March 5, 2012 at 8:44 AM ET
The show must go on.
It’s one of the oldest adages in the entertainment business, but in Branson, Mo., it’s as current as ever. Just days after a 180 mph tornado ripped through the self-proclaimed “Live Music Show Capital of the World,” the city is hoping to spread the word that the majority of its theaters and family-friendly attractions are open and ready for visitors.
The tornado, which was one of several that raked the Midwest last week, injured 33 people. There were no fatalities, which may stem from the fact that the tourist season, when the 10,500-person town swells to 70,000 or more, doesn’t begin until the first weekend in March.
Instead, the twister took its toll on residential neighborhoods, the Branson Landing retail area and Highway 76, home to many of the city’s most popular attractions.
“It was just like you dropped a ping pong ball,” said Lynn Berry, spokesperson for the Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It bounced down Highway 76; it bounced downtown, and then it bounced right over the hill.”
In its wake, it caused significant damage to five or six of the city’s 50-plus theaters, 12 to 15 of its more than 200 hotels and its convention center while barely brushing surrounding businesses.
“Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede didn’t have a flower out of its flower beds,” said Berry, “but Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater, right across the street, had significant damage.”
Other hard-hit venues include the Baldknobbers Jamboree show (opening postponed until March 8), The Americana Theatre (projected opening around April 15) and the Branson Variety Theater. “We’re working on it as fast as we can,” said Lisa Martin, marketing director for the latter, “but it’ll probably be around two months before we reopen.”
Other popular attractions, including Silver Dollar City, Titanic Branson and the Showboat Branson Belle, escaped unscathed.
For a complete list of impacted businesses, visit the Storm Recovery Update page at ExploreBranson.com. Berry also suggests visitors contact their hotels before arriving to confirm their operational status.
And, if you want help out, there’s a website (VolunteerBranson.org) for that, as well.
“We’ve been getting hundreds of calls from people wanting to help,” said Berry. “People are planning to take their spring break and volunteer to clean up the mess in Branson. That’s the kind of people you find in the heartland of the country.”
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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.