This morning we tried a new tactic: we rose later, walked the dog, and then went to breakfast to stay there until time for the tour.
We always enjoy being taken around an area to learn about its history and surroundings. We had a full bus and I was surprised that the tour was to last 3 hours. As we were told, it was a Gilligan Tour (3-hour tour). LOL.
I have included the following picture of the water tower that is downtown Branson because in a later picture, you can see it in the distance to give you and idea how far out from town we traveled on this tour.
Here's one of the original Branson Hotels (a far cry from today's offerings).
The Branson Railroad Station with the Hilton Hotel to the right. Branson was just to be a quick stopover between its two neighboring towns, which were to be the primary destinations. See how the best laid plans can go awry.
Here's a peek at the shopping area at Branson Landing.
This is the grave of Mr. Branson (middle left of picture) for whom the town was named.
The tour took us to the College of the Ozarks. It's a beautiful campus. It is a non-denominational Christian college. It is also a working college in which the student body must participate in 15-hours of work along with a 40-hour college program. There is no listed tuition because you are selected to attend based upon your offerings to the collge, such as what can you bring to enlighten the student body with your skills, talents, and character. You will graduate with no student loans to pay back. All of the buildings were built by the students over the years and all functions are run by the students, including the hotel and the Keeter Center. Of course, everything is supervised by professionals.
Here are a couple of links to the College and the Keeter Center. It's worth taking a peek as the pictures are beautiful.
View of the agricultural area:
View of the campus fountain:
The Keeter Center is a hotel and restaurant. They make their own ice cream from their own cows' milk. I understand the rooms run $169 a night (or somewhere around that). It's a beautiful center. They have a nice veterans museum as well.
Here's a not-so-good picture of the center, which was built by the students.
Here's Dave and Oscar sitting on one of the magnificant chairs and enjoying the ice cream.
I decided to get something unique so I ordered the Mexican Hot Chocolate ice cream. I did expect a cinnamon flavor and maybe a little spice. But, this ice cream was so hot, there was nothing refreshing about it. I had to toss it after a few bites. But, I will say, it was mighty creamy.
Check out this all-copper elevator:
Pixie got so engrossed in the museum, she almost missed the bus. Here she is strolling back.
We stopped at the chapel and went inside to view the wood ceilings and stained glass. Here's a couple of pictures.
We continued onward through the Ozark hills.
In this picture, the rock in the left foreground is table rock. That's the rock that surrounds much of the area. In the background is Table Rock Dam.
The rock that the area is full of is limestone (not shale as I had thought). There is little soil on top of the limestone and the building of homes and roads must be blasted through or drilled into the limestone. Most of the trees in the area are cedar trees as their root system is shallow and doesn't require much dirt. So we were told if you buy property in the area beware of property with lots of cedar trees as you will be building upon solid rock.
As I mentioned earlier, you can see the water tower in the far distant horizon on this picture. That's downtown Branson. As you can see, we are far from that area in this picture. Look hard, it's tiny!
Many celebrities have homes in the area, but our guide said they mostly live among the other residents--not separate as they do in, say, Beverly Hills. Here is the only "star's" home you can see from the road. It's Andy Williams' home. It's not the house that's most visible in the foreground, it's the one with just the roof showing. He is now around 83 years of age and still performs during the Christmas season.
We continued on our tour across the dam and could see the fish hatchery. Lake Taneycomo is stocked with hatched trout.
Our last stop on the tour was at the home and gift shop of a relative of Fiddlin' Jack who was mentioned in the book The Shepherd of the Hills. It was a quaint country store with unique gifts. I picked up some gooseberry jam. I was told it was a tart/sweet jam. Since I've never had gooseberries, thought it was something different to take home.
We arrived back at the hotel about 12:30 PM. We all decided a delivered sandwich was in order, along with a quick nap. But, by the time we walked Kalli and got settled in, we were afraid our sandwiches wouldn't be delivered before we had to board the bus at 3 PM. So, we nibbled on snacks that I had brought from home for just such an occassion.
Like good little sheep, we boarded the bus at 3 PM to head out for the Branson Belle dinner cruise. There were three tour buses filled with USS Princeton guys, spouses, and guests. By the way, there were 198 in attendance. Down a little from our last reunion, but still quite significant in numbers.
During the reunions, it's a tradition to honor those who have served aboard the USS Princeton and who have perished during or after their service to our country. Usually after a brief ceremony, a wreath is tossed into a body of water. But, due to 9/11, no item can be tossed into the lake. Therefore, we had a lovely service held on the lawn of the Branson Belle facility.
A lovely woman in southern belle garb facilitated the memorial ceremony.
Our chaplain, Rev. Hauk, delivered the memorial service and spoke about the men and the ship.
His talk was very interesting and heartfelt. However, it was 102 degrees (and extremely humid) on the lawn and few seats were available. I honestly thought we'd have a few people faint in that heat. It was blistering and Rev. Hauk's talk was a little long (he was teased later about it). I felt so bad standing there feeling sorry for myself in the heat. I kept thinking how selfish I was because so many past and present service men and women endure such hardships and pain to keep us free. Thanks to all our service personnel for their selfless sacrifices on our behalf.
Dave was asked to be part of the honor guard during the service. He was humbled by the request. Two of his known service comrads have since passed on (Vernon "Boot" McCalmant and Jim Erickson). And, both were deeply in our thoughts.
The Branson Belle facility provided someone to play taps for the service.
After the service, we all walked down to the Branson Belle. It's a paddle-wheeled ship that was built on the shores of Table Rock Lake. It was built in authentic style and is only for the entertainment of Branson visitors.
An interesting fact about the launching of the boat is that when it was launched, the builders didn't want to pollute the lake by oiling the skids. So, they lined the skids with 52,000 bananas and slid it lickety-split into the lake.
We were given assigned seating while we were still on the buses. That turned out to be not a good thing as many of us were scattered throughout the audience area; therefore, the Princeton group was not seated as a unit.
It wasn't long after we were seated that the dinner was served and the boat started its journey around the lake.
The meal was delivered quite efficiently and it was very tasty. We had a nice salad, pot roast, chicken marsala, brocolli/cauliflower medly, roasted potatoes, and a frozen ice cream/cheese cake dessert.
Following that meal, we were allowed to wonder the boat. Here's a nice shot of the grand staircases.
I did manage to go outside to snap one picture. But, it was so very hot, that I had no desire to wonder around the decks.
Dave tends to get seasick, so he stayed in the dining/show area.
While wondering around, I found a charm for our Branson trip. As you may know, we have been collecting charms since we got engaged. We have charms for every place we have been together. I purchased a little Branson Belle charm.
I barely got it purchased when the show started. And, what a show it was. I have to say, it was the best show we saw in Branson, with maybe the exception of the Acrobats of China.
The balconies were full of diners as well.
And, the band played on...
One of the routines was 29 show tributes in 10 minutes, including costume changes. I have no idea how they did it as there were only 5 performers and they did all of the entertainment.
Here's a few of their show tributes.
Next was Todd Oliver. You may have seen him on Jay Leno or some other well-known show. He is a vantriliquist and has two live dogs that he uses in his show. He had us laughing so hard I couldn't keep my eyes dry. Everyone was hysterical. And, his routines were so good, many of us repeated some of his material for the next few days. This is Todd's final season with the Branson Belle after 13 years. He will now be performing his own show in Branson. So, if you come here, don't miss it.
The finale of the show was a tribute to our Christian faith, our servicemen, and our country. I think the most remarkable feat that the ladies performed was that they were wearing black dresses for the finale. They stepped around behind a panel and never missed a beat as they stepped in front of the panel wearing very differently styled white dresses. We are still scratching our heads trying to figure out how they pulled it off. If you are ever in Branson, this show is a MUST SEE.
The ramp down to the boat was quite long and winding and relatively steep. The facility provided carts to take us back to the buses. Dave and I were the last to arrive. Some folks had gotten into buses that they did not arrive in. So Dave and I had to ride in different buses on the way back to the hotel. Sniff. Sniff.
After walking the dog, we quickly crawled into bed as we were exhausted. Tomorrow is our pictures, the business meeting where we will vote on our officers for the next two years as well as vote on our next location, the drawing for the remaining raffle items, and then in the evening is our banquet. I'm tired just thinking about it all. Nighty Night.