|Ozarks settler Reuben S. Branson opened a general store in 1882. Needless to say, he used his own name when submitting paperwork to the U.S. Post Office in order to set up a postal branch in the store. But Branson wasn't incorporated into a city until April 1, 1912, after a minister named Harold Bell Wright, who had settled in the area from Kansas at the advice of his physician, gained popularity for his novel called Shepherd of the Hills. The book, that described the self-reliant hill people he had encountered in the wooded valleys, mountain "balds" and incredible area cave (Marvel Cave now a part of Silver Dollar City), attracted large numbers of visitors. And the ways of attracting visitors grew from that point on.
Beloved Bob Hubbard of the Foggy River Boys fame (in white shirt pointing) is shown atop the new Taneycomo River Bridge in Branson just before doing the honors of blessing the fleet.
More than a dozen boats (from Kanakuk Kamp, Bass Pro Shops, Lilley's Landing and Ride the Ducks) were led down Lake Taneycomo by the Main Street Paddlewheel during the latest celebration in honor of Branson's 100th anniversary.
During the Branson summer centennial celebration visitors waved branches as part of Branson's first "Blessing of the Fleet."
Branson at the Bridge was one of the events planned for the city of Branson's year-long centennial celebration. It took place on July 7, 2012, atop and near the new Taneycomo Bridge adjacent to Branson Landing.
For three hours visitors listened to live musical entertainment that varied from Branson's own hee haw-style to Basin Street rhythm and blues. They could send their kids to a bounce house, eat treats from Kona ice to cotton candy and stroll around a tent where members of the Branson Arts Council were displaying their work.
At about 8 p.m. with the sighting of a paddlewheel from Main Street Marina, folks began waving arborvitae branches (traditional olive branches were not as available) for Branson's first "Blessing of the Fleet." For about the next hour boats one by one filled the Taneycomo.
Standing on top of the Taneycomo Bridge was Rev. Bob Hubbard, provisional minister of the Branson Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and member of two musical groups, the Jordanaires and the Foggy River Boys that was first founded in Joplin before relocating to the Branson area. Hubbard, also known as "the Colonel" on Joplin TV, offered blessings for the unique regatta of local watercraft that passed by. He was surrounded by locals who had decided that the vantage point atop the bridge was better than beside or on the river. Others, however, were paddleboat guests--including Branson Mayor Raeanne Presley, co-owner of Presley's Country Jubilee--while many settled in their own canvas chairs along the riverbank.
Fireworks filled the sky at about 10 p.m. In a word they were "awesome." There were three semi-finales with beautifully integrated clusters that popped into view forming intricate kaleidoscopic patterns and a grand finale that incorporated sound with the fantastic visuals. (Joplin, shame on you for not increasing your fireworks budget for July 4!)
Suggestions for 100 ways to celebrate Branson's centennial have been posted here.