Branson, MO has become a hotbed for music in the central US. Located near the Missouri/Arkansas border, the city has grown since the 1960s into a major destination for entertainment travelers, with hundreds of shows running at more than 35 theaters throughout the city and environs. Everything from country to comedy to Vegas-style shows are put on daily, with a number of major stars moving to the area where they can perform regularly without having to stay on the road.
The development of the Silver Dollar City park was a major factor in drawing visitors to town, especially after The Beverly Hillbillies show featured the location in an episode in 1969. As the park has expanded, so has the rest of Branson, now bragging of its own airport to bring tourists in to enjoy either a glitzy, hotel-themed vacation, or a rustic stay in cabins and lodges just out of town.
Though Silver Dollar City incorporates bluegrass in a major way during their Bluegrass & BBQ festival each May, and The Petersen Family hosts a bluegrass and Gospel theater show in the city, Branson does not have a traditional bluegrass festival of its own. But thanks to a number of bluegrass lovers in the region, that is set to change later this year.
The 1st annual Ozark Mountain Bluegrass Festival is scheduled to run October 5-7 at the centrally-located Branson Convention Center. When we spoke yesterday with Charlie Engram, one of the organizers, he told us that this has been in discussion for several years, and that everyone involved is delighted to see it finally happening.
A real estate developer by trade, Charlie also hosts the Good Morning Ozarks show on LifeFM 88.1 in Branson. He has had bluegrass groups on the show many times, and is a life-long lover of the music.
As plans to hold the festival came into focus, they decided to host it indoors, and hold it in the fall in order to avoid competing with Silver Dollar City, whose Bluegrass & BBQ runs pretty much the entire month of May. “We want to be seen as a compliment, not a competitor,” he says of his friends at SDC.
At this stage, only a few acts have been booked, including Branson favorites The Petersens, but more is expected to be announced within a few more weeks. They are looking for bands, volunteer staff, vendors, and all sorts of support personnel. Engram says that anyone interested in more information before the web site is up should give him a call at 417-335-8860.
“I know that a lot of bands will already booked for that first week of October, but not all of them will be. If you’d like to play our festival, give us a call. Y’all come on to Branson!”
Depending on how many bands they can contract with to perform, music will either begin that Friday morning or later in the day, run through Saturday, and conclude with a worship service on Sunday morning. The organizers want to remind everyone that there is a lot to do in Branson for the whole family, in case everyone isn’t a bluegrass fan.
Tickets will be on sale soon.