24 hours before the Branson Landing opening ceremony, the multi use Mini-Urban lakefront environment was bustling with display designers, construction workers, city employees, shopkeepers, sound technicians and foremen. All were furiously trying to beat the clock against the launch of Branson’s newest attraction.
HCW Development Company Operations Manager Shane Gunter was on the scene dealing with everything from major landscaping issues to the disposal of stray cigarette butts. The brickwork below the main stage where Branson’s leadership would be announcing the opening had yet to be laid less than ten hours before the ceremony launch. Shortly after midnight the process of setting up the stage began in preparation for the day’s events.
Bill Lennon supervised the stage setup and with partners Gary Bartlett and Joe Sullivan maintain responsibility for staffing street entertainment at the development. The team selected performers for the Landing Strip after holding an open audition.
Patty Leundeen of Wet Design was busy hacking a display management program for the pylons behind the stage where methane fueled fireballs were spit behind a water show choreographed to the national anthem. The music and accompanying exhibition of fire and water played every hour on the hour throughout the day. A field engineer, software programmer and designer worked on the fountain above the outdoor amphitheatre. Luendeen commented “The 360 degree rotation of underwater robotic nozzles and kinetic biotic arms are the first of their kind.”
Garfield’s hosted a breakfast buffet which only began to show signs of life a little after 9:00 AM. Restaurant manager Dustin Altman noted, “This is the busiest store in our company, our numbers have moved far beyond our expectations. ”
Urban Retail, the company that manages the Branson Landing retail contracts had representatives passing out information at both entrances. Company project managers from Chicago setup a press booth where 51 national publications were given press kits for the days event.
Chris Cathcart’s musings of jazz adulterated by the occasional power riff preceded Master of Ceremonies Darren Romeo announcing scheduled speakers. Mayor Lou Schaefer, Ron Huff and Rick Huffman spoke humbly giving credit to the city administrators, public officials no longer serving office and the citizens of Branson itself. Ron Huf acknowledged he wasn’t sure if it was going to be a celebration or a stringing.
Huffman told how he managed to isolate the Governor aboard an airplane to pitch the project and gain support for the largest TIFF the Missouri has ever granted.
After the officials spoke a skydiver landed onstage to deliver champagne to former Miss USA Shandi Finnessey and Darren Romeo.
An estimated crowd of 5 to 6 thousand people jammed into the night to a mixture of pop, reggae, classic rock and original tunes of Venice. Performer Yakov Smirnoff stated, “This is Bringing Branson to the 21st Century. It has Branson’s wholesome feeling with a high tech new look which will bring young people. Baby Boomers will want to be here and this is where we want them to be.”
Late in the evening the landing was still busting with action. When asked what was the darkest hour of the project, Huffman stated, “The hour before the ceremonies began”.