both are thrilling rides.  We brought the average rider age up considerably on both.

Notice how relaxed and carefree the couple in the front row look after an 18-story almost straight, down drop, multiple vertebrae rattling twists and turns, and two consecut360 degree barrel rolls. My neighbor Tom and I are the ones in the back who look less relaxed and carefree.
The Giant Barn Swing! I love this ride. My wife, however, required multiple doses of industrial strength Dramamine to survive her first – and definitely last – time to ride it..

After zero bluegrass and eating zero BBQ on Day 2, we returned to Silver Dollar City on Day 6 of our vacation.

Presto change-o!   In compliance with CDC guidelines, we didn’t have to wear a mask to enter the park and social distancing was no longer enforced.  Theaters were filled.  We spent the day seeing all the shows we wanted to see.  Some we saw twice.

That night we went to see the Haygoods who were performing at the Clay Cooper Theater.   Five brothers and one sister comprise the Haygoods.  My wife and I first saw them perform at Silver Dollar City in the 90’s when they were just kids.  They are all grown up now.  They were great at Silver Dollar City.  They are better now.  The show we attended was sold out. 

No masks (unless you wore one voluntarily) and no social distancing.  

We partied like it was 2019!

Even though social distancing is no longer mandatory, I still have my own personal standard for how close is too close to another person.

I call it the “Biden Guideline”.

If you are close enough to sniff my hair you are too close.

My wife and I at the Haygoods- Mask-free! But no hair-sniffing please!

On the Road Again – Day 4

Fifty-Four Years of Entertaining the World (and each other)

Presley’s Country Music Jubilee in Branson, Missouri celebrates its 54th Anniversary next month. My wife and I rarely miss an opportunity to see the Presley’s Show. In 1967, I attended the show with my parents. Later with my wife, and then my wife and son, and later with my wife, my son, his wife and our grandkids. On this visit, my wife and I attended with our neighbors, Tom & Linda Block.

I think that qualifies as a family tradition.

My Favorite Visit to the Presley’s Country Jubilee

2017 marked the Golden Anniversary for Presley’s Country Jubilee. It was also Gary & Patty’s 50th wedding anniversary.

As they said in their advertising that year, “Now that’s a pretty good start!”

Gary and Pat also received a very special honor in 2017. They became the first husband and wife to be inducted into the Springfield, Mo. Public Schools Hall of Fame. I had the distinct honor of introducing them at that ceremony.

Here is a synopsis of what was said about them in the program and a short video featuring fellow Hillcrest students and celebrities alike

Branson’s first music theater opened 50 years ago and with it Gary and Patricia Presley launched a business and a partnership that would establish their family as a cornerstone of Branson’s entertainment and tourism industry.

Although Presleys’ Country Jubilee opened its doors in 1967 to entertain guests with a mix of comedy, bluegrass and gospel performances, Gary Presley, better known as the comedic Herkimer on stage, says it might never have happened had it not been for one fateful fire drill at Hillcrest High School where he ended up standing next to Patricia Adams.

The couple married a few months before the Presley family opened their theater along Highway 76—the glittering strip now crowded with theaters, restaurants and arenas. It was nothing more than a big metal box with folding chairs for 360 people. The show eventually gained national attention from television shows like “60 Minutes” and “Good Morning America” and today the theater seats 1,600 people and features three generations of Presleys. Gary and his brother Steve, who joined the show when he was 10, are the only original members still in the show. Patricia runs the front of house, managing anything and everything from customer inquiries to securing new costumes, which for the past 30 years have been made in Hollywood. 

The Presleys put on 230 live shows a year at the theatre plus 26 TV shows broadcast on RFD-TV to a weekly audience of 400,000 nationwide. 

I am proud to have been a friend and admirer of the Presley’s since they started this amazing journey. What they have accomplished is mind-boggling.

On this trip I got to visit the theater twice.

First to enjoy the show, and then the next day to attend worship services of the Freedom Fellowship Church which are held in the Presley’s Theater at 10 am every Sunday morning. Pastor Scott Presley delivered the inspiring sermon. I have never heard a better sermon while sitting in a more comfortable seat.

Congratulations to the Presley family on their astonishing accomplishments over the past 54 years and thanks for always, as Tim McGraw might say, staying humble & kind.

And now, in closing, here are some pictures of Patty & Gary from their years at Hillcrest High School in Springfield.

Patty, left, and best friend Wanda
Patty’s Senior Pic – Class of ’66
This is a picture of Gary with Ron Cordry. The caption states “Mr Ron Cordry, Freshman-Senior Counselor, seeks further information to advise Gary Presley on future plans.”
I wonder if Mr. Cordry advised him to open a music theater in Branson?
Gary in Action

On the Road Again – Day 2

What Would Jesus Do?

In December of 2019, I purchased season tickets for Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., for my wife and me for 2020.  After the coronavirus hit in early 2020, Silver Dollar City announced policy changes which included mask wearing indoors and out, social distancing, and attendance control measures which mandated reservations to visit the Park.

When I balked at these restrictions, Silver Dollar City personnel were very accommodating.  If I did not visit the Park in 2020, my season tickets would automatically roll over to 2021.  I chose to do that in the hope that the restrictions would be unnecessary by 2021.  The good news is that the restrictions were lifted on May 15, 2021.  The bad news is that we visited the Park on May 14, 2021 when social distancing mandates required long waits to get into theaters. 

By 2 pm, we were discouraged at our inability to see any shows that in most years we might have been able to see multiple times in the same day.

Though we didn’t get to see Bluegrass headliners Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver like we planned, after leaving Silver Dollar City early, we did get to see JESUS.  No, He did not come to Branson in the flesh, but the amazing story of Jesus’ 33 years on earth told in the New Testament comes to life twice a day at the palatial Sight & Sound Theater in Branson.

While schedule flexibility has its benefits, getting good last minute show tickets is not one of them.  We ended up with seats near where the angel later began its descent from heaven to roll the stone away from the tomb of Jesus.

The theater has 2000 seats, but even from where we sat the view was excellent, perhaps better than those closer to the stage because of the massive dimensions of the theater.

As the lights dimmed and on stage the story started with the future disciples of Jesus bemoaning the poor results from a long day fishing, the two people with tickets for the empty seats directly behind my wife and I arrived. In the darkness behind us was jostling & seat-bumping as our new neighbors settled into their seats and tried to get comfortable. Shortly thereafter the crackling of cellophane food wrappers from the seats behind us began to compete with the dialogue on the stage.  I began to struggle with the words of Jesus to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. 

Eventually, after Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount and fed the 5000 with a few loaves & fishes, the people behind us also got full.  The only noise I heard from that point to intermission was their applause mingling with my applause at inspiring times throughout the performance.

As the lights came on for intermission, the man behind us leaned over tapped my wife on the shoulder.

“I would like to apologize to you”, he said.  “I accidentally kicked your chair when I sat down.  I have not been able to straighten my right knee since I was 18 years old”, which I estimated had been sometime in the latter years of the Eisenhower Administration.  My wife’s mobility is also somewhat limited due to two titanium hips, two titanium knees, and a couple of bunion surgeries thrown in for good measure.  My wife and the guy began to commiserate on the challenges of living with bad joints.

The earlier wrapper crackling incident was soon forgotten amidst the camaraderie engendered by shared surgical experiences. 

When the elderly couple learned where we lived, mutual acquaintances were discovered.  While we didn’t make dinner arrangements together, a respect and bond began to form which supplanted my earlier irritation.

Ok, just as a refresher course, here are the lessons I was given on the first two days of our vacation:

Day one – It is more blessed to give than receive (even if the recipient has expensive taste in coffee).

Day two – Love your neighbor as you love yourself, even if they cracklecellophane food wrappers behind you in a darkened theater.

Branson already has a reputation for wholesome, family entertainment.  Sight & Sound Theater, bringing stories from the Old Testament and the New Testament to life with amazing depictions of JESUS, MOSES, SAMSON, NOAH, and QUEEN ESTHER can only help bolster that reputation.

A couple of nights after we attended JESUS, I met a military couple from Pa. who had been to see JESUS the same night my wife and I attended.  Their seats were 6 rows from the stage (but they had to sit through a time-share presentation to get them).  Even from the upper reaches of the balcony we experienced the same amazing sights and sounds as they.  But If you order early (or sit through a time-share presentation) and get seats on the floor like the Pennsylvanian’s did, instead of 40% of your five senses (sight and sound) being stimulated, you get one additional sense stimulated (smell) at no additional cost.  The profusion of well-trained camels, Roman soldiers on horseback, sheep, & pigs roaming the stage and aisles also stimulates your sense of smell according to my new friends who live not far from the other Sight & Sound Theater in Lancaster, Pa.

Adult Ticket prices were $62.50 with a 10% discount for veterans. 

Steep, but after I saw the performance, I thought it was worth it. 

And as everyone knows who read yesterday’s account of the first day of our trip, I’m not one to hand out money like it grows on trees.

The Ten Million Dollar Quartet

On Friday night my wife and I ventured out in the ice & snow for our “one-day late” Valentine’s Day date.  It wasn’t my intention, but our date turned out to be a threesome:  me, my wife, Val, and Winter Storm Nadia.

Though it’s not for the faint-of-heart, this terrifying video was filmed earlier in the day on I-70 near Oak Grove, Mo. on February 15, 2019 as Nadia was on her way to our date.

Watch it if you dare and feel the stark terror and helplessness:

Though our normal 20 minute drive from our home to the Shikles Center in Jefferson City, Mo. turned into 45 minutes, we arrived safely.  As we walked from our car to the dinner theater entrance, we were joined by a large man.  It was the chef from Argyle Catering.  The food had arrived!  “The singers are here, too” he told us.  That was a relief.  With the slippery roads I had feared that the million dollar quartet might be whittled down to a trio, a duet, or even a solo by the weather.

The musical The Million Dollar Quartet is based on an actual event that took place on December 4, 1956 in Memphis, Tennessee.  Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis all showed up for an impromptu jam session at Sun Records, a recording studio owned by rock icon Sam Phillips.  That prompted an observation by Mr. Phillips that a “Million Dollar Quartet” was in the building.

That was in 1956 dollars.

Adjusted for inflation, that quartet would be worth ten million of today’s dollars.

And that’s the kind of performance the amazing cast treated the audience to after a delicious meal prepared by Argyle Catering (Fried Chicken AND BRISKET!)

The bad news is that the sold out performance was only about half-full due to the weather.  My wife and I tried our best to make enough noise to make up for those poor souls who had tickets couldn’t make it.  I feel their pain.  They are out the price of their tickets and they missed one of the best shows in the history of Capital City Productions.

And that’s saying a lot.

The good news is that I got THREE strawberry shortcake desserts, which is probably scant consolation for those who had planned to be in attendance but feared, not unjustifiably, the slippery roads.

For those who have not yet seen Million Dollar Quartet, there are six more performances Feb. 20-24, 2019.  Here is a link to order tickets (you might have to copy and paste):

https://shop.capitalcityproductions.org/t/ccps-million-dollar-quartet-the-musical?fbclid=IwAR2wPgQnrobQ2ei98DQpB5vMynUqC0sja_Mqwghfki8dWwW5m1z8f6dNZ60

After that, your next best option is Branson, when shows begin August 29 at the Lawrence Welk Theater with a different cast than here in Jefferson City, Mo.  If you like old-time rock and roll, the odds are very good you will love this high energy show.

 

5 More Days of Million Dollar Quartet Performances by Capital City Productions in Jefferson City, Mo from Feb. 20-24, 2019.  Call 573-681-9612 for or go to http://www.ccpjc.org for tickets.

 

 

 

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