Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Time to Meet the King and Queen

The entrance to the festival

The Kansas City Renaissance Festival celebrated 35 years in 2011!  This festival has something for everyone - juggling, magic, comedy, swordplay, dancing, jousting, rides, games, crafts and more.  The event is held every fall from Labor day weekend through the middle of October (Sat & Sun only).  Parking is free and the gate fee is $18.95 with discounts available online and through various outlets.  There is a facebook page for this festival and they offer contests with free tickets and lots of information about the different weekend themes and performers.  Check out the website for all the details about this fun place .

Part of the jousting competition

Human powered rides

You can ride an elephant, camel and more

Period clothing is not required, but it can be a fun part of your visit.  We saw everything from beggars, Celtic kilts, royalty, serving wenches, pirates, fairies, knights, robin hood and his merry men and others.   Pets are welcome and there are many options for food and drink. 

The Queen, King and Prince of Bulgaria

A few of the citizens of the realm

Dennis DOES believe in fairies!

The website states that there are over 100 artisan booths and 20 entertainment venues.  Make sure you get a map/program if you go.  The festival is situated in a wooded and hilly area with winding streets and paths.  This makes for a realistic venue...but not very handicap or stroller friendly.  It can be muddy if it rains - or dry and dusty as it was when we were there (more reason to drink a beer!).

Many areas to take a break and enjoy the area

Some of the art available

Plan your day and check the schedules in order to make sure you see your favorite performers.  The joust happens only a couple times daily and the parade only once.  Some of the shows are definitely PG13 with adult humor and signs are posted at the areas.  Some of the musical acts have CDs and t-shirts for sale also.

King Henry VIII and his royal family entertain with songs

Dennis helps to hold the tightrope for a juggler

Jolly Rogers is a popular group - definitely PG13!

There are living history tours available through the day (free) and deals like the Feaste of Fools, Royal Smoker and the Queen's Tea that include food, entertainment and drink (some have adult beverages too) for one price.  We enjoyed the Feaste of Fools this trip.  Two hours of entertainment with a 5 course lunch, a goblet to keep and admission to the festival for one price.  Maybe we will see you next year at the faire!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall is time for the National Harvest Festival

We were in Branson a few weeks ago and spent a day enjoying Silver Dollar City's Harvest Festival.  The park has about 6 different festivals during the year and this one is a favorite of ours.  In addition to the regular craftsmen that are part of the park, there are visiting craftsmen and extra events during this time.  Some of the fun things this year included sidewalk chalk artists, paper making demonstrations, lumberjack shows, a 50 ton sand sculpture, Missouri's largest barn dance and the best of Missouri Hands artists.  These things plus more are all in addition to the regular features at the park: resident craftsmen, rides, cave tours, saloon show and other theater shows. 

Sand Sculpture

Lumberjack springboard competition

Lumberjack log rolling

There were many booths with craftspeople showing their skills.  I love pottery and  bought a new pot that you bake bread in.   Shopping at Silver Dollar City is made easier with gate delivery of packages.  You can have your purchases delivered to the exit gate area for free - no need to haul things around with you!

Bread baking pottery

In the pumpkin carving area there were heirloom specialty seeds for sale.  You can plant your own fall gourds and pumpkins for next year.

Pumpkin carver

We enjoyed the Birds of Prey show which took place in the outdoor Echo Hollow amplitheater.  There were many different birds that were shown and most were allowed to fly over the audience.



Bald Eagle

The damascus knifesmith was very informative and Dennis spent time watching him work and learning about the craft.


Different handmade knives for sale

There were woodcarvers, a man making the timbers for a log structure, a giant lathe, basket weavers, quilters, leather crafts, sculptors, painters and more.  It was a great day to enjoy watching these talented people work their crafts.

He started with a tree trunk - all done by hand

Giant lathe - he was making rolling pins

Friday, October 14, 2011

So many do you choose??

Branson is known as the 'Live Music Capitol of the World' with over 100 shows at 50 theaters...the choices are many.  There are shows that include rock & roll, bluegrass, gospel, comedy, cowboys, magicians, dancing and more!   Branson has a show for everyone - but how do you choose what to see?  Most people only have a few days in town and a limited budget so research before you go.  Over the years we have seen most of the shows, at least once, and are only rarely disappointed. 

If you go to Branson, PLEASE do not fall for the 'ticket outlets' that are everywhere.  These are timeshare sales and vacation clubs.  There is only one true half price ticket outlet - Branson 2 for 1 ( at 1100 West Hwy 76.  They don't offer all the shows, but quite a few and we have been using them for years.  Some shows are morning only or on certain days of the week.  Stop by when you get to town and pick up their schedule which is updated weekly and then decide what to see.  They will sell you a voucher that you take to the box office to exchange for your tickets.  Don't worry about getting good seats - Branson has more theater seats than Broadway so chances are you will be close to the action.  We also get tickets at local fundraisers, radio & TV sales and on Groupon.  Most of the shows have discount coupons in tourist information booklets/flyers which are available in restaurants, stores and hotels.

We love using trip advisor to research hotels and things to do - Branson included.  There is another website which has a great forum to get questions answered and read reviews of the area and attractions.  This trip we attended 3 shows - The Hughes Brothers, The Duttons and Clay Cooper.  All 3 are variety shows with live bands.  Just about all the shows in Branson will have a patriotic set (honoring all those who served in the armed forces) and also a gospel set (this is the bible belt).  In our experience the patriotic set is usually last - gets the audience to their feet and then out the door when it's over!   One thing that we like about Branson is the friendly interaction between the performers and the public.  They usually come out during intermission to sign autographs and take pictures and again at the end of the shows.  If you want to meet & greet those onstage, Branson is your place to be!  Most theaters allow and encourage pictures during the shows - just not video recording.  We have know performers to stop onstage and post for pictures while singing or playing an instrument.  In some theaters you may be brought onstage to be part of the show (especially if you are in the front row or an aisle close to the front).  Good to know if you are shy' or at a show when you called in sick to work!

The Hughes Brothers:  This show is known as the "World's Largest Performing Family" because the 5 Hughes brothers include their wives and children in the show.  Their website states 47 members...but there was another recent birth (the weekend before we were there) so maybe it should be 48?  The brothers entertain with great harmonies and have been in Branson for 13 of their 28 years performing together. 

The Hughes Brothers

Spanish guitar solo

What makes them the largest performing family in Branson

 The Duttons:  This show is a wonderful showcase of the family talents - the members all play numerous musical instruments, sing, dance and enjoy performing.  We happened to be in town for their 20th anniversary celebration!  The family offered tickets for $20, had a party with 20 kinds of cake before the show, door prizes including stays at their hotel and a show package for 20 people!  They included many of their most requested numbers in this performance.  This family was in the top 10 finalists in America's Got Talent and you will know why!  Upbeat and entertaining - this family loves what they do and it shows!

Duttons party in the parking lot before the show

The Dutton family

Comedy skit included playing the horns- funny!

The entire family

Clay Cooper:   This show has a little something for everyone.  In addition to Clay's singing and entertaining you will enjoy trick roper and gunslinger Johnny Lonestar, amazing dancers, a 6 piece band, a dynamic rhythm duo 'Buckets n Boards', great comedy and more!  This is Clay's first year in his newly renovated theater and we enjoyed the seating and side stages that put the action all around you.  Clay has been performing in Branson for 24 seasons and continues to bring in the crowds.

Clay Cooper

Ventriloquist act with Clay's son as the 'dummy'

Buckets n Boards - yes he is playing the recorder with his nose!

Presidental game show

These are just a few of the reasons why we keep returning to Branson.  Now to start planning our next trip there!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oktoberfest - Celebrating our German Heritage

There is a neighborhood in Jefferson City, Missouri that is called 'Old Munichburg' which celebrates it's German heritage.  Settlers from Germany arrived about 150 years ago and congregated in the area around Jefferson and Dunklin streets.  This was the center of the German community and their history is still celebrated every year with an Oktoberfest.
Lederhosen and Dirndl are not required to attend!
Lots of cars to see

This one day event includes vendor booths, a car show, games for the kids, food, music, dancing, beer, grape stomp and the highlight of the day is the dachshund derby (or wiener dog races).   Everyone loves to cheer on the dogs during the races and also spy your favorite costume during the dog costume parade before the races.
Dogs dressed as grapes and a stomping barrel!
Roxie gets ready too run

The Lions club holds a fundraiser grape stomp that has an open entry.  Different teams compete stomping grapes into juice and providing entertainment for the crowds.  All ages are welcome in this event and it is fun to watch the kids get dirty!
Getting their feet dirty at the grape stomp

There are 2 stages with bands, dancers and entertainment.   Areas are provided to sit and rest or imbibe in a cold beverage.  Oktoberfest beers are available (also a few regular kinds), wines from some local wineries and bratwurst too.

The kids area has many games, a bounce house, crafts and a hay maze.  The area has  a one time $3 fee to play all day.  The kids were having loads of fun here and the parents were very happy with the low cost.
Spin the wheel, answer the question, get a book!
Catapult a frog into the moat
Playing in the hay maze
This annual event is a popular one and a fun way to spend a day in Jefferson City.