County: Stone, Taney
Coverage Area (Total): 16.3 sq. miles
Elevation: 778 ft.
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Branson was established in 1882 by Reuben Branson and incorporated in 1912. It is currently called "the live music show capital of the world." Branson's entertainment roots began when William Henry Lynch purchased Marble Cave (renamed Marvel Cave) in 1894 and charged admission for visitor tours. In 1950, the cave was leased and modernized by Hugo and Mary Herschend, and in 1960, the couple opened Silver Dollar City. The attraction was a re-creation of a frontier town that featured shops, a church, and a log cabin where actors played out the famous feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys.
In that same year, the Old Mill Theater began its first outdoor production based on Harold Bell Wright's famous novel, "The Shepherd of the Hills," which still runs today. In the early 1980s, Chisai Child's Starlite Theater was one of the first to introduce stage sets, elaborate costume changes, and non-country music selections. The opening of the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre in 1983 marked the beginning of Branson's transformation into a major tourist attraction.
In all, Branson has more than 50 theaters and has hosted celebrities such as Mel Tillis, Ray Stevens, Moe Bandy, Box Car Willie, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Glen Campbell, and others. In 2005, the New Shanghai Theatre, featuring the Acrobats of China, opened in Branson. And, in 2006, Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theatre became the most recent edition to the theaters built along Highway 76.
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