On a recent Branson excursion I stopped in to catch the 2011 Dixie Stampede show. Granted, no Dolly Parton to be found, but the show was great and the value impressive.
“BRANSON, Mo. — It wasn’t Shelly Ginhorn’s first time at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede.
“I come a couple of times a year,” the 30-year-old Branson resident said as she ripped the leg off a small roasted chicken. “It’s just fun. They try to make it the best experience for the audience. It’s good food and I don’t mind eating with my fingers.”
A couple of seats down the row, Gretchen Webb clapped and cheered as trick riders circled the 1,100-seat arena on horseback.
“There’s nothing else like it anywhere,” the former Stampede performer said. “There is so much entertainment and it’s the best value out there. You get a meal and two shows.”
For eight seasons, Webb, 28, entertained crowds riding and dancing in the show, which pays tribute to America ’s Southern and Western culture and traditions. Webb, who is occasionally called back to saddle up and fill in, said she loves the spectacle of the main show and the charm of the Carriage Room preshow.
“I loved working here,” Webb said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s so fun working with the animals. You never know what they are going to do.”
When Brian Louderbaugh, production manager for Branson’s Dixie Stampede, hears that kind of high praise — even from a former employee — he knows his job is done.
“We have a blast,” he said. “I still miss performing, but the great part is working with the young performers and the audience. That is really a reward for me.”
Louderbaugh started at Dixie as a performer in 1995. He learned how to trick ride, worked his way up the ranks and has managed the production for nine seasons. He oversees the animals’ training and care; performers, technical issues and pre-show.
With additional shows scheduled for Branson’s spring break weeks, the 2011 Dixie Stampede show includes a buffalo stampede, a heard of Texas longhorns, a Native American aerial act, 32 riders on horseback, a wagon train, some homespun comedy and a “friendly competition” between The North and The South.
Laced between Dixie’s take on the Antebellum South is a tribute to the grass grazing giants that roamed the American West.
“I feel like (the buffalo) are going to be a big draw for us this year,” Louderbaugh said. “We had them back in ‘04 and it really was big. People don’t usually get to be that close to buffalo.”
While the buffalo impress show goers, the production’s herd of longhorn cattle takes the audience aback, too. The original plan was to put the longhorn out to pasture for the 2011 season. A last minute decision kept the herd in Dixie’s coral.
“They give everybody an idea of what it would have been like back in the Old West,” he said. “I felt like it was a part of the show that we couldn’t afford to take out.”
Lauderbaugh said he’s pleased with the way this seasons “Into the West” musical production number has taken shape. The show features American Indians, cowboys, buffalo and longhorns in a 13-minute number that “really gets the audiences going,” Lauderbaugh said.
“They see the wagon train comes in with whips cracking and trick ropes spinning and fire blowing,” he said. “Add in horses, great performers with a great number, and you are really just going to shoot through the roof.”
While Dixie Stampede has something for the entire family to enjoy, it may appeal to young people most.
“It’s a great chance for kids to come in and act up,” he explained. “Kids can be rowdy and have fun and the parents don’t have to get on to them. That’s what we want and encourage. Kids can be kids. Even adults can be kids.””