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Old 11-13-2008, 09:22 AM   #1
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We have given you Bette's travelogue of the WIT Great River Road Caravan, now I thought I would give my account of WIT's Branson Country Christmas Rally.

After the caravan we attended the Louisiana State WIT Club rally in Rayne, LA. The Louisianans provided us with great weather, food and friendship and a great time was had by all attendees.

We next spent a week at the Escapees Rainbow Park in Livingston, TX, had some MCD Industries window shades installed at the factory in McKinney, TX and visited Oklahoma City, again, for a few days.

The WIT rally starts on Wednesday, the 12th, but we arrived earlier, on the preceding Sunday. We are joined by three member couples of our PA Keystone Winnies chapter and friends from other caravans and rallies. Our base for the rally is at Compton Ridge Campground, a first class operation. Our sites are either Premier or V.I.P. parking pads with paved full hookups including CATV and telephone, if you want it arranged.

Having not been in the Ozark Mountain area until now, I must say this is unique territory. Seems like all the roads in the Branson area are up and down and back and forth curves on the top of a ridge and from one ridge to another! A lot of money has been spent on road construction and improvement. Branson is even getting a brand-new commercial airport scheduled to open in the Spring of 2009. I cannot imagine where they found enough level ground to construct an airport.

By mid-afternoon Wednesday all the rally attendees were here and our hosts, Tony and Barbara conducted a welcome meeting with introductions and updated our schedule with some minor changes. At 5:00 PM we had a nice meal in the campground's Gathering Place hall, prepared by the campground staff. By 7:00 PM all were on the bus and off we went to our first show, The Twelve Irish Tenors. The whole performance was great with superb precision in singing and harmony. We were back at our coach by 11:00 PM. I must say it sure seems that going by bus to the various show venues is the way to do it. Our competent driver knew all the ways around the traffic.

Stay tuned .....!
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Old 11-13-2008, 09:22 AM   #2
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Zephyrhills, FL
Posts: 935
We have given you Bette's travelogue of the WIT Great River Road Caravan, now I thought I would give my account of WIT's Branson Country Christmas Rally.

After the caravan we attended the Louisiana State WIT Club rally in Rayne, LA. The Louisianans provided us with great weather, food and friendship and a great time was had by all attendees.

We next spent a week at the Escapees Rainbow Park in Livingston, TX, had some MCD Industries window shades installed at the factory in McKinney, TX and visited Oklahoma City, again, for a few days.

The WIT rally starts on Wednesday, the 12th, but we arrived earlier, on the preceding Sunday. We are joined by three member couples of our PA Keystone Winnies chapter and friends from other caravans and rallies. Our base for the rally is at Compton Ridge Campground, a first class operation. Our sites are either Premier or V.I.P. parking pads with paved full hookups including CATV and telephone, if you want it arranged.

Having not been in the Ozark Mountain area until now, I must say this is unique territory. Seems like all the roads in the Branson area are up and down and back and forth curves on the top of a ridge and from one ridge to another! A lot of money has been spent on road construction and improvement. Branson is even getting a brand-new commercial airport scheduled to open in the Spring of 2009. I cannot imagine where they found enough level ground to construct an airport.

By mid-afternoon Wednesday all the rally attendees were here and our hosts, Tony and Barbara conducted a welcome meeting with introductions and updated our schedule with some minor changes. At 5:00 PM we had a nice meal in the campground's Gathering Place hall, prepared by the campground staff. By 7:00 PM all were on the bus and off we went to our first show, The Twelve Irish Tenors. The whole performance was great with superb precision in singing and harmony. We were back at our coach by 11:00 PM. I must say it sure seems that going by bus to the various show venues is the way to do it. Our competent driver knew all the ways around the traffic.

Stay tuned .....!
__________________

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'14 Winnebago Vista 35F, '14 GMC Terrain
BlueOx Towing Pkg, SMI Stay-n-Play
49 States & 7 Provinces visited in MH | WIT W112365
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Old 11-13-2008, 08:27 PM   #3
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Thursday, November 13th 2008

This morning was ours to spend as we pleased. The first thing we had scheduled was a group photo at the campground. Once all were assembled, in place and said "Cheese" we boarded the bus. Our driver, Walt, was slightly ahead of schedule so we were given a tour of the Branson Strip, downtown area and the small town of Hollister. On the way to Table Rock Lake we had a tour of the College of the Ozarks, locally known as "Hard Work U". The students who attend the school pay no monetary tuition but work at various jobs around the campus a set number of hours a week as payment for their education. Today we saw lots of students working about the grounds raking leaves and generally cleaning up.

Before long, we arrived at the lake and boarded the Showboat Branson Belle for a dinner cruise and show. Our seats were at the rear of the auditorium on the second balcony but were, in fact, quite good we thought. Dinner was very tasty, tender roast beef, chicken cordon bleu, mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley. Music was provided by a superb six-piece band and the "Show-stoppers", two guys and two gals who danced and sang. Next was a Russian couple who had a very smooth acrobatic routine. Then came the crowd's favorite – Todd Oliver and his "talking dogs." His ventriloquist act with his three live canine pets was just hilarious. He made the time go by quickly and then we were back at the landing and on the bus for our next show.

The evening's entertainment was again at the Branson Variety Theater for the Osmond Brothers' "Broadway Spirit of Christmas." Brothers Jimmy, Jay and Wayne along with their large complement of extremely energetic dancer-singers put on a great show.

On the way back to the campground it was amazing to see all the buses driving around after the shows. I don't think we have seen two buses from the same company. There have even been some from our neighbors to the north in Canada.
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Old 11-14-2008, 09:32 PM   #4
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Our morning started with a breakfast of pancakes, sausage and bacon served by the campground staff in the Gathering Place meeting room. With the rest of the morning as free time, Bette and Carolyn decided to get in some exercise and went to the enclosed, heated swimming pool to do water aerobics. Are all these meals catching up? I'll never tell!

Just after lunch we were on our way to today's first entertainment venue, the former Mel Tillis Theater now called the Tri-Lakes Center. WIT has a system for assigning bus seats whereby one of a couple selects a card from a deck of cards held by one of the hosts. That card will be either a red or black ace (for seat one) up to a jack (for seat eleven.) Red sits on the right, black sits on the left. This is done every day before boarding the bus. On the River Road caravan our luck had us sitting pretty much in seats 8, 9 or 10. Yesterday, Bette drew a red 2 and today a black ace! WOW! Our luck has changed. Ha! Tomorrow we'll probably be in the back of the bus again!

Our first show today was Daniel O'Donnell with Mary Duff. You'll have to excuse me, but I was not at all familiar with either one. By the end of the show I understood their popularity. It was a really enjoyable show. Unlike the Twelve Irish Tenors and the Osmond Brothers, O'Donnell has a real band playing on stage, not singing to canned music. And no wonder he has a huge following the way he comes to the edge of the stage and greets the audience and constantly thanks his fans for their continued support. He even came way back in the theater to personally thank a 91 year-old gentleman for being there! Best of all – the music was mostly ballads and just loud enough to be enjoyable. And the size of the theater! Man! It was said there were 36 buses of people there plus those who arrived by personal vehicle.

After the show it was time to eat again – so we went to Bandana's Restaurant at Branson Mill, a specialty retail shopping center, and had bar-b-qued ribs, turkey, pork shoulder or pulled pork with ALL the usual accompaniments. Sorry ladies, there was not all that much time for shopping as we had to be on our way to the next venue, the Welk Theater.

Tony Orlando and D....., no, no. Tony Orlando and the Lennon Sisters, Kathy, Janet and Mimi. The sisters had a nice, nostalgic showing of some video footage of their early years with Lawrence Welk and then sang some tunes they said Mr. Welk did not think they should do on his show because his fans would not understand that new style of singing that rock-n-roll stuff. After intermission and seemingly after the volume was turned up, Tony Orlando sang a lot of his hits and had a nice tribute to all military veterans. He told a story of singing his hit, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" at the Cotton Bowl for the recently released POWs in 1973. All of the former POWs were clapping, he said, except one. After leaving the stage he asked to speak with that one man to see if he had offended him in some way. The vet said no, he had in fact been tapping his toe to the beat but could not raise his arms to clap because the NVA had pulled his arms out of his shoulder sockets. He introduced himself as John McCain. The final part of his show focused on the real reason we celebrate Christmas – not Santa Claus. It was very well done.

The hour may have been late, but on the way back to the campground we took a tour of one of the Festival of Lights displays. It's going to be a short night – we've got to be on the bus tomorrow at 8:30 for the first of three shows!
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Old 11-16-2008, 09:24 AM   #5
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

At 8:00 AM our driver Scott from Mountain Home Charters in Arkansas and his really new bus was waiting for us. Bette's luck in drawing a seating card held out and we sat in the third seat from the front, RH side. Traffic was relatively light and we were at Yakov Smirnoff's theater in short order. As we entered the theater we were told to select a noisemaker from a box because we would be celebrating New Years. Huh? It's not even Thanksgiving yet! The lobby of Yakov's theater is decorated with many of his beautiful paintings. We found he also had been a professor of art, and as he later said, recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in psychology. The theater is very beautifully decorated in pseudo-Russian style to remind one of those buildings seen in Moscow's Red Square. Then, there is Yakov and his inimitable style. "What a country!!" His stories of his early days in the USA and coping with a new language are very entertaining and shed light on how confusing our language really can be. His show is non-stop laughs. He explained that in Russia the New Year is celebrated first and then Christmas according to the Eastern Orthodox Church calendar. Therefore, at the end of the first half of the show we welcomed in the New Year. The second half was all about the Christmas season and what it means to him as a grateful immigrant to his new country. It was very touching and, I think, very heartfelt and sincerely done.

Lunch was had on our own back at the campground and at 2:00 PM it was back on the bus for Andy Williams' Moon River Theater. Andy's getting on in years (80 years old we understand) but puts on a great show. I would say he looks his years but did remarkably well with very few unsteady moments. (Heck! We all have them at times!) His daily singing keeps his vocal cords in great shape and he can still hit those high notes, though perhaps not hold them as long as a younger man could. His show has superb musical backing with a ten-piece band plus director and ten back-up singers/dancers. Now, he wasn't on stage the whole hour and fifty minutes. There were numerous short acts including an impersonator who sang in the style of many other singers (including Williams), a fantastic fiddle player and an illusionist couple who's female half changed dresses in literally a blink of an eye!

Since we had another show yet tonight we had to get to McFarlain's Restaurant for dinner. Traffic was a pain and we felt we might be squeezed by time constraints, but McFarlain's is fast food. No, not a "take out", just well organized. Of course, we had prior reservations for a bus-load and were seated right away. Immediately a waiter was taking drink orders and next came a person asking our choice from a four-entrΓ©e menu. But wait! At McFarlain's they say desert is too important to leave ˜til last so, ... they bring their specialty, Branson Traffic Jam – a fruity pie, before the entrees arrive. Also, we were served another specialty, fried green tomatoes. Nothing spectacular, but unusual. Forty-three people were fed and back on the bus in forty-five minutes!

On to the last show of the day – the Sight and Sound Theater for "Noah – the Musical." It is a well done show, including live animals and the inside of a very detailed Ark. The one complaint was a parking lot gridlock and driveways not designed with 50-passenger buses in mind. Within an hour of the show's end we were back at our motorhome.
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Old 11-17-2008, 03:06 AM   #6
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Up early again today. At 7:20 we were on our way with three other couples to Our Lady of the Lake Church for Sunday Mass. There was thought of doing breakfast at a restaurant but they were all crowded after 9 o'clock so we had breakfast at home. We decided to sign-off of today's trip to Branson Landing because of it being 50? and windy and it's all outside. So we had a leisurely breakfast and Bette did some sewing and laundry.

Since we were to have another meal provided by the campground staff a social was held at 4:30. Carolyn and Bette were asked (arm twisted) by Host Barbara to get some folks together to do a small Thanksgiving-related skit during the social. It worked quite well for an impromptu gig. Carolyn printed out signs for them to hold, such as Pilgrim 1, Indian, etc. There had to be something to remind us that Thanksgiving is almost upon us after having nothing but Christmas (already) in all the shows we've attended. Compton Ridge has some great staff who provided us with more food than could be eaten. Today's meal was, of course, turkey, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, salad, homemade cranberry sauce, homemade rolls and homemade pineapple upside down cake. (Yum-Yum) There is a complete kitchen in the Gathering Place and the cook makes superb use of it!

With barely enough time for the food to settle we went back on the bus. Again, Bette drew a red three for an up-front seat on the bus and off we went to see Shoji Tabuchi. I would have to say his was the most beautiful theater and show in regards to the set design, dΓ©cor and lighting effects. There were live angels flying through the air and a microphone that appeared up from the floor and then disappeared and a segment of the floor that lowered Tabuchi from sight. All the special effects were wonderfully done. The show itself was just long enough that the seats didn't become uncomfortable. We arrived back at the coach at 10 PM since the theater was on the campground side of town.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Today is the bittersweet ending of the rally with a continental breakfast in the Gathering Place. Again, we have made new friends with whom we will, no doubt, cross paths again. Tony and Barbara Booth, as hosts, made things run smoothly and enjoyably for us and we look forward to being with them in the future.

Now it is way too chilly here in Branson. We're headin' to Florida!

Frank
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