Once we found out that Branson is considered the “Live Entertainment Capital of the World”, we knew we had to book some shows. After exploring all of the options, I saw there was an outdoor drama that looked intriguing. When traveling to new locations, it is important to have experiences that offer a new perspective.
Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama
Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama was rated very highly, is not a show I naturally would have chosen, and is historic to the area. We booked our tickets and I am happy we did. When we arrived in Branson, I noticed that one of the main roads is called “Shepherd of the Hills Parkway”. Whether or not we enjoyed the show, I know we made the right decision because it is clearly important to this area.
The night Sam and I were doing research, we were both exhausted and knew it was a task we needed to check off of our list. There are so many shows to read about, so when we finally decided on the outdoor drama, we did not pay too much attention to what the show was about. I remember thinking that it is outdoor on a stage as big as a football field, it is something new, and seems like it could be the most popular choice in the area.
About an hour before we went to see this show, I decided to look it up. It turns out that Shepherd of the Hills is a very famous novel written by Christian minister, Harold Bell Wright. I had a feeling it may have religious ties. Upon reading further, they recommend showing up a half-hour early, so you can enjoy the other parts of the Shepherd Hills experience.
Shepherd of the Hills
The location is up on a hill, which makes sense for some of the activities they offer. They have an adventure park which includes ziplining, a mountain roller coaster, and a high tower for views.
When we showed up, we were confused. The parking lot was not clearly signed and there was a passageway under the road to another parking lot that we could not tell if it was for cars or walking only. Luckily, we parked in the last spot that did not require us to figure that out.
After we parallel parked, we walked into some of their stores. There was a sweet shop called “Sammy Lane’s Sweet N’ Treats”, another theater, and a main store. We wandered into the main store trying to find some clues as to what to do next. Without an obvious answer, we asked the clerk who said we had to exchange our ticket voucher for actual tickets.
With our real tickets and instructions, we walked down the steps to the outdoor theater. There is also a tram that takes you down, but it really was not that far. I have walked farther down steps at the Bronx Zoo. We were in the minority in our choice to walk.
Eating at the Show
All of this activity was day 1 in Branson, after our 13 hour day in the car. Needless to say, we were still a little tired. Earlier in our Saturday, we had an amazing breakfast at Billy Gail’s restaurant. I will be writing a full post on that alone. We were so stuffed when it became dinnertime that we opted to snack during the show instead.
Unfortunately for us, when we arrived at the concession stand, the screen with the menu was temporarily off. Without knowing the full options, we ordered popcorn and nachos with jalapeños on the side. Later we would come to discover that they sold hot dogs and other premium items.
We sat in our seats with a few minutes to spare. The show started with an acknowledgement of veterans or active military personnel. This tradition seems to be popular in the midwest and the South. They did the same thing when we went to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. I think it is something we should adopt in other areas of the country as well. I have never seen it in the North East.
Following the military acknowledgement, 6 horses came out with their riders carrying flags. There were two American flags, one for Shepherd of the Hills, and some I did not recognize. They waved their flags while changing formation during the National anthem. Afterwards, they proceeded to recite the pledge of allegiance. Before this, I have not heard the pledge spoken at any event I’ve been at since I graduated high school.
It Started Out Rough
The first person to speak started by making some jokes regarding farming. At one point, the character talking said, “You must not have grown up on farms” because the audience was not reacting the way he thought they would. I missed 100% of those jokes.
After he felt the crowd was sufficiently ready, the rest of the characters joined him. When the first person started speaking, I looked toward Sam with a worried expression. I could not understand a word he was saying with his accent. We seemed to be alone in this thought. Thankfully, his character turned out to be minor and the rest of the actors had stronger diction.
Throughout the play, I tried really hard not to compare it to other performances I’ve seen. It was not an easy task since I love theater and have been to several Broadway shows. In the end, it is really not fair to compare them. They were not in the same league.
I won’t go into the details of the show in case anyone is planning to visit Branson and experience it for themselves. If you do decide to go, I have 3 pieces of advice.
- Wear a pair of jeans. The majority of the crowd was wearing jeans. There were some women wearing dresses, but I think they come from the Amish community. Of course, I was the sole woman wearing a denim skirt.
- Eat beforehand or do not order the nachos. I am not sure why we thought they would be good. It should have been a sign when the person selling them did not know what jalapeños were. He simply called them peppers. He is not wrong, but still.
- Read the book. I am confident that everyone in the audience, except for us, had read the book or knew the story. We struggled to follow the plot since it was our first time learning about it.
Overall, it was a great experience and a beautiful night to sit outdoors. We learned a little more about the history of the Ozarks and about the people who vacation in Branson, MO. I had a feeling when we planned this trip and Saturday night confirmed it, Branson is just a city we will be passing through. Unlike Asheville which took a piece of our hearts, Branson is energizing us to continue moving forward towards the Mountains of Colorado.
Research the history of the areas you are traveling and do either one thing that the locals do or one thing that makes that spot popular. You’ll grow in ways you didn’t know you could.