Bonnie Petrie

Branson, Missouri: After Tornado, Tourists Welcomed

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class=”thumbnail-image-float-left ssNonEditable”>Creatas Images/Thinkstock(BRANSON, Mo.) — Photos of tornado damage in Branson, Mo., show wrecked cars and smashed buildings, but the show must go on in the entertainment center.

The debris had barely settled when the town’s public relations team distributed a press release titled: ”Branson recovery already underway after brush with tornado.”

Branson, which has a population of about 10,000 according to the U.S. Census, had a close encounter with a tornado earlier on Wednesday.  Gary Groman, media relations for Branson, which is called the Midwest’s music theater capital, said the population of the town can swell to hundreds of thousands of people on the weekends.

The “Branson strip,” which refers to the theaters, restaurants and other attractions along the part of Highway 76 that runs through the town, was open on Thursday though it was closed the day before, Groman said.

About four or more of the town’s 50 theaters were hit by the tornado, he said, while the vast majority were not badly damaged.

About a dozen of the 200-plus hotels in the town “have sustained significant damage as a result of the storms,” but the Branson Airport was unaffected by the storms, Branson’s Convention and Visitors’ Bureau said.

The Branson Variety Theater is closed pending repairs, and a spokeswoman said ticket holders can call the theater for a refund or make arrangements to attend another time.  The Americana Theatre is closed for repairs and its calls are being re-routed to the RFD-TV theater, which hosts the Roy Rogers, Jr. show.

Trey Pelz, the general manager of the RFD-TV theater said the majority of shows and hotels in Branson are still open for business.

“The town is at about 80 percent and within a month or two, we’ll be back to 100 percent,” Pelz said.

The release stated that major attractions such as Silver Dollar City, Sight and Sound Theatre, and Showboat Branson Belle, TITANIC Museum Attraction, Tanger Outlet Mall, and numerous theatres, attractions, restaurants and retail stores are “undamaged and remain open and [welcome] visitors to the Live Music Show Capital of the World.”

“We are extremely thankful that there was no reported loss of life due to the tornado that struck Branson on the morning of February 29, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those families who did lose loved ones as a result of this large storm system that affected much of the Midwest,” Branson’s city administrator, Dean Kruithof, said in the statement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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