Branson Buzz

April 28, 2003
Posted at: 8:22 p.m. CDT

BRANSON, Mo. -- It's hard to believe a town of only 6,000 people can attract nearly 7 million visitors each year.

Branson was once a town tucked away in the Ozarks. But now, it draws people from across the country. So why is there so much Branson buzz?

Highway 76 in Branson looks more like Las Vegas with the glittering lights and sparkling stars. Some well known entertainers have settled down here, escaping life on the road.

"I think most everybody in this town is mostly working to get to stay here cause everybody I know loves this place," entertainer Jim Stafford said. "This is a dream come true."

"It is a joy for me to be able to entertain. I love to entertain," fiddle player Shoji Tabuchi said.

While many others work night after night dreaming of their names in lights. Many of the same shows have been around several seasons. There's little reason doubt they'll be leaving anytime soon.

Stafford expects to haul in over $5 million from his theater this year alone. Remember Jim Bakker? The former televangelist who served time for fraud for bilking followers of his once thriving PTL, is now in Branson doing a television show.

Going back to its early years, what goes over best in Branson is good, clean family entertainment. For thirty six years, the Presley family has put its trademark on country music coupled with comedy and gospel. It's a family affair. Four generations of Presleys take to the stage six nights a week.

Back in 1967, the Presleys family made history as it opened the first theater on Highway 76. Today, there are 49 theaters, making Branson the live entertainment capital of the world. There are more seats in this small town than Broadway. 80 different shows total. Even the South battling the North, where horses and heroes fight for victory while you eat a four course meal.

Even the grand old days of the luxurious paddle wheel riverboats have returned as the showboat Branson Belle cruises Table Rock Lake. Branson has also become a top shopping destination with more than 200 outlet shops downtown shopping.