October 31—Halloween. The candy wrappers are still strewn over the kitchen table. Limp clown, ballerina, and super-hero costumes drape the living room chairs. Little ghosts and goblins, tired from trick or treating house to house—or to the local “trunk or treat” on the town square—sleep in their beds. When they wake on Saturday, November 1, Christmas is already happening at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. Yes, Christmas comes early in the Ozarks! Someone suggested we celebrate a “HalloThanksChristmas” holiday, and it seems we do nowadays, but with a big emphasis on Christmas. However, in the entertainment town of Branson, Christmas starts early because there is much to celebrate. And at Silver Dollar City, the festivities run until December 30.
Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas literally lights up the rugged Roark Mountain on which the 1880’s themed park stands today. Five million lights edge the old-fashioned buildings that mark the spot where miners and their families once lived in a village called Marmaros. Miners dug bat guano from Marble Cave (now called Marvel Cave) beneath the stores and houses around a town square. Times were hard and Christmases were solemn. The eyes of children in the 1880s would have popped at the glittering Christmas tree towering today five-stories above the reproduction Ozark town-turned-theme park, its 250,000 lights blinking and blazing in synchronization to the musical rhythms of Christmas songs. Lights on the buildings and trees around Town Square flash in time to the surround-sound music. The light and sound show, beginning at dusk each evening, creates merriment that soars above the oaks and pines, their trunks and limbs wrapped in layers of llights—red, green, blue, and gold.
For 2014, a $1 million light parade features Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer®, a character as beloved to children of all ages as Santa Claus himself. Rudolph’s Holly Jolly™ Christmas Light Parade, led by the most famous reindeer of all, debuts on the 50th anniversary of the television special, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” First airing in 1964, the story of the special reindeer is the longest-running, highest rated Christmas special in television history. As Grand Marshal, Rudolph leads nine musical, lighted floats twice each night along the winding streets and walkways of the theme park decorated in twinkling lights to celebrate Christmas. The floats, illuminated with 100,000 ultra-bright LED* lights, were designed exclusively for Silver Dollar City, with animated features from huge drumming bears and cymbal-playing penguins to a cowboy doll riding astride a hand-carved wooden rocking horse. The parade is accompanied by 33 colorfully costumed characters, including Rudolph’s friend, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, 14-foot tall moose characters, 12-foot tall elves, and 10-foot high dancing candy canes, plus penguins, elves, and a troupe of marching wooden soldiers.
The Christmas festival also features two musical productions, It’s a Wonderful Life and A Dickens’ Christmas Carol. In a musical interpretation of the inspirational story that wasvoted the #1 “Inspirational Film of All Time” by the American Film Institute, It’s a Wonderful Life features unique special effects and a 14-member cast of singers and actors. A Dickens’ Christmas Carol,also an original musical adaptation of a famous classic story, includes elaborate sets and visual effects, flying spirits, pyrotechnic special effects, and a cast of fifteen, accompanied by a live band.
Guests can view the park’s five million lights and 1,000 lighted trees, soaring high above the tree tops on the park’s roller coasters and rides, including the top-rated wood coaster, Outlaw Run. Often, nighttime temperatures hang around 42 degrees during the Christmas season, but sometimes plummet lower. Nighttime chill is put at bay with mittened hands wrapped around a hot chocolate.
While celebrating the season at An Old Time Christmas, guests can also do their shopping. Stores are filled with unique ornaments, toys, and gifts for everyone on a Christmas list. The park’s 100 demonstrating craftsmen create one-of-a-kind handmade holiday items, from blown glass ornaments and angels to pottery dessert platters, and candles to ironworks.
The tastes of the season are in abundance throughout the park, including a prime rib buffet and traditional favorites such as turkey with apple-raisin dressing. Festive holiday treats from apple dumplings to hot wassail can be found throughout the park, and the bakery prepares fresh homemade fruitcakes, as well as their signature sweet-smelling cinnamon rolls. For the children, there’s a lunch with Santa, available on weekends. Classes at the Midwest Living Culinary & Craft School, open to adults and children accompanied by adults, feature holiday specialties in the coziness of an old farmhouse decorated for Christmas.
An Old Time Christmas debuted at Silver Dollar City in 1990. Since that time, the festival has become one of the country’s most recognized events for spectacular lighting and world-class entertainment.Profiled 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 festivaltransforms the entire 1880s-style park into a glowing wonderland with Christmas sights, sounds, and sugary tastes and smells.
During An Old Time Christmas, Silver Dollar City is open Thursdays through Sundays through December 21, plus Wednesday, November 26 and Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 22-23. The park closes on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but reopens daily December 26-30. Hours are 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. most days, with extended hours on Saturdays and Thanksgiving weekend. Check the website, www.silverdollarcity.com, for exact schedules. Or call for information: 800-831-4FUN(386). In the Missouri Ozarks, Christmas comes early and stays a long time!
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