March 1, 2012 in Nation/World

Tourist mecca takes a hit

Associated Press photo

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon tours storm damage in a motorcade along Highway 76 in Branson, Mo., on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

 Long a tourist destination for visitors attracted to the Ozark Mountains, Branson rose to prominence in the 1990s because of its theaters, which drew country music stars including Merle Haggard and Crystal Gayle, as well as other musical celebrities such as Chubby Checker and Andy Williams.

 Looking at the city’s main strip Wednesday, it was difficult to believe there weren’t more serious injuries from the storm. But the impacts on the city’s tourist spots varied widely.

 The Legends Theater, the Andy Williams Moon River Theater and the Branson Variety Theater all sustained significant damage. The Veterans Memorial Museum was in shambles, and a small military jet that sat in front of the museum was blown apart.

 But some of the most popular theaters were barely damaged. The popular Presley’s Country Jubilee was virtually unscathed, as was Yakov Smirnoff’s theater. A manager at the Baldknobbers Jamboree Show expected to cancel just three or four shows before performances resume next week.

 Branson is about 110 miles southeast of Joplin, which was devastated by a monstrous twister last May that killed 161 people. Memories of that disaster motivated people to take cover after the sirens sounded early Wednesday.

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