Branson Missouri, Population 10520
Latitude 36º 38’ N, Longitude 93º 15’ W
Elevation 1340 to 754 feet above sea level
Average low temp January = 21º, average high for July = 90º
Average days > 90º = 37, under 10º = 7
As you approach Branson, the hills become taller, the valleys deeper as you begin climbing into the Ozarks. It is late fall here and about 2/3 of the trees have shed their leaves, while the rest display a gaudy spectrum of red, yellows, and oranges. It is dusk as we reach the outskirts of the city and we stop at a tourist info center for maps and tips. Everybody has the same map of the city, drawn with little geographic detail but pinpointing every major theater, hotel, golf course, restaurant, and tourist attraction in the city. We are advised that it is rush hour about now, the early shows are letting out, and traffic would be a lot lighter on the Red Route (A.K.A. Shepard Of The Hills Expressway). Gypsy feeds me step by step navigation (Thank God and NASA for GPS!!!) as I join the slog of tour buses and dazzled, bewildered, turn signal impaired geezers trying to find where their show is. We finally find our place amongst some VERY steep hills, unload, and settle in. I would not want to go anyplace in this town if there were any snow in the forecast.
Branson is a city of shows and attractions. The main streets are adorned with neon palaces and the signs promoting them. Even the water towers have neon on them. Everywhere you drive, you know you are in a town whose main business is entertainment. Bring lots of cash because that entertainment is expensive, usually $30 – $40 per. Most of the shows are Country & Western, with a lot of Gospel thrown in, and here and there, a touch of Rock & Roll or Comedy. Our arrival on November 1st coincides with the start of Christmas season, when all of the musical reviews trot out the Christmas schtick and the decorations go up.
The people of Branson are friendly and chatty and curious about you and where you come from. The amount of Southern accent varies from a slight twang to full-on drawl. The drawlers are hilarious and seem to love laying it on thick for the out-of-place Yankees. Miss Marylu and I love chatting with them and getting their advice on where to go, and what see, and, most importantly, who has the best BBQ. There are many nominees, including Wisconsin export Famous Dave’s, but the all around favorite is Danna’s, a classic BBQ joint where you stand and order then they bring it round to your table.
The non-resident tourists are mostly retirees. Wherever we went, there seemed to be a disproportionally high ratio of people with white hair and canes or walkers. Either driving (slowly!) huge SUVs or 4 door pickups, or else riding in gigantic tour buses. The tourists are chatty too. Many of them wear ball caps or shirts with their favorite topic to geeze about: home state, home team, or military experience. (FYI: geeze is a verb, to geeze is to talk at length on topics of no interest to anyone except yourself. A person who geezes is a geezer.) I wear a beer brewery shirt from Wisconsin. Not that I’m a geezer. Just love that beer.
Overall, I would have to conclude that Branson can be a fun place to visit. It is a vacation city that caters to tourists, mostly seniors with lots of disposable income. Do it for a few days, take in the sights and shows, and then go home. Personally, I would rather go to the party, than live in it. In the long run, we are looking for a normal, comfortable retired life, not an endless vacation. Thanks to the good folks of Branson, y’all, for that lesson learned.