In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I just want to share a few memories of Branson that mean the world to me…
The first time I ever heard of Branson, MO, I was a freshman in college – a girl’s school approximately 4 hours away from here. A friend asked if I wanted to go with her to Branson for Spring Break. Being 1500 miles away from home, I thought it made sense to take a little road trip with her. She had the car, a place to stay, and the knowledge to get us there and back. So I agreed. With her big sister in college at School of the Ozarks, we got to spend some time on a co-ed campus and we felt older and wiser than we actually were. (Little did I know a few short years later I would transfer to this college to get my Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and Art.) It was a fun, intriguing sort of adventure for my first Spring Break ever and it drew my friend and me closer. We’re still friends to this day. We both live close by and work in Branson. Hmmm…
…while in school, one day I saw a sign posted on the bulletin board for a local restaurant needing some help. In particular, they needed a hostess. My parents always said I would be good at a job like that with the personality I was given. I tended to be warm and personable and friendly, due largely to the wholesome upbringing I received in Montana, my birthplace and the Christian values instilled in me throughout my childhood and young adult life. So I thought I’d apply and see if I could get the job. I was hired on the spot by Bob Sutherland and ended up working at Sadie’s Sideboard for 10 years. It was the perfect job for a college student, from 4pm-9pm a few nights a week. I still had time to study and I made many good friends along the way.
Upon graduating from School of the Ozarks (now College of the Ozarks), I got hired full-time at Sadie’s to work in the office, grow the bus tour group business, plus I waited tables at night. My younger brother came to live with me and he, along with a number of his friends also worked at Sadie’s. After about 5 years, I remember my boss talking to me about a new guy he was thinking about hiring as the manager. I remember being curious but not concerned as I headed to Montana for a long-needed vacation. When I got back, the new guy was already making a difference and I saw immediately why. He was energetic, fun, good-natured, and the hardest worker I had ever met besides my dad.
Since it was my personal policy not to date a co-worker, I always joke that we didn’t actually ever date. We were friends for a long while, which gave us a solid foundation, and eventually he asked me to marry him which I’m certain I never did say yes to! But here we are, almost 21 years later, still married and thankful for the blessings of the miracle marriage we share. We were married in the restaurant. It was simple and sweet. We had to plan the ceremony and the honeymoon around business and of course, the Chiefs play-off status. So Jan. 6 (known in my family as “Little Christmas” or Ephiphany – the day the Wisemen visited the King of Kings baby Jesus) we exchanged our vows. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect. The restaurant was beautifully made with a wooden interior. The plain pine trees decorated with clear lights was reminiscent of the way my dad decorated our church in Montana one Christmas. It was so simple…and yet so beautiful. So I borrowed the idea.
Since it was the “off-season” and town was pretty quiet, the whole wedding party stayed at the Clarion at the Palace. Dwight and Linda Sprague gave us a phenomenal deal. Friends and family enjoyed the Oasis Lounge on the property and the indoor pool and hot tub. (To this day, friends and family still opt to stay at the Clarion when visiting Branson.) I remember hot blueberry muffins the morning of the wedding. I remember a blanket of snow. And I distinctly remember Dwight himself out shoveling a path from the hotel to the restaurant so guests could easily and safely get from one location to the other. Keith Kumming, who now owns a successful catering company along with his wife Teresa, called T and K Catering (tandkcaterings.com) made a scrumptious feast for the wedding reception. We danced the night away at a local hot spot called Holly’s. And I still remember my mom and dad dancing together (mom is 70 now and dad has been deceased for 10 years).
Hmmm…I’m starting to see a pattern here, aren’t you? Circumstances leading me down a path that was uniquely created for me…
…after 10 years of many fond and some sorrowful memories at Sadie’s Sideboard, my husband Tim and I decided to have a baby. This led me to a career change. I remember waddling into a couple of college buddies’ business called Branson Nights. I could barely get into the chair. We talked about if there was anything I could do for them. 3 weeks after having our sweet baby boy (now 17), I went to work for Dave Holmes. Paul Miller and Jerry Seidfrid trained me. I had no idea I what I was doing, but they coached me and encouraged me and I’m still in the same industry today. I’ve worked for some of the biggest travel companies in town, including Ozark Ticket & Travel and Branson Tourism Center. Each of those experiences shaped me and molded me into the Travel Specialist I am today. I get to work with some of the best people in town! I have worked for the Myer Family for 12 years now. I manage iBranson Ticket Services, specializing in sales and service. And I am head of Vendor Relations, which has brought about so many amazing memories. I’ve met some of the most dedicated workers in town. And some of the most down-to-earth stars. I’ve gotten to enhance my own and my family’s life experiences by being in this industry. Because the company I work for owns six award-winning hotels - Comfort Inn & Suites, Comfort Inn at Thousand Hills, Quality Inn West, Holiday Inn Express, Best Western Music Capital, and Best Western Center Pointe Inn – my family has enjoyed discounted lodging all over the nation. This has enabled us to travel affordably, which has made travel and family time that much more accessible. We particularly enjoy sporting events and concerts, so we’ve been able to participate regularly simply because we’re not spending a fortune on hotels. What a benefit. What a blessing!
At one point, Dwight & Linda Sprague asked Tim and Keith if they would like to run Sadie’s as their own. We all jumped at the opportunity to carry on the tradition and infuse some new ideas, create a website, develop a gift shop, and continue to provide cherished memories for families bringing their families to a place that they got to visit as children. What a learning experience! What a joy. We put our hearts into the place and gave it all we had. When Sadie’s closed at the end of the 2014 season, it was the end of an era. And yet a fabulous new restaurant was born, called Buckingham’s and guests are still treated to incredible meals and great service! And we get to focus on the new direction we’re being led as a couple and a family.
We get to raise our family in a wholesome environment, surrounded by the beautiful Ozark Mountains. We have entertainment choices easily accessible, that some families rarely or never experience. We get to work with fundamentally sound, often Christian-based companies. We live in a community that celebrates Faith & Family, Veterans & Virtue, Hospitality in the truest sense of the word, and the Word itself! What more could we ask for? Sometimes I just wonder how did I get so lucky? And then I realize it has absolutely nothing to do with luck! I am abundantly blessed. , touching lives personally and professionally in a positive manner every day, right where God has placed me. Thankful for the opportunity to live this life He’s given me. Thankful for the area we’re in. Thankful for the schools and the community leaders…thankful for the Myer Family and the jobs and leadership they provide…thankful for the mentors and the understudies….thankful for the formal education I’ve received and the informal education I get every day with each new adventure. Thankful for His grace and mercies. Thankful for the creativity He’s instilled in me. Thankful for the gift of love.