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All Things Branson Blogger Loses Battle with Cancer

 
"All Things Branson" blogger, Arline Chandler, died January 12, 2016, at her home in Heber Springs, Arkansas.  Arline had been diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer near the end of September 2015.

Arline Ramsey Chandler Smith was born April 19, 1939, in Searcy, Arkansas, to the late Homer Arlie and Sallie Loree Hassell Ramsey.  Arline was reared in Heber Springs, where she excelled in all things, especially music – particularly voice and piano. Arline liked to tell that she was on the “Cradle Roll Call” at First Baptist Church, where she has been a faithful member since her infancy. If Arline wasn’t involved in something musical or church-related as a child or young teen, she was probably on a horse.  Arline and her first husband, James Paul Chandler, even dated on horseback.

 
Arline married James Paul Chandler on August 17, 1956, and they headed for Arkansas Tech, where she planned to study home economics while James Paul pursued veterinary medicine.  By the end of their second semester, the couple was back in Heber Springs, anticipating the birth of their first child… Debbie.  Eleven months later, they would welcome Suzanne…and three years afterward, Timothy Paul joined the family.  James Paul and Arline built a home at 210 South 9th Street in 1959, and this has been Arline’s primary residence ever since.
 

Arline spent the next several years teaching piano, organ and voice students in her home before and after school, while rearing the three children.  Countless music students went on to pursue professions as musicians or music educators – and many attribute this inclination to their early encouragement from “Mrs. Chandler.” Arline attended summer school sessions at what was then known as Arkansas State Teachers College – now UCA.
 
In 1964, Arline and her friend, Georgia Ann Beasley, opened Wee Wisdom Kindergarten in the basement of the Chandler home on Ninth Street.  For nearly a decade, the five-year-olds of Heber Springs and the surrounding area were given their educational “start” under the tutelage of “Miss Arline.”

When then-governor of Arkansas, Dale Bumpers, signed public school kindergarten into law in the early 70’s, Arline returned to UCA as a fulltime student and acquired her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education.  She then became a kindergarten teacher at the Heber Springs Elementary School.  Arline taught public school kindergarten until 1984.  Many former students have commented in recent days that Arline gave them a firm foundation for learning…and several even went on to become teachers themselves.

Arline left teaching to pursue a fulltime writing career. She and James Paul had plans to travel across America in their RV, while she wrote children’s books, travel articles, and features on interesting “faces and places.”  And they did travel extensively throughout the United States and into Canada.
In 1987, Arline wrote the first feature article for Workamper News.  She became a staff writer for the publication, and subsequently authored three books on RVing and Workamping…Road Work, Road Work II, and she co-authored Workamper News’ Guide to Recruiting and Retaining the Right Workampers with her son-in-law, Greg Robus. Arline became a respected expert on RV travel and Workamping options, as well as “How to Write Your Life Experiences,” which became the name of one of several classes she taught to would-be writers.  She also taught classes in Workamping and creative writing for ten consecutive summers in Moscow, Idaho, at the Life on Wheels conference held annually on the University of Idaho campus.

Arline’s favorite place to visit was Branson, Missouri.  She and James Paul purchased an RV resort membership there, and they frequently made the 3½ hour trek north to spend anywhere from a few days to a week or more enjoying the sights and sounds of Branson and its surrounding area.  Arline wrote numerous articles about the entertainment and attractions of Branson, and she interviewed everyone from Dolly Parton, Tony Orlando, Kenny Rogers, Yakov Smirnoff, Todd Oliver and his talking dog Irving, to Lee Greenwood, Brenda Lee, and the Mandrell sisters, Andy Williams and Shoji Tabuchi, who became a good friend.  The Haygoods – a musical family who performed at Silver Dollar City and in the Branson area - were practically part of the family.  

Arline became one of the best ambassadors ever to the Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau and the staff at Silver Dollar City, who all treated her like one of their own.  In 2010, Arline wrote The Heart of Branson…The Entertaining Families of America's Live Music Show Capital.”  Friends who knew Arline well dubbed her “The Belle of Branson,” and indeed, she truly was one of its biggest fans.

Arline was a charter member of the Athena Club in Heber Springs.  She was a member of the Ozarks Writers League.  For many years, she was a member of the choir at the First Baptist Church, and the Strings and Things Dulcimer group.  She served from time to time as pianist and organist at First Baptist Church – and other area churches when someone was needed to fill in for a short period of time. Arline was always willing to serve wherever and whenever she was needed in her church.  Even this past summer, she taught the preschoolers in Vacation Bible School.

Arline’s first husband, James Paul Chandler, died on October 9, 1999.  She continued traveling and writing for the next two years – both on solo adventures and with two dear friends, Jo-Ann Carmack and Johnie Stark.  On February 9, 2002, Arline married Lee Smith. They “hit the road” in Arline’s motorhome for a six-week honeymoon trip to the East Coast and New York…and they pretty well never looked back.  Arline and Lee Workamped and traveled from Maine to Alaska to Mexico – and dozens of destinations in between.  They enjoyed several winters in Arizona, and they spent the summer of 2014 in West Yellowstone, Montana.  Arline’s childhood dream was to see as much of this country as she could – and to absorb its history and beauty…and she did a very good job of accomplishing her goal.  She went horseback riding in South Dakota and river rafting on the Snake River in Idaho.  She took bicycle rides along the carriage road system of Acadia National Park in Maine, and she endured a miserable-for-her flight to Barrow, Alaska, the 11th northernmost city in the world – located above the Arctic Circle.
 

Besides her first husband and her parents, Arline was preceded in death by her son, Tim, and her in-laws, Truman and Polly Chandler.  In addition to her husband, Lee, she is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Debbie and Greg Robus of Heber Springs;  daughter and son-in-law Suzanne and Mike Linn, of Heber Springs; grand-daughter and her husband, Jasmine and Jamison Gary, of Heber Springs and their three children – Timothy, Zola and Nathan Gary of Heber Springs; step-daughter Glynne Marie Smith-Greene of Baltimore, Maryland, and her children Reuben, Kathryn, Denise and Eli; step-daughter Janet Daily and her husband Craig, of Lebanon, Tennessee, and their daughters Kelsey and Sara; step-daughter Suzanne Wilson and her fianc√© Ben Moyer of Olive Branch, Mississippi, and her sons John, Brandon, and Tristan; step-son Eric Smith of Hernando, Mississippi, and his sons, Gowyn and Hagyn;  four step-great-grandchildren; one sister, Diane Williams, of Fayetteville, Arkansas; two nephews, Brent Warren of Farmington, Arkansas, and Byron Warren of Gravette, Arkansas;  and many other dear relatives and friends. 

Funeral services were held  Thursday, January 14, 2016, at First Baptist Church in Heber Springs, with the Rev. JR DeBusk officiating.  Interment was in Magness Cemetery.  Pallbearers were BJ Stracener, Mike Moore, Charlie Johnson, Stephen Choate, Joe Welborn, Chris Foster, and Lane Keeter.  Honorary pallbearers were the members of Strings & Things Dulcimer Group.

Memorials may be made to the Cleburne County Historical Society, the Cleburne County Library, Cleburne County Hospice, or the charity of your choice. 

Geyser Gulch Came Down...Fireman’s Landing Went Up!


Silver Dollar City, near Branson, Missouri, has a new play area for 2015—Fireman’s Landing. But first, Geyser Gulch, a tree-top village stretching over Silver Lake, had to come down. The 1890s-themed park—and the razing of the eighteen-year-old area—are featured on two episodes of “Salvage Dawgs” on the DIY Channel. The first episode aired June 14; the second episode is scheduled for Sunday, July 26, at 9:00 p.m. CST. Both segments, part of the fourth season of Black Dog Salvage Company’s reality television show, focus on salvaging the Geyser Gulch attraction and building a unique new icon that memorializes the former playhouse in the sky. 

Created especially for Silver Dollar City by Black Dog Salvage, a sign bears the Firefighter’s Pledge, topped with a bell from Geyser Gulch. The new marker salutes firefighters who serve their communities. Both episodes include footage shot at the Branson theme park. Standing on the spot where Geyser Gulch provided hours of entertainment to children of all ages, Fireman’s Landing offers ten fun-filled rides and activities in the new children’s play area.

Robert Kulp and Mike Whiteside, co-owners of Black Dog Salvage, a company that specializes in the reclamation, repurposing, and resale of architectural, commercial, and industrial elements and fixtures, traveled with their salvage team to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, to “upcycle” a piece of theme park history. Disassembling the Geyser Gulch water attraction to make room for Fireman’s Landing proved to be a challenge and a whimsical roller-coaster ride that only a team trained to salvage and repurpose items and materials can imagine..

Salvage Dawgs team members wrestled with well-worn fasteners on the Geyser Gulch project while Mike Whiteside and another team member balanced on high wire rigging to remove a giant water tower and a colorful working windmill. “I had always wanted a water tower,” said Mike, “…but this one was five stories off the ground!” The team also salvaged 30 giant air guns from the attraction. And those former Navy men could not resist the urge for a classic ‘Dawg fight.’

“There was no way I was going to leave those air guns behind,” a smiling Robert Kulp said. “Anyone who has ever seen those things and what they can do is going to have an interest.”

Black Dog Salvage Company, based in Roanoke, Virginia, pulls down structures from farm houses and Victorian “painted ladies” to bungalows and mid-century dwellings. They salvage pieces such as mantels, doors, stained glass, wrought iron, vintage plumbing and hardware, period light fixtures, antique store counters, and obviously, theme park windmills. And then, they bring things back. Won’t it be fun to discover where Geyser Gulch’s water tower turns up? The company serves a wide range of clients, including home dwellers, interior designers, general contractors, theatrical stage designers, restaurants, resorts, and evidently theme parks such as Silver Dollar City.


Since 1997, Geyser Gulch, had teased children’s imaginations with windmills, whirligigs, and air guns aimed at moving targets. Kids loved the sirens, slides, and swinging bridges. At the time Geyser Gulch was built, Silver Dollar City’s general manager, Brad Thomas, called the multi-million dollar kids’ adventure: “… the polestar of a focused children’s area.” He added that the entertainment and sky-level playground mesmerized children from toddlers to teenagers. However, after eighteen years of exciting playtime, Geyser Gulch showed nearly two decades of footsteps and hand prints. The City determined the time was right for something innovative and fresh—like Fireman’s Landing.

The new play area centers around Fire Station #3 and features rides and attractions with the theme of an 1880’s volunteer firefighter recruitment event. For instance, there’s Firefall, an eight-story fire tower free-fall drop ride. And Fire Spotter with kids flying high in balloons to spot fire dangers. There’s Lucky’s Dizzy Dogs, a bouncy ride on Dalmatians racing around a fire hydrant. And Fire Wagon Frenzy, a playful ride for bucket brigade volunteers.

Inside and around Fire Station #3, which is enclosed and temperature controlled for season-long comfortable play, the attractions include buckets, pumpers, foam ball cannons, and targets for showering pretend fires. Children are mesmerized by foam balls—sometimes spending hours, picking them up and dumping them into a mechanical tube that races the balls to the second level. Some kids sit on the carpeted floor and “vacuum” up the colored balls.


Lucky the Rescue Dog, a costumed character representing the tradition of firehouse dogs, moves about the Landing with his trainer. He is always ready to shake hands or pose for a photo.

Modeled after a community fair of a century ago, Fireman’s Landing salutes the spirit and training activities of volunteer firefighters. The storyline comes from past history. The real 1880-town of Marmaros, located on the site of Silver Dollar City’s Town Square, burned to the ground over eight decades before the theme park’s buildings rose on the old foundations. The fictional story for Fireman’s Landing revolves around citizens who band together to train and recruit volunteers to prevent such a fire from ever occurring again.


Geyser  Gulch was fun, but Fireman’s Landing opens fresh new play areas the whole family can enjoy. And thanks to “Salvage Dawgs,” pieces of Geyser Gulch live on—possibly in places one never expects.

Silver Dollar City, an 1890s reproduction theme park near Branson, Missouri, features over 40 rides and attractions, 100 craftsmen demonstrating America’s heritage crafts, and seven world-class festivals and events. Open March through December. 


For more information: 800-831-4FUN or www.silverdollarcity.com.

Silver Dollar City’s New Fireman’s Landing Honors Firefighters With Family Fun




Silver Dollar City, an internationally-awarded theme park near Branson, Missouri, is built on history. The “City,” as many fondly call the 1880s-styled theme park, bases every ride, attraction, and festival on Ozarks history and culture. Hours of thought, research, and planning by Silver Dollar City staff go into a story line that envelops each state-of-the-art ride, show, or attraction introduced to the park. The Grand Exposition, a family and children’s area with an old fashioned carousel and a child-sized roller coaster, is themed around the great world fairs and expositions of the 1800s. Red-Gold Heritage Hall, a large theater and exhibition floor, copies the tomato canning factories that once boosted Ozarks economy. Homestead Ridge steps back into history with McHaffie’s Homestead, the Oak Trail School, and Wilderness Church.

The Giant Barn Swing is set inside—well, a red barn. Powder Keg roller coaster blasts off like a stick of dynamite, reminiscent of the mining days in Marvel Cave, the natural cave beneath the sidewalks, theaters, rides, and restaurants of Silver Dollar City. In fact, the Town Square is built on the site of the old mining town, Marmaros—a once bustling community filled with men mining bat guano from the cavern’s depths.

Naturally, the same planning and consideration went into Silver Dollar City’s 2015 launch of “Fireman’s Landing,” an $8 million all-new area with six new family rides and four interactive play zones. Themed as an 1880s volunteer recruitment fair with firefighter training activities, the ten new adventures recognize the contributions of community heroes who serve as firefighters. The theme has historical background in the fiery blaze that gobbled up the town of Marmaros over 100 years ago. In creating a story line for the new area, Brad Thomas, General Manager of Silver Dollar City, says: “We fast forward to the fictional story of Fireman’s Landing—a place where the citizens share a desire to band together to prevent such an event (as the fire that destroyed an entire community)—to be ready with volunteer recruits who have trained to test their preparedness. (The training happens in fun on the rides!) The message carries that everyone can give back through volunteerism and community spirit.”

Kids love to meet Fireman’s Landing official chief rescue dog Lucky, a costumed character that encourages new recruits to have fun and be ready in the firefighter’s tradition of neighbors helping neighbors. He starts each day leading the Fireman’s Pledge.

Fireman’s Landing expands into a previously undeveloped region of the park. The new addition brings the number of park rides and attractions to more than 40 and increases capacity to the possibility of 21,000 total rides per hour—21,000 people riding one time, or fewer people riding multiple times. With this new area of play and entertainment, Silver Dollar City launches its biggest family year ever.

Centered around the headquarters of Fire Station #3, rides feature Firefall, an eight-story fire tower free-fall drop ride for the more daring “recruits.” Other rides include, Fire Spotter with soaring balloons for spotting fire dangers; Fire Wagon Frenzy, a bouncing ride for bucket brigade volunteers; Lucky’s Dizzy Dogs, a bouncy ride on Dalmatians racing around a fire hydrant; Up The Ladder, a smaller tower drop ride for junior recruits; and Fireman’s Flyer, a low-flying swing ride for little firefighters.

Attractions include Firehouse Splash Yard with squirting water jets and pump hoses for outdoor play. Inside Fire Station #3, which is enclosed and temperature controlled for season-long comfortable play, youngsters are outfitted with buckets, pumpers, foam ball cannons and targets for showering mock fires. (The foam ball cannons have been personally kid-tested by our great-grandson, Timothy!) Firefighter’s Fire Escape is an obstacle course of tubes, mazes, climbing structures and slides. And Firefighter’s Junior Fire Escape is a soft play area for toddlers. Fireman’s Landing has something for every age in every family.

 “As we open a new area that salutes the spirit of community firefighters, we want to celebrate the real heroes who serve and invite them to make memories with their families,” continues General Manager Brad Thomas. “From the March 14 opening through May 3, the park is offering free admission to firefighters, and discounted admission available for their families.”

Fireman’s Landing Five-Alarm Grand Opening, with firefighters from around the country participating in the event, happens on April 11. The Showboat Branson Belle, a property of Herschend Family Entertainment, parent company of Silver Dollar City, is also honoring firefighters, offering a free lunch or dinner cruise, plus discounted family admission. Showboat Branson Belle launched its 20th Anniversary season on March 7. Details on how to obtain these tickets and offers are at www.silverdollarcity.com, under the special offers section, or by calling 800-831-4FUN(386).

Silver Dollar City hosts seven world-class festivals and events throughout its season, opening in 2015 on March 14 for select dates and for its regular season on April 9 and running through December 30. Throughout the year, 100 resident craftsmen demonstrate America’s heritage crafts—many still practiced in the Ozarks. Rides range from high speed roller coasters with names such as Wildfire, Thunderation, Outlaw Run, and previously mentioned, Powder Keg, to an authentic steam train ride. Music and entertainment with state-of-the-art sound and special effects happen in both indoor and outdoor venues. In a wooded, park-like setting, Silver Dollar City is a place for families and individuals to create memories worth repeating.

~ Showboat Branson Belle ~ 20th Anniversary Limited Engagement ~ Presenting the BIGGEST CAST Ever in...CELEBRATE!




The much-anticipated announcement of the 2015 show for the Showboat Branson Belle includes the biggest cast and show ever in the ship’s two-decade history of sailing Table Rock Lake. In honor of this timeline distinction, the cast and crew are preparing to feature a 20th Anniversary Limited Engagement show with new acts and returning favorites in CELEBRATE!  The stage of the authentic 1880s-style paddlewheeler will come dynamically to life through live music and more than a dozen performers presenting an eclectic array of entertainment from rhythmic dance to America’s long-time favorite vocal performances, from fresh and contemporary to musical classics.

The new show CELEBRATE!, featuring four complete acts, will be presented onboard America’s Most Entertaining Dinner Cruise beginning March 7, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. Most cruises in March are scheduled for a 4:00 p.m. launch. Some weekends in March offer a 12:00 p.m. and a 4:00 p.m. cruise. The Showboat Branson Belle maintains a more extensive schedule April through December. Check www.ShowboatBransonBelle.com for definite departures. 

First in the lineup of CELEBRATE! will be the all-new four-man dance troupe, The Rhythmics! presenting contemporary dance and bold footwork, billed as “The Fastest Feet West of the Mississippi.” Additionally featured will be one of Branson’s own, the beautiful Cassandr√© Faimon-Haygood, who has become a star on Branson stages, known for a voice pitch-perfect and powerful.

The ShowMen return with each of their five members bringing his own big personality, vocal talent and dancing abilities. The lineup is topped off with the returning Christopher James, one of the funniest, most memorable comedian magician emcees in Branson’s history. The cast is accompanied by the live band, The Rockin’ Dockers.

Starting May 23 on Memorial Day Weekend, a second cast will present the noon and Sunday CELEBRATE! Cruises, starring the world’s only aerial violinist, multi-talented Janice Martin. Classically trained and remarkably gifted as a musician equally skilled in piano, violin, and vocals, Janice combines gymnastics and aerial dance into her one-of-a-kind performance.

Janice will be joined by a new funnyman, the world-traveled ventriloquist Phil Hughes. Returning will be the clever magician and emcee Aaron Radatz and the live band, The Castaways.

The 700-passenger Showboat Branson Belle is the largest ship known to be built on an American land-locked lake. The football field-sized vessel was launched in April 1995 from the shoreline shipyard at White River Landing, located on the 800-mile shoreline of Table Rock Lake. Of historical significance, and in respect to the environment, her launching into the water was accomplished through the use of biodegradable bananas, rather than harmful lubricants.


The Showboat Branson Belle is a Silver Dollar City Attraction, part of America’s largest family-owned theme park corporation, Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation.

Tickets go on sale January 26.  
Information: www.ShowboatBransonBelle.com 
or  800-775-BOAT (2628).

Shake Off the Winter Blues... at Legends in Concert

On February 6, 2015, Legends in Concert kicks off their 2015 season in Branson, featuring stars of yesterday and today, including Kenny Chesney, Lionel Richie, Ann Margret, Bette Midler and Elvis.

Todd Bradshaw as Kenny Chesney returns to the Branson stage performing crowd pleasing hits such as "When the Sun Goes Down," "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem," and "Had Me From Hello."

"All Night Long," "I'm Easy," and "Brick House” are sure to have audiences "Dancing on the Ceiling" with the songs of Lionel Richie performed by Dave Lawrence.

Spring fever is in the air, warming us up with hits from Ann Margret, performed by Lori Russo. You'll hear "Rescue Me," "Gotta Lotta Living to Do," "Fever," and more.

Jennica McCleary pays tribute to the early years of Bette Midler. "In the Mood", "Mr. Sandman" and "Chapel of Love" are some fan favorites from “The Divine Miss M.”

Dust off your "Blue Suede Shoes" …because there's gonna be a whole lotta shakin' going on! Elvis has entered the building and will be performing "Jail House Rock," "If I Can Dream," the ever popular "jam session," and other favorites from The King of Rock and Roll.

These legendary artists will be performing on the Branson stage at the iconic Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater from February 6th through May 19th. Show times are 3 and 8 p.m. For more information, call 417-335-STAR or visit www.legendsinconcert.com. 

About Legends in Concert
Celebrating its 30th year, “Legends in Concert” is a live musical celebration featuring the world’s greatest celebrity tribute artists. The production is owned and operated by Las Vegas-based On Stage Entertainment, Inc. Widely recognized in the entertainment industry as the original celebrity tribute show, “Legends in Concert” currently operates numerous fixed-base touring, national touring, and limited-term and private engagements throughout the world. In addition to Branson, "Legends" is presented year-round in numerous cities including Myrtle Beach, SC, Las Vegas, NV, Atlantic City, NJ, Foxwoods, CT, Waikiki, HI, and on the high seas onboard the Norwegian EPIC.
 

LEGENDS in Concert ~ Schedule for 2015






SPRING 
 (Feb. 6 - May 19
Ann Margret, Kenny Chesney, Lionel Richie, Bette Midler, and Elvis 







SUMMER  (May 21 – Sept 8)
Adele, Michael JacksonBrooks and Dunn (May 21-July 31st), George Strait (8/1 - 9/7), The Blues Brothers™, Taylor Swift (June and July) and Elvis




FALL  (Sept. 10 - Oct. 31
Jerry Lee Lewis, Aretha Franklin, Patsy Cline, The Blues Brothers™ and Elvis





CHRISTMAS  (Nov. 1 – Jan. 2)  
Barry Manilow, Whitney Houston, Kenny Chesney, The Blues Brothers™ and Elvis  


Legends in Concert is located in the iconic Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater on Branson’s famous Highway 76 Strip. Dick Clark Productions displays memorabilia unavailable for viewing at any other locations.


Legends’ guests can enjoy dinner and cocktail service provided by Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grill in the VIP overlook while enjoying the show. Show times are 3 and  8 p.m. For more information, call 417-335-STAR or visit www.legendsinconcert.com.

It’s a Wonderful Life at Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas


It’s a Wonderful Life, is a Christmas tradition. To many families, watching the Christmas classic is a highlight of their Christmas celebration. The 1946 black and white movie is described as an American Christmas fantasy comedy-drama film set in the small imaginary town of Bedford Falls. Produced and directed by Frank Capra, the memorable movie stars a young James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who gave up his dreams to help others. An equally young Donna Reed plays his wife Mary. George Bailey’s guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, played by Henry Travers, guides the story’s hero to realize how one single life can positively touch an entire town. Although colorized versions have come out over the years, the original film is considered one of the most loved movies in American cinema, and has become established viewing during the Christmas season. The American Film Institute voted the ageless Christmas story as the “Number One Inspirational Film of All Time.”

At Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, the musical adaptation of It's a Wonderful Life is rapidly becoming another tradition for families visiting the 1890’s themed park. Although several musical versions of It’s a Wonderful Life tour the country, Silver Dollar City’s Brad Schroeder, Vice-President of Events & Entertainment, started from scratch to create a production custom-tailored to Silver Dollar City’s audiences. He originally wrote the script, thinking it would replace another park classic, A Dickens’ Christmas Carol, now running for the twelfth year at Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas Festival. Schroeder pitched his idea for It’s a Wonderful Life to the owners and the City’s management staff. They loved the story, but did not want to replace Dickens’ long run in the Opera House.  

The park’s other option for a large-scaled production is the Red-Gold Heritage Hall. The entertainment staff had never staged a multi-scene production in the large exhibition hall. However, Schroeder took up the challenge, investing five years in writing the script and selecting the scenes and music to fit into 60 minutes. He came up with the idea of using 100-foot background projections to create the 13 scenes—or locations—for the story line. “It’s a different artistic approach—more abstract,” he says. “In Dickens’, the sets are defined, detailed, and realistic. But It’s a Wonderful Life was first known to audiences as a movie, so people seem to relate to the more impressionistic style.

In selecting scenes, Schroeder decided to script the angel Joseph and the prospective angel, Clarence, like a Greek chorus—filling in the blanks of past events and moving the story from scene to scene. “We took liberties in selecting the scenes,” he says. “There’s no Uncle Billy misplacing the Building and Loan Association’s money; there’s no little daughter Zuzu remembering aloud that every time a bell chimes an angel earns his wings. In fact, there are no children performing in the production. All of those scenes in the story line are mere allusions.

“We took other liberties,” he continues. “For instance, when George Bailey is in the luggage shop picking out a suitcase for his worldwide travel, we produce a ‘fantasy’ that we call ‘The Landmark Ladies.’ A series of exotically costumed dancers enter the stage—much like the Ziegfeld Follies—depicting culture, dress, and customs of the lands George Bailey dreams of visiting.”

Schroeder says he always starts with the story and writes the script. Then he picks out songs that advance the plot, selecting from different Broadway shows, musicals, and recordings. For example, he chose “Journey to the Past” from Anastasia, but many people in the audiences do not realize the song is from the 1997 American animated musical fantasy-drama film.

Schroeder hands a sketch of what he wants for music to a musical director, who makes his home in California. The director writes the arrangements and sends Schroeder what is called a piano click in the musical production business. Next, the director adds other tracks. Schroeder says recordings are done in studios in Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Indiana, and sometimes on the director’s computer at his mother’s kitchen table in Pennsylvania. When it all comes together, the sound track goes into the computer in Red-Gold Heritage Hall and enhances the production. Schroeder explains that It’s a Wonderful Life uses the recorded sound track while A Dickens’ Christmas Carol incorporates some tracks in addition to a three-piece orchestra for its stage show. However, Schroeder emphasizes: “There are never any recorded vocals in our productions.”

Schroeder talks about the outstanding pool of entertainers Silver Dollar City has to cast both It’s a Wonderful Life and A Dickens’ Christmas Carol. “Each cast member brings to the stage vocals, dancing, and acting,” he says. “I tell them constantly that each performance has to be fresh. And it is. Not only from season to season, but from day to day while in production. 

It’s a Wonderful Life mounted three years ago in the Red-Gold Heritage Hall. A Dickens’ Christmas Carol plays in the Opera House on the opposite side of the park. Each production is different in eras, locations, costuming, and artistic presentation, but equally endearing to guests attending Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas Festival. New traditions are evolving from timeless stories and the characters who bring them to life. Indeed, It’s a Wonderful Life at Silver Dollar City during Christmastime. 

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A Dickens’ Christmas Carol

For twelve Christmas seasons, A Dickens’ Christmas Carol has headlined the stage at Silver Dollar City’s Opera House during An Old Time Christmas. Over one million guests have thrilled to the Broadway-styled adaptation of the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his encounter with three ghosts: the spirits of Christmas past, present, and future. Set in Victorian London, the musical adaptation written exclusively for Silver Dollar City is performed by a multi-talented cast that brings the ageless tale to life. The classic performance has become another Christmas tradition for annual guests to the City.

Set in a different era and a different country from It’s a Wonderful Life, the Dickens’ musical casts children. However, in its 12-year run, Schroeder says the youngsters in A Christmas Carol have grown up and promoted to different roles. “Originally, a young girl played Tiny Tim,” he says. “She outgrew that role and became the big sister. Now, she has become a young woman and is in the chorus.

“Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present are married,” he continues. In jest he adds, “I often check with our producer to see if everything is all right between them. She literally flies onto the set, her with long flowing hair in wild array, dressed in the brilliant white of a fairy, and ‘whips’ the old Scrooge into line, swatting him with her wand!”

Schroeder goes on to say that the actor and singer who portrays Scrooge performs in Garth Brooks-style at the Echo Hollow Amphitheatre on summer evenings. “That shows the talent and versatility of our cast—switching from a proper English accent to the sound of country in our summertime show. The Ghost of Christmas Present also performs the role of the angel in the cemetery in A Dickens’ Christmas Carol.”