Entertainment Editor’s note: With the tourism industry here in Branson facing the same crises as the rest of the world, there aren’t any shows, attractions, restaurants or other tourism-based things for your ol’ Entertainment Editor to go out and experience, then write about to share with my Loyal Reader(s).
So I thought it might be fun to see just how some of our favorite entertainers are spending their “spring quarantines.” I will do my best to have one of these stories in every issue of the Branson Tri-Lakes News until this whole thing runs its course.
Also, if any of my Loyal Reader(s) have any ideas or suggestions for entertainers, business owners or personalities you’d like to see profiled, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic saw gatherings of more than 10 people banned from one end of the country to the other, one might ask, what about those families who have more than 10 living under the same roof.
Well here in Branson, that’s an issue Marty Hughes, a member of the Hughes family, often billed as the “World’s largest performing family,” and his wife and their 15 children.
“When they first started talking about the 10 people rule, my first thought was trying to decide who would live outside (laughs),” he said. “But we were told everything was OK since we’re all family. My little ones really want to get out of the house, so they enjoy getting out in the front yard. My older boys went out and got jobs, so we’re extremely proud of them, too.
“But now whenever we’re making a trip to the theater, now everyone wants to go (laughs).”In addition to having to worry about the magic number of “10,” Hughes also has to make sure his family has enough supplies to make it as long as needed.
“This whole TP thing, I just didn’t understand, because with 15 children, we’ve always bought in bulk (laughs),” he said. “We aren’t preppers, but we did have at least a year’s worth of food stocked up because we buy the big 25 pound bags of wheat, then we grind it and make our own bread. So I’d say rice, wheat and grains, those type of things.”
According to Hughes, “The Hughes Music Show” had been open for a month at the Hughes Brothers Theatre when the world began changing.
“We were open and drawing OK crowds, but we were just starting to see some momentum,” Hughes said. “Then this thing started to grow, and other businesses started shutting down. We got a few calls from other entertainers asking what we were going to do and what we thought they should do. I talked to one entertainer who said, on one hand, we want to protect all of our guests, but on the other hand, it’s our job to go out and entertain people when things get rough out there, and I totally understood his quandary.
“You know, just imagine in the past, like during World War II, people could do normal things, like go to the movies or see shows and forget their problems, if only for a little while. But this is a different deal, with social distancing and everything else that was happening very quickly.”
Hughes and his family then invited several show and theater owners, as well as local leaders to the theater for an impromptu meeting.
“We decided to bring most of the city officials into the theater to talk things over, and from there, things got very serious over the next week,” Hughes said. “It seemed like all the shows were dropping like flies, and the day before the city was to have their meeting ... we had a pretty good clue which way they were going after we talked to them, so we decided to make a firm decision to go ahead and close the doors. We had been doing a week of shows where we ‘social distance’ separated everyone in the theater, but when we made the decision to close, it felt good. It felt right.”
Hughes also said he agreed with the way local leadership handled the situation.
“I think the mayor and the board of aldermen made the right decision, as far as what they decided to do closing the non-essential businesses,” Hughes said. “We really respect that, and it was a difficult decision for a unique circumstance.”
Even though they weren’t performing shows at the venue, Hughes said there was still plenty to do.
“The family decided to continue as much ‘business as usual’ as we could and still go to the theater and rehearse, of course practicing safe social distancing, but push out as much content as we could online,” he said. “Since the quarantine, we haven’t done anything with more than 10 people, so any song, any interview, anything we’ve thrown up on the internet that has more than 10 people is something we did before the guidelines were put in place.
“But I will say, the kids do enjoy getting out of the house and visiting the theater more, again, with less than 10 of us.”
In addition to not performing together, the tight-knit Hughes families, consisting of nearly 50 people, haven’t been able to gather together.
“Normally once a month we’ll get together at Mom’s for a big barbecue or something, and we haven’t done anything since this whole thing started,” he said. “There’s all these different little things that always brought us together as a family we haven’t been able to do, although we have Skyped a few times to do scripture studies and things like that, but we haven’t all been together.”
Even though they aren’t together, Marty said his mother Lena Hughes is still holding everyone together.
“She’s so great,” Hughes said. “She constantly keeps her mind on what we need to do to pay our debts, what we need to do to make sure we can keep the doors open in the coming months. She’s working really hard, and she was able to grab all the info from the federal government before they sent it to the banks, so she was right on top of it.
“She went ahead and sent it in to our bank the day before with a note that said forgive us for being early (laughs). She’s the reason for our success, and she’s always dotted every ‘I,’ crossed every ‘T’ and made sure we were legal. She really is amazing.”