Silver Dollar City presents Old Time Christmas beginning on November 3 and running until December 30, 2012. I was privileged to attend the festival’s debut at the Branson, Missouri, theme park more than two decades ago. Since that time, the event has become one of America’s most recognized Christmas celebrations for spectacular lighting, world-class entertainment, and mouth-watering holiday food. Acclaimed as one of the nation’s top holiday celebrations by USA Today, CNN Travel, the Travel Channel, Good Morning America, AOL Travel, Yahoo Travel and MSN.com, the November-December celebration turns the 100-acre theme park into an old-fashioned fairyland.
In 2012, Silver Dollar City unveils the all-new musical show It’s a Wonderful Life, an original production created for the park’s brightest season by Silver Dollar City’s award-winning show producers. Adapted from the Frank Capra classic movie that was voted the #1 “Inspirational Film of All Time” by the American Film Institute and is a world-wide Christmas favorite, the new musical joins Silver Dollar City’s acclaimed Broadway-style production of A Dickens’ Christmas Carol, also an original musical adaptation of a famous classic. It’s a Wonderful Life opens in the Red-Gold Heritage Hall, while A Dickens’ Christmas Carol continues to claim the stage at the City’s Opera House.
“It’s a Wonderful Life is real Americana, a story many people already love, but our production takes the audience through it in unexpected ways,” said writer/producer Brad Schroeder, Silver Dollar City’s Director of Entertainment and Events. “Telling this classic story with music adds a new connection, making it even more emotional and impactful.”
The show also features unique special effects and a talented cast of 14 singer/actors. A Dickens’ Christmas Carol includes flying spirits, elaborate sets and visual effects, pyrotechnic special effects, and a gifted cast of 15, accompanied by a live band. I see this show every Christmas season, and each year, I am astounded with the professionalism of its cast.
However, every aspect of An Old Time Christmas mesmerizes me. Over 4 million lights—that computes to 350 miles of twinkling lights—plus over 1,000 decorated Christmas trees transform the 1880s-style park into a fantasyland. More than 250 of the lighted Christmas trees line the walkways around the Square, creating a magical backdrop for the Christmas on Main Street light and sound show. Thousands of LED lights define roof lines along the streets and walkways throughout the park. Native Ozark trees, some reaching 40 feet to a darkened early winter sky, glow with blue, red, and green lights wrapped from the base of their trunks to the tips of their limbs. “Snowfall lights” accent the treetops.
The Five-Story Special Effects Christmas Tree centers Silver Dollar City’s Square, presiding as a towering tradition over the festivities. The tree blazes to life at dusk with 6,000 dazzling light changes per minute synchronized to Christmas music such as “Carol of the Bells,” “Joy to the World,” and “Sleigh Ride.” During the shows set for every half hour, lights on buildings, in hanging canopies over Main Street, and on Christmas trees around the Square flash in rhythm with the massive tree. Surround-sound immerses guests in the magical experience. While technologically incredible, the tree is more than “green” in color, operating with 350,000 energy-saving LED* lights.
Every evening at 6:00 and 9:00 p.m., the Holiday Light Parade winds through the City’s streets. Eight musical floats, sparkling with 100,000 twinkling lights, amble past visitors, setting a holiday mood. The floats depict various scenes of Christmas from a sleigh with Santa to a gingerbread house, a snow globe, and a live nativity. Eighteen characters costumed as dancing elves and prancing reindeer interact with both children and adults lining the parade way. You may even see the Gingerbread Man who ran away.
Some souls a bit hardier than I—like my husband, Lee—brave 40-degree evening temperatures to soar above the treetops on selected rides, such as one of the City’s roller coasters, Powder Keg. On Powder Keg’s inaugural launch, Silver Dollar City co-owner Jack Herschend told me I could see Table Rock Lake as the coaster topped the pinnacle of its track—just before the big drop. I did not see because my eyes were closed! Riders who love that thrill tell me the view of the City’s Christmas lights from above is spectacular. I’ll never know because I prefer to stroll along the pathways and revel in the fantasy of color with my feet firmly on the ground. Riding the Silver Dollar Steam Train and joining in the singing of Christmas carols is thrill enough for me.
Additional shows include a musical presentation of The Living Nativity, the interactive show Frosty that invites kids to help bring the legendary snowman to life, and the comedy “Frontier Fa-la-la Follies” in the Silver Dollar Saloon. Opportunities await for shopping for one-of-a-kind handmade holiday items from blown glass ornaments, angels, and snowmen to pottery dessert platters and pitchers and scotch-pine scented candles, all created by Silver Dollar City’s outstanding craftsmen.
Scrumptious holiday foods put the finishing touch on any Christmas event—and An Old Time Christmas excels in the tastes of the season. Prime rib and traditional favorites such as turkey with apple-raisin dressing are options for a sit down meal. But throughout the park, vendors offer apple dumplings, make-your-own S’mores, and hot wassail. Tantalizing aromas of homemade fruitcakes, cookies, and breads waft from the bakery over the lighted Christmas trees. For kids, Santa comes to lunch on weekends throughout the festival.
For those who prefer to create their own holiday specialties, the Midwest Living Culinary & Craft School offers classes with plenty of sampling. The 60-minute sessions taught by the entertaining Debbie Dance Uhrig take place in an old-fashioned 1880s style timber-frame farmhouse. The interior rooms feature functional and decorative items made by Silver Dollar City craftsmen. Guests must register for the classes. Cost is $12 per person plus tax, and children are welcome if accompanied by an adult.
During An Old Time Christmas, Silver Dollar City is open Thursdays through Sundays through December 23, plus Wednesday, November 21. The park is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and opens daily December 26-30. Hours are 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. most days, with extended hours on Saturdays. Check the website www.silverdollarcity.com for exact schedules. Phone information at: 800-831-4FUN(386).
Traveling in their motorhome several months each year, Arline and her photographer husband, Lee Smith, make their permanent home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She currently is a presenter for Workamper Rendezvous, sponsored by Workamper News. Arline has dozens of magazine articles published, as well as five books: “Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure” (now available on Kindle); “Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide”; “Truly Zula; When Heads & Hearts Collide”; and “The Heart of Branson”, a history of the families who started the entertainment town and those who sustain it today. Visit Arline’s personal blog at ArlineChandler.Blogspot.com
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