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BRANSON NEWS: This country is awfully big—too big, in fact—and you can take that as gospel from someone who logs, on average, about 100,000 miles a year by car, trying to take it all in. That’s my job, and there are far worse jobs, I can assure you; happily, I’m rarely in a hurry. It’s not like I’m a truck driver—if I see a town coming up that I know is worth a detour, I can probably make the time, and that’s how I got back to Branson, Missouri a few weeks ago. That’s always how I get to Branson, noted entertainment capital of the Midwest, and referred to famously on an episode of The Simpsons as “Las Vegas,” if it were run by Ned Flanders.
Anyone who has been to Branson can tell you, this is no exaggeration—the town comes off so God-fearing, it makes Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, its relatively worldly cousins over in Tennessee, look like Sodom and Gomorrah. Not that it’s all that simple—at my first Branson stage show, the name of which I cannot recall (probably for the best), I remember being amused by the way the cast skated at lightning speed between cringe-making double entendre, USA-make-them-pay patriotism, and stirring renditions of old hymns that might even bring a tear to the eye of any visiting heathen. Some of Branson’s finest attractions, and they are considerable in number, are pleasantly agnostic—you don’t have to be a Christian, cultural or otherwise, to enjoy the Butterfly Palace, a rainforest environment filled with thousands of colorful winged things, or to get a kick out of the World’s Largest Toy Museum, or to appreciate the gorgeous expanse of Table Rock Lake, best viewed from a high floor at the Chateau on the Lake, my favorite hotel in town, where you can sit on your balcony in silence, gazing out above the tops of the Ozarks...
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