Sunday, August 31, 2008

achieving critical mass

Don Dare and I were talking as we waited to do a halftime presentation at the Maryville vs. Alcoa game on Friday night. Because Don used to live and work in Missouri, the conversation eventually turned to my recent trip to Branson. Don and I were wondering why Branson has so many more well-known performers than Pigeon Forge.

There are many similarities between the two vacation destinations. Both have plenty of restaurants, hotels, miniature golf courses and other tourist attractions. I noticed a place in Branson offering helicopter tours of the Ozarks, which reminded me of Scenic Helicopter Tours in Pigeon Forge. I took one of their flights when I did a brief schedule of endorsement commercials for them about two years ago. By the way, company president Dan Haynes is offering free helicopter rides this coming Saturday. If you possibly can, make plans to take advantage of this. It's an outstanding way to see the natural beauty of the Smokies.

As I talked with Don, I thought it might just be that Pigeon Forge is now at the stage Branson was twenty years ago and that it would eventually catch up. After giving it some further thought today, I wonder if the answer also lies in the difference between pop and country music. Someone who has lived in Tennessee longer than me would know better but the only big-name theatres I can recall in Pigeon Forge featured country performers like Alabama, Louise Mandrell and Lee Greenwood. Obviously Dollywood sets the tone for the area. As popular as country music is in Tennessee, it may not be enough to pull in tourists from Michigan, Ohio and elsewhere.

I'm not saying there aren't country performers in Branson. Obviously there are. But the big names are Andy Williams, Yakov Smirnoff, Lawrence Welk and Shoji Tabuchi. Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater is populated with oldies acts from the pop charts. Sure Jim Stafford had some success on the country charts but his Branson show is mainstream all the way. Even country acts like The Duttons mix in some classical violin. Branson thrives not because of any one of its performers but because of all of them. Visitors can see a show in the morning, a different show in the afternoon and a third show at night.

One Branson place that appears to be all country is the Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Museum. I took a picture of it because I couldn't believe they chose to erect a statue of Trigger that was so close to being anatomically correct.

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