With Halloween just around the corner, that can mean only one thing in Branson. It’s time to start thinking about Christmas.
One group that works to keep the holiday spirit alive all-year long is the Branson Christmas Coalition, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the enhancement of the holiday season and to the growth of visitation to the Branson area.
The Branson Christmas Coalition Executive Director Ann McDowell said the coalition was formed from the question, ‘What can we do to build the Christmas season in Branson?’
“The season for tourism tended to end at the end of October. So in the late 80’s Silver Dollar City opened for Christmas, and we’ve seen what that’s done. It’s gone absolutely crazy. So we had a really nice push on Christmas,” said McDowell. “We had Andy Williams and we had the Rockettes here and all kinds of amazing things in the early 90’s. Silver Dollar City continued to be really strong with Christmas, but the businessmen in the community sort of felt like the rest of the town was lacking.”
While a number of other ideas had circulated or been attempted in recent years, McDowell said in early 2016 the coalition landed on the idea of Christmas trees.
“We looked around and there was no other destinations, no other cities we could find that were claiming or wanting to be the biggest thing in Christmas trees,” McDowell said. “So we thought there might be something here. We really like Christmas trees, too, because they are really traditional and who doesn’t love a Christmas tree? But they can also be really creative and really unique and we thought that really fits Branson.
“We’re traditional, but we’ve got a lot of creative, kind of quirky wild and fun things here, too. So it seemed like a really good fit for Branson.”
For the 2016 Christmas Season, a total of 50 new and unique Christmas trees were put up around Branson.
In 2017 there were 150 trees put up and in 2018 a total of 733 Christmas trees went up in America’s Christmas Tree City.
With Branson’s launch of the Christmas season less than a month away, the coalition is now accepting applications from businesses, organizations and individuals who would like to be placed on the 2019 List of Landmark Christmas Tree Displays in Branson.
McDowell said that due to the amount of trees last year, it became difficult to put that many trees on a list, much less a map, so the coalition is doing something a little different this year.
“This year, we said everybody do a tree. We love the trees, but the ones we’re going to feature on our list and our website have to have one of three qualities: They have to be completely unique, they have to be more than 20 feet tall or it has to be a grouping of more than 10 trees. So that’s what we’re calling our landmark displays” said McDowell. “We want to see trees everywhere. All over town. In all shapes and sizes and colors, but to focus on some on the list that we can point people to.”
After three years of declaring Branson as America’s Christmas Tree City, McDowell said the Branson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau did some research and polled tourists to determine what kind of impact the Christmas trees were having on Branson.
“They asked a couple of questions, specifically about Christmas trees, and their research came back that 3.8 percent of the people that were here in 2018 wouldn’t have come if it wasn’t for America’s Christmas Tree City,” McDowell said. “So that translates to about 65,000 people for those two months, because we have almost 2 million (people) in that time period. If everybody spends – which we know they do from research – a little over $300 a piece, that’s more than $20 million of economic impact we’ve been able to have with these crazy Christmas trees.”
Come Christmas future, McDowell said there are a couple of things people can look forward to. Before the Grand Palace was torn down to make way for the Branson Aquarium, McDowell said she was asked to come check out some Christmas items that were found inside the old theatre.
“So I found an 18 foot tree. I found about 12 to 15 of these funky, spiral, Dr. Seussical trees. So we’re definitely rehabbing those this year and working on that,” she said. “Then there was also two 30 foot – get your mind around that, three stories tall – toy soldiers and two 20 foot toy soldiers that were in nearly perfect condition. They need a little cleaning and they need a little tweaking, so we’re working on that. We couldn’t just let those go to the dumpster.”
McDowell said all the items are being rehabilitated or altered so they can be placed outdoors, but at this time is uncertain what the coalition will be able to put out this year or what will have to wait until next year to be displayed.
“We just want to encourage everybody to do whatever you can and just be a part of it,” McDowell said. “The more visitors that come to Branson and see that we’re really about Christmas everywhere they go, and the more they can just soak it in all over the place, I think the better experience they’re going to have.”
The deadline to submit an application to be placed on the 2019 List of Landmark Christmas Trees in Oct 4. Applications and additional information can be found at bransonchristmas.org.