Throughout Branson history people have fallen in love with the scenery. The mountains and lakes around Branson were magnets for vacationers even before the river town was founded in 1903. When a novel about this area, The Shepherd of the Hills
, became a nationwide bestseller in 1907, people traveled here to experience the Ozarks first-hand, the town grew as a resort destination and the rest, as they say, is Branson history.
Its recreational activities further expanded in 1958 when the completion of Table Rock Dam created Table Rock Lake. The following year, The Baldknobbers Hillbilly Jamboree was the first show to open in Branson history. Taking its name from the area’s notorious 1880s vigilante group, the show added to the mystique of the Ozarks. The year 1960 saw the beginning of Silver Dollar City theme park and the Shepherd of the Hills outdoor theater. Both venues celebrated their 50th anniversaries in 2010 and continue to draw huge crowds.
The Presley Family started the migration of entertainment venues to Highway 76, a.k.a. the Strip, when they opened their theater there in 1967. The live music business grew steadily over the next two decades of Branson's history. In the late 1980s, country music entertainer Boxcar Willie began performing on a permanent schedule in his own theater, starting a trend other celebrity entertainers embraced. Branson got national attention in 1991 when Time
magazine published a story about the show town. Then “60 Minutes” proclaimed Branson “the live music capital of the entire universe.” That TV spotlight launched this small Ozark town into a new era of growth. Popular to this day, the Dixie Stampede and the Showboat Branson Belle started their dinner theaters in 1995. Two years later, Shepherd of the Hills held its 5,000th show, making it the nation’s most performed outdoor drama.
Branson broadened its appeal in 2006 with the opening of Branson Landing on the waterfront of Lake Taneycomo. In 2009, flying to Branson became a whole lot easier when the privately-owned-and-operated Branson Airport opened just eight miles from town. Today, 50 theaters present more than 100 live music and variety shows. With a population of only 7,500 residents, Branson is still a small town in the Ozarks. But it’s definitely huge in live entertainment.