Photographs by Courtesy Photo
Performer Lezlie Young soars above the toys in a Nutcracker scene during Christmas at Dixie Stampede in Branson.
Sunday, December 3, 2017
"There is no feeling like it," says Lezlie Young. "Soaring above the arena as the Sugar Plum Fairy and bringing the toys to life is terrific."
Young, who grew up in Branson, is in her second year as a featured performer at the Dixie Stampede. Most of the time, that means she's astride a horse. But this season, Young is above all that.
WHEN — Through Dec. 31
WHERE — 1525 W. 76 Country Blvd. in Branson
COST — $29.99-$54.99
INFO — 417-336-3000, dixiestampede.com
"When I first put on the harness, they hooked up the cable, and away I went," she says. "I instantly fell in love with it. The aerial act consists of a lot of body control, which was a big challenge in the beginning. But pretty soon I learned the control and was able to add a touch of grace.
"Christmas season is very special time for my family," she adds. "We enjoy time together, and many of them come to see me in the 'Christmas At Dixie Stampede' show. We celebrate the real meaning of Christmas and all the wonderful traditions. I always enjoy Christmas and all the joy that fills the air."
The Dixie Stampede -- in its 23rd season -- takes family, food and Christmas seriously.
"Like most everything in Branson, we're celebrating the true meaning of Christmas," says spokesman John Richardson. "We have a lot of repeat traffic this time of year. Families that used to come in twos and fours now come in 10s and 20s! We make a connection with people they want to repeat, and Christmas is all about tradition."
During the regular season, the Dixie Stampede is all about the horses -- and the buffalo, the longhorn cattle, the obstacle-racing dogs and the 40 doves of peace released at the show's climax. At Christmas, the buffalo and the cattle are replaced by donkeys, sheep, goats, live camels bearing the three kings and one lone dove that flies across the arena and lands on the finger of a flying angel.
"It's very emotional," Richardson says. "You can hear the crowd whisper, 'Wow.'"
The Christmas show also includes a skating sequence set to "We Need a Little Christmas" -- with world renowned ice skaters Kassandra Hazard and Luke Munana appearing exclusively at Christmas At Dixie Stampede in Branson; Santa's toy shop -- during which the toys dance to the music of "The Nutcracker"; and finally the Nativity. That means 36 performers, 42 working in food service -- Richardson says the Dixie Stampede is known for its food -- and as many as five shows a day to meet sales.
"Five shows is about the limit for our cast, our animals and our kitchen," he says. "We do have the flexibility to add shows on demand, which is a nice luxury to have. Our food suppliers area prepared for that. But on those five show days, the food staff gets here really early!"
The Dixie Stampede runs like "a well-tuned machine," he says proudly. "We track sales by the hour so we know how many to cook for. The food needs to come out of the oven fresh and hot. Everything happens in a very precise way."
The goal, he says, is to please "mama," the matriarch who makes the decisions for her family.
"If mama's happy, everybody's happy," Richardson says. "When I come out of the theater in the evening, I act like I'm waiting on someone, and I listen. They're talking about their favorite part of the show. I hear stories that the kids always fall asleep in the car on the drive back. Talk about scoring a home run with mom!
"It's my belief we make a heart connection with them. We bring families together and create a holiday tradition."
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