Staff with the Branson Christmas Coalition is hoping to bring the holiday spirit to a historic city park.

Ann McDowell, executive director of Branson Christmas Coalition, presented a request to the Branson Board of Aldermen during Thursday’s study session to reallocate Christmas funds in 2018.

“I’m asking for additional support from the city, but not additional money,” McDowell said. “Not an extra penny.” 

According to McDowell, the city spends $20,000 annually to place installations on the light poles on 76 Country Boulevard. The installations are aging, with lights needing to be replaced. Besides, those fixtures, which are intended to depict stars, have a different nickname in Branson, according to McDowell.

“They look a little bit like witches,” she said.

McDowell asked the board to consider reallocating the funds to turn Old School Park into a Christmas display.

“The naturally grown trees and the location is ideal for a location we’ve been looking at for a couple of years,” she said. 

McDowell said the idea would be to use theatrical lighting to project a red and green Christmas atmosphere.

The display would allow Branson to reaffirm its name as a Christmas tree city, McDowell said. According to an informational sheet from the Branson Christmas Coalition, the Branson CVB trademarked the tagline “Branson: America’s Christmas Tree City” in 2017.

In two years, according to the coalition, Branson has documented 175 tree displays.

“What we love about Christmas trees are they’re traditional, they can be very creative and they celebrate our natural beauty and environment,” McDowell said. “It’s the perfect Christmas landmark for our area.”

Both the board and Branson Mayor Karen Best expressed trepidation on making a decision. According to Best, the city is currently looking at several options on how to make use of Christmas funds.

“One of the things we’ve looked at is replacing the ‘witches’ lights with actual Christmas tree lights,” Best said. “To go along with the Christmas tree city.”

Discussion also focused on a proposed memorial in honor of the victims of the duck boat incident planned for Old School Park.

“I’m not sure, from my perspective, if you have a memorial there of a powerful thing which affected this community and will share that with a Christmas thing,” Alderman Kevin McConnell said.

Best also asked the board to take time to avoid a situation similar to 2016, when she said the board was left with “heartburn” after purchasing an 80-foot tall Christmas tree for the roundabout on Branson Landing Boulevard.

According to the Branson Tri-Lakes News archive, the city spent $51,828 on the 80-foot tree in 2018, which included the installation, tear-down, and storage of the tree for the first year. In addition, each year the city spends $12,000 for the reinstallation, tear-down, and storage of the tree, according to the Branson Tri-Lakes News archive.

“The backlash we got on that Christmas tree when we first put it up was huge,” Alderman Rick Castillon said. “I don’t want to go through that again.”

According to Jamie Rouch, director of finance for the city, the funds come out of the city’s general fund.

No vote was taken on the issue Thursday because the aldermen do not vote during study sessions.

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