Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nashville Flood Recovery Expedition

I have a great deal of empathy for anyone who experiences a flood, mainly because of being a resident of a town that flooded in the 1960's. The raging waters that rushed through our community in the middle of the night, destroyed my parents' business, as well as the homes and businesses of countless other folks. I remember how much my parents appreciated the help of their customers and suppliers in making allowances for lost inventory and lost orders. I remember how much I looked forward each morning to the Red Cross truck coming by my parents' business after the flood, to serve us coffee and donuts, as we washed what seemed like endless piles of merchandise that was covered in mud. I remember the amazing attitude my parents had about the whole thing---never cursing their fate , or their God, but rather, determined to get through the ordeal even stronger than they had been before the flood. I remember the flood cleanup because it was the first time I had ever seen a dead body at a location other than a funeral home. (That is because one of the fatalities of the flood lived in a house across the street from my parents' business; I was nearby when the rescue workers pulled his body from the rubble, and loaded it into an open jeep vehicle to be taken to the morgue. His feet were sticking out from under the tarp that covered his lifeless body, and as it drove past me, I was stunned at the sad reality of what I saw.) I remember missing the last month of school that year because of flood damage to the area, and the need for every available student to be helping full time with flood clean-up. All these things I remembered about the flood I experienced, made me keenly aware of the heart-felt appeal from the mayor of Nashville, via a television show reporting on the flood, when he said one of the best ways the average TV viewer could help Nashville recover, was to come visit them in the near future as a tourist. I decided that was the least I could do for my neighbors to the east. Plus, it would probably be fun!! So, I signed up to take a trip with fifty other folks, who would travel via motor coach, to see the sights, and hear the sounds, of "Music City--USA". In the first photo collage, the top two pictures show the famous replica of the Greek Parthenon, that is in Nashville's beautiful Centennial Park. The bottom three photos show scenes from the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. Both parks are great places to not only learn lots of history, but also great spaces for getting in your 10,000 steps for your pedometer!

Every place our group went, the business owners thanked us profusely for visiting their town. The poster in the upper left corner of this collage is just one of many I saw with a similar message. Our hotel also had a large, framed poster in the lobby, from the mayor of Nashville, thanking us for visiting their city after the flood, and for bringing business to the hotels and restaurants there. The top right photo is a reminder that Nashville is also the state capitol of Tennessee, and their state capitol building sits on a tall hill overlooking the Bicentennial Park Mall. It is a very impressive sight. The flood did not change the skyline of Nashville, with the AT&T (aka, the "Batman Building") still dominating the scene (middle right photo). The distinctive architecture of Ryman Auditorium (lower right photo) is almost covered up by the buildings that surround it, yet it is instantly recognizable, as the birthplace of the original Grand Ole Opry.

A few years back, I had the great pleasure of going to a Grand Ole Opry performance when Harrison, Arkansas, native, Brian McComas, was performing. I was helping Brian's wife and mom look after their kiddies, as we sat near the main stage, and beamed with pride to see Brian perform. What was so astounding to me regarding that event, was seeing Brian off-state after his performance. Expecting that his first question to all of us might be "How did I do? What did you think of my performance?"; rather, his first question to me was "Did my kids behave?" I was impressed that he was more concerned about his success at being a father, than at his success at being a country music star. That performance I attended to see Brian was in the "new" location of the Grand Ole Opry, located in the Opryland Complex of Music Valley. However, the Opryland venue was flooded, hence the Grand Ole Opry performances were moved BACK to Ryman Auditorium after the floods, until repairs can be made to the new and larger Opryland Theater. Personally, I was glad to get to go to a show in Ryman Auditorium, as I have heard about it all my life, but had never visited it until last week. In this photo collage, there is a shot of the Diamond Rio group performing. Notice the Church-like windows and church pew seats of the Ryman. That is because it was originally built as a tabernacle to worship God, and only years later, was it converted for secular use. Of course, they pay tribute each night to the well-known "Minnie Pearl" character, with a simulated Minnie Pearl posing for photos and greeting the crowd. (top right photo)

The Country Music Hall of Fame was another place that I am "99.9% sure, I've never been here before"---to quote the chart-topping recording Brian McComas made famous. My favorite feature of the architecture of the building was the way the front was designed to look like a piano keyboard. Once inside, I was fascinated with the exhibits, and the variety of country music sounds one could listen to. Since I have put an old pair of Brian's shoes from his childhood in a glass-covered wooden box (for future inclusion in a museum exhibit somewhere!), I took photos of many of the shoes of famous country music stars that were on display in the Nashville Hall of Fame. My favorite was the pair of duct-tape covered cowboy boots that belonged to Hank Williams, III (lower left photo). All in all, it was a great trip, and I am glad that I had this opportunity to be a tourist in Nashville. There is a verse in the Bible (Roman 5:3) that says "suffering produces perseverance", so perhaps this suffering that Nashville has endured from their floods of last spring, will produce perseverance in their character as a city. There is also a different kind of verse the suffering may produce----verses to a hit country music song! Since we all know that country music songs love to tell a sad story of suffering, maybe someone on the famous "Music Row" will be inspired to come up with the next big award-winning song we hear on the radio, that is based on the 2010 spring floods in Nashville, Tennessee. If you would like to help the Nashville area recover from the floods, or perhaps have a suggestion for a flood-related country song, just log onto their official website http://www.visitmusiccity.com/ for help in planning your trip. Wishing you miles of musical smiles! Tricia
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Saturday, September 4, 2010

World Expedition---Without a Passport!!

There was a new marketing campaign in Branson this year, with the theme that you could "See the world in Branson---no passport required!." If you have done any traveling outside the United States, or even applied for one of the new, higher priced passports recently, you can more fully appreciate the opportunity to sample various cultures outside our borders, WITHOUT having to go through the hassles of Customs Bureau Interrogations! Even though the slogan was new in 2010, the Silver Dollar City International Festival has been occurring every spring in Branson for over a decade. I was delighted to get to attend this year, as well as many past years, coming away amazed at the talent, artistry, and costuming that these performers from other countries bring with them during their short visit to the Ozarks each spring. Often I have stayed until closing time at Silver Dollar City, just to be able to participate in the closing ceremony for the International Festival each year. During that time, the park attendees and the foreign performers make a huge circle in the main street area of Silver Dollar City---it is done, so that the foreign performers are interspersed among the park attendees---and then an appropriate song is voiced by all present. It is a great feeling to be physically bonded with people from all over the world---sort of like the Coke TV commercial of the last century that showed people from all around the world holding hands! So get ready to launch your boat for the first bit of the journey!! My launch, on the ever-popular "Ride the Ducks" attraction charted a different course than previous Duck excursions I had been on which took the passengers out into Table Rock Lake. This time our "Duck" drove past Branson Landing, and directly into the chilly waters of Lake Taneycomo. This enabled me to see Branson Landing from its "waterfront" side, rather than its "street front" side. This ride would be especially scenic after dark, when the "Bellagio-style" fiery fountains of Branson landing, are doing their hourly shows.

Back in August, I was able to add some countries to my "passport", when I visited three venues that represented Great Britain. The first was the Titanic Museum. At this interactive museum you are given the boarding pass for someone who was really a passenger on the ill-fated Titanic voyage. You do not know until you get completely through the museum if the passenger you represent, lived or died the night the Titanic sank. One of the Titanic passengers had the same family name as my relatives---Parrish. So, of course, I was especially relieved when I found out that "Passenger Parrish did not perish", and in fact, went on to live a long and productive life following her rescue from the sinking ship. And who can think of the music of England, and not have that famous group, "The Beatles" come to mind? The sister of Beatles member, George Harrison, lives in Missouri, and developed a tribute show to the music of the Beatles, called "Louise Harrison's Liverpool Legends". It is a great romp through the history of their music, from their start in a Liverpool, England cellar, through their world tours, and later years. There are extensive video clips, costume and set changes by the four Beatles "look alikes", and plenty of opportunities to twist and shout, if you felt like it! The night I was there, Louise Harrison, actually came out on stage during intermission, and took questions from the audience, regarding her brother, and any other Beatle trivia that someone wanted to ask. I doubt that she is there every show, however, because she told the audience she was scheduled for a hip replacement the following week. One thing I found very interesting, since just this summer, I met a member of the Lambert family, after whom the St. Louis airport, Lambert Field, is named. One of the video clips tells that George Harrison actually came to the USA, years before the Beatles ever appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. The news reel says he flew into "Lambert Field" in St. Louis, to visit his sister, Louise, who lived near there! The third attraction, representative of Great Britain that I got to see, was the new exhibition of personal items and artifacts associated with Princess Diana. The exhibition takes you from her child hood home, her courtship, her royal wedding, and marriage. Several of her actual formal gowns are on display, along with the stories about when and where they were worn. I found the entire exhibition fascinating!
Moving eastward from Great Britain, my next stop was China. I had seen the Acrobats of China in Branson in previous years, so this time I wanted to see the "new kid in town" which is the show called "The Legend of Kung Fu". I have several friends and family members involved in martial arts, so I was intrigued by what the show would be like. Their advertisements said some of the performers had actually been part of that incredible opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, which I thought was totally awesome! In fact, the martial arts moves showcased in "The Legend of Kung Fu" were stunning, as was the artistry of the aerial performers. But be forewarned: There is a LIBERAL amount of Buddhist philosophy throughout the narrative parts of the show. It was quite the contrast to the respectful references to Jesus Christ, given during the The Baldknobbers show, that I had enjoyed the night before. You do not have to be concerned that one no longer can enjoy "American" music in Branson. In fact, it goes back to the native Americans, with the addition of "Brule", which is billed as a "native American rock opera", complete with authentic costumes, native American dances and drumming. My all-time favorite (non-floating) USA-style dinner show in Branson is the Dixie Stampeed. It goes through several eras of American history---much of it done on horseback in the big center arena---in such an entertaining way, you may forget that you are even getting a history lesson. I was especially interested in their portrayal of the Civil War, since there is a big promotion going on in my state for the Civil War Sesquicentennial, which will be 2011-2015 (http://www.arkansascivilwar150.com/). Of course, my favorite FLOATING dinner show is the Showboat Branson Belle, with its performers singing their hearts out telling about riverboat history of the 1800's. Another example of a non-USA country that I got to visit was the Butterfly Palace and Tropical Rainforest. There is even a coconut tree there for one to climb, if they felt so inclined to do so! Another representative of Europe, is the Stonehill Winery. The tasting rooms there are designed to look like German wine cellars, and the company, was indeed, started by German immigrants.

After attending the Moscow Circus performance, I can now say that it is my favorite (non-floating) "FOREIGN COUNTRY" dinner show. It was so much FUN!! Here's another warning, however: Watch out for flying beach balls overhead that start as the size of a cantaloupe, and progress to the size of a Volkswagen!! I had heard that they served a "boxed dinner", and I was having lots of trouble envisioning how that was going to be of much entertainment value---boy, was I wrong!! When it was meal time, the theater went totally black, then it went to "black light", so that some of your clothing glowed. Then these glow-in-the-dark, costumed GIANTS came down the aisles, pushing carts, with boxes on them that were also glowing in the dark. One color box was for grown-ups, and another color box for children. When you received your box, and opened it up, it was filled with individually packaged Russian-style foods, plus glow-in-the-dark eating utensils. It was really quite clever, the way it was done! The next day after the "glow in the dark" experience at the Moscow Circus, the Bible verse for my First Place 4 Health (http://www.firstplace4health.com/) lesson was from Isaiah 58:10. The Message paraphrase of the verse says that if we lived as God wanted us to live "Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness." I now have an image of that verse in my mind that I will never forget, thanks to the Moscow Circus!
Soooo, if you are ready to explore the world, you need go no further than Branson, Missouri!! Either of these websites will point you to everything you need to know for YOUR expedition: http://www.explorebranson.com/ or http://www.seetheworldinbranson.com/ Bon voyage, and miles of smiles!! TriciaPosted by Picasa