Silver Dollar City, the Theme Park, was created over the mouth of Marvel Cave…
Silver Dollar City now sits on top of a huge cave named Marble cave and it was discovered by Osage Indians in the 1500’s and was later explored by those that let themselves down via rope ladders as the opening of the cave is above the main room about 200 feet high and a verticle cave is much different from a horizontal cave that would go into a hill or cliff area. Miners looked for minerals and marble in the cave but found little but Batt droppings that were used for fertilizer. A mining man named William Henry Lynch heard about the cave and bought it unseen and moved his family there and started giving tours in 1894. His daughters later operated the tour business. Mr. Lynch cleared the trees and brush and made a crude road to get folks out to the cave and that road now is Route 76 known as 76 Country Blvd.In 1946, Chicagoans Hugo and Mary Herschend vacationed in the Ozarks and discovered the cave now called Marvel Cave because of its awesome proportions.
Silver Dollar City aka SDC, I guess began when the Herschend family leased the Marvel Cave and started charging folks to climb down a ladder to look at it. That was in 1950 and they soon built some shops around the mouth of the cave and eventually started to create a 1880 era village. People continued to come in increasing numbers and the park continued to grow. Two of folks fondest things are food and entertainment and SDC soon had both quite well covered. Folks enjoyed going down into the cave for a adventure then leaning back and resting while they eat traditional Ozark Mountain Country food and drank some Moon, Or I mean beverages and listened to Ozark Mountain Country music. When the young folks got tired of looking at the cave the Herschend family decided if they were going to keep them coming back they better find more ways to keep them entertained. Creating a roller coaster kind of came naturally with all the rolling mountain hills and dales so they built one out of wood the most available commodity at the time.
The weather gets kind of warm in the summer so some water rides came along. At this point electricity was essential so that had to be brought in after all SDC was way out in the bush. Now refrigeration was available for food and drink and the water could be pumped up on the mountain for the water rides. Shows were held every so often and soon more theaters were constructed so two or more shows could go on at the same time. A steam train was added to give the folks a ride around the park and adjoining woods.
As time went on and the crowds got bigger and bigger and the park got fuller and fuller and pretty soon conservation became the game rather than expansion. SDC tried to save as many trees as they could to give the park a village look appeal and give shade for everyone. As the trails became eroded blacktop was brought in and the trails and walkways were blacktopped. More and more visitors came and more and more shops, shows, rides, food venders, attractions, craft demonstrations, and jobs for the local residents. They hire many older folks that have trouble finding jobs in the big cities like Kansas City etc. They treat their help well and they enjoy being a part of Silver Dollar City. Recently they constructed a clinic not only for first aid for visitors but to provide health care for their employees that had less than adequate health care. The 55-acre park now has 12 stage venues, 22 rides, 12 restaurants, 60 shops and 1500 employees, including 100 resident craftsmen and sees well over 10 million visitors a year and I think those were 1998 figures.
The Herschend family operates several attractions here in Branson such as SDC, White Water, Ride The Ducks, The Showboat Branson Bell, Camping and RV parks, Talking Rocks Cavern, The Wilderness and the Dixie Stampede. All these attractions take hundreds if not thousands of employees and provide incomes for hundreds of independent contractors that provide services for these businesses. The Herschend corporation is involved with Dolly Parton’s other attractions in Pigeon Forge and elsewhere as well as about 20 other attractions in other parts of the country.
Silver Dollar City’s theaters are from 150 to 4,000 seats with over 30 shows daily. They have rides for all ages in 3 or 4 different areas around the park. They have their own brand new Culinary School and demonstration area. The have craftsman working at woodwork, glass blowing, candy making, blacksmith, leather shop, bakery, cooking and in the fall during the craft festival there are many many more. They have about 6 festivals during the year. Their Christmas Season is something that no one should miss with millions of lights and decorations it is really spectacular.
During the warm season at closing time of 6PM they have a huge production in Echo Hollow their big outdoor amphitheater that is free. OH ya I almost forgot to mention how the Pay Thing works. Like most Theme Parks you pay an entry fee that includes all the rides and craft and other exhibitions and all the 30 some shows and the evening show in Echo Hollow. All you have to pay additional for is your food, souvenirs and merchandise. We have had season passes at SDC for several years and they are really a great bargain. You can buy season passed for less that the cost of visiting twice at the day rate. Another great thing about the season passes you also get guest passes during several times of the year. Branson is trying to become more of a all year around attraction, with the Convention Center and Branson Landing, as well a more family oriented city with SDC and its other businesses in town providing tons of stuff for the kids as well as the adults to do. We now have all the big box stores as well as the old and quaint shops so you can buy just about anything you desire. This is a big change since we came to Branson about 5 years ago. SDC in not only a great place to go but is truely a good neighbor to have around.
Check their website for programs and scedule days as well as prices.
PS. It seems kind of ironic when Dolly Parton bought into the Silver Dollar City in Pigeon Forge TN. and went into partnership with the Herschends they changed the name to Dollywood. Here in Branson Dolly and the Hershcends developed and operate the Dixie Stampede together.
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