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Closing Out The Year At Silver Dollar City: Our First Old Time Christmas Celebration
Silver Dollar City Festivals 2015
World Fest. Check.
Bluegrass & BBQ. Check. (Oh yes! Check, check, check!)
Star Spangled Summer. Check.
Southern Gospel Picnic. Check.
National Harvest and Cowboy Festival. Check.
Old Time Christmas. Check (finally!).
For the first time ever, we have visited Silver Dollar City enough times in one year to take part in each and every festival. It was fun, it was exhilarating, it was expensive.
An Old Time Christmas
For years, both my lovely wife and I have spoken about attending the Christmas festival at SDC, but one has to be there after dark to truly enjoy it, and we just didn't want to spend the day and evening and then drive the two hours back to our home in southwest Missouri. Now, however, we live much closer to the park and have been able to hop down there in less than an hour. No more excuses for us!
So this past Friday we decided: the time had come. The weather was a balmy 70 degrees for a high and we expected the weather to draw a large crowd to the park that evening. The drive was quite easy, minimal traffic all flowing at reasonable speed for the highway we were traveling.
We entered from the West Branson side, as we have learned over the years it is much easier to enter the park from the west that from the east on highway 76. Traffic can and often does back up for miles as those who are staying in Branson proper attempt to enter the park. We turned off 76 onto SDC road and saw...
Tailights. Lots and lots of tailights, stacked bumper to bumper reaching from the highway to the park entrance roughly a half mile away. Oh well, we've been in worse. We settled into that crawl we knew well as we inched closer and closer to the park.
Roughly twenty minutes later, we had progressed enough to see the parking area. Absolutely jam packed. No one was allowed to park in the disabled parking, valet parking, or preferred (pay to park close) parking. Everyone was being directed around to the farthest lot south and west of the park. We slowly made our way to our allotted space and parked. Behind us lay wilderness; a lonely light lit our portion of the parking lot, just enough to see the direction we needed to proceed to head towards the tram station. We walked there and found a mass of humanity waiting, waiting, waiting for the tram. After a moment's deliberation we decided to walk to the park entrance.
As we walked, I looked at the license plates on the vehicles in the parking lot. A lot of Arkansas and Missouri, a smattering from Oklahoma and Kansas. There were some Illinois and Iowa and even a Louisiana plate or two. One from Ohio, another from Tennessee. Then I saw one from North Carolina and another from Florida. Here for the holidays, I suppose. Then I stopped dead in my tracks: Alaska! Alaska? Seriously? My goodness, they really wanted to see Silver Dollar City!
Finally, twenty three minutes later we had traveled the more than half mile uphill walk to the park entrance. Except, we were not allowed to enter through the entrance. Due to the parade going on in the town square, we were directed down and to the right, passing the cave entrance and entering somewhere below the square. But first, we had to pass through the security check.
Branson West and Silver Dollar City (Marvel Cave Park)
Yes, for the first time in my life there was a security presence at the entrance. My wife and I had a conversation a day or so before about the current state of concern in America with a possible terrorist attack and I felt that a terrorist might attack somewhere other than a coastal city in order to show their power and an ability to strike in the heartland of America. It had always been easy to enter the park at any time with backpacks, strollers, large purses and such and it seemed to me to be all too easy to set a package containing explosives somewhere such as this and walk away, detonating it as they left the park. And after the attack in San Bernadino recently and the cell phone purchases in the state recently by Muslim individuals buying large amounts (over thirty at a time) "burn" phones paid for by cash in cities such as Lebanon, Columbia, and Cape Girardeau totaling some two hundred phones, we were nervous.
As we approached the table and person assigned to check our passes we saw police and sheriff deputies in attendance. Some eight or ten, fully armed and ready to go at a second's notice. To some, that would make them uneasy; to me, I was glad to see their presence. I even thanked them as they checked my wife's purse for contraband and weapons. Then we were through and on to the park!
Lights everywhere! On every building, every tree, every fence there were lights of every imaginable color. The mass of humanity passed by them with nary a glance for the most part, but we stopped and stared, standing off to one side before attempting to merge. Then we reached a decision: head towards the concert hall to see a play. Entering the swarm we moved downhill and eased our way onto the path that led to the Red Gold Heritage Hall and our chosen play.
A musical really: It's A Wonderful Life. We entered and found our seats as the play began. The songs were wonderful, the actors great. The musical was subtly different from the movie but close enough. We laughed and enjoyed ourselves for an hour or so then moved on to the next item on our list. A light dinner.
We enjoyed our dinner in an outdoor setting adjacent to the parade route which was scheduled to arrive momentarily. And spot on time, it did. Led by Rudolph and Santa, the parade of a dozen or so floats gently wound its way from its beginning near our table and moved out of sight, heading for the far side of the park to be enjoyed by literally thousands along its route.
We then meandered our way to the barn and a Christmas Tree extravaganza, complete with an untold amount of ornaments available for sale. We oohed and aahed, enjoying this and that as we gawked in pure enjoyment at the wonder. From there we wandered about, looking at the lights here and there, watched as the train went by all lit up for the season and made our way back uphill to the square. Of course, our son HAD to go through Grandpa's Mansion for the hundredth time this year. We sat back and watched him enter and waited for him to exit the five minute walk some twenty minutes later. From there, it was the square proper and a wonderful scene.
City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style.
In the air there's a feeling of Christmas.
The old song Silver Bells ran through my head as we entered the square. Everywhere there was lights and trees and people, all bustling about entering stores or sitting around watching and talking. It was full of good humor and happiness and smiles in abundance. Then, I saw...The Tree.
Standing tall, covered in lights from tip to ground, and dancing! I swear! The lights flashed and flickered and it danced to the music! Christmas carols were playing and the lights changed colors and patterns in time with one another. It was magical!
Finally, it was getting late and time to leave. The park would be closing shortly and we didn't want to get caught in the crowd exiting so off we headed. The trams were jam packed and the line waiting to board was too long to even think about so off we went, hiking downhill the distance to our car. We were in the car by 9:45 PM and headed out, battling traffic until we made it to highway 76 and turned left for our journey home.
So now we have visited the park in every season: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. We have endured sweltering heat, high humidity, brief rain showers, cool weather and wind. The park has a capacity of some 25,000 people and I think we have been in that mix a time or two as it neared that number. We have had fun for the most part, ridden every roller coaster there was, seen shows we have dreamed about for years, and finally put closure upon the Christmas spectacular. It was well worth the trouble. As we head into the new year and our plan to attend even more, I felt it was a good time to put a bow on this year, and our time spent as a family at Silver Dollar City.
Merry Christmas all; and Happy Holidays to you. May you have a wonderful and happy festival of your own as your family comes to visit.