This town has come to symbolize the Ozarks for far too many. A recent visit focused my qualms for our country music mecca.
Money dominates this view of the Land of a Thousand Smiles, as the community used to bill itself. Cathy and I landed a deal on an overnight stay at a new Bass Pro condo near Table Rock Lake. We even brought along a friends to help celebrate a few progressive midterm victories.
The only kicker: we had to listen to a two-hour sales pitch to buy vacation rentals. This was actually fascinating, especially for anyone interested in the future of our region.
“Johnny Morris has a vision for the future of Branson. He wants to turn it into Disneyland without the roller coasters,” our personal sales gal Molly, let’s call her, explained the firm’s vision for the future.
Johnny has been on a tear lately. His Bass Pro outfit has purchased the Cabalas outdoor supplier, which brings his total to 150 giant stores around the country. He’s also built amazing museums with massive Native American and wildlife collections in Springfield and what he calls Top of the Rock, an upscale country club open to all.
Master salesman Gregg Campbell, who combines the enthusiasm of a Pentecostal preacher with the persistence of a racecar driver, delivered our pitch for the resort plan. Gregg’s hour-long performance actually had a message worth considering. If you’re retired and not too broke you’ve got to make serious plans to take vacations with your family and friends.
“My brother died in a traffic accident just south of Springfield on highway 65,” Gregg said. “He never got to take vacations with his family.
“Then my dad had a massive heart attack eight years ago.” Gregg paused and lowered his volume dramatically. “He said from that hospital bed he was going to take my Mom to Europe.
“Well, he did that and many more trips. I never thought that old rascal would take my Mom out of northeast Arkansas, but they’ve been all over the world. You can do that too. Don’t drain your nest egg, spend it on quality time with your family.”
After the 40-minute presentation to approximately 20 mostly older couples, we met with young Molly who led us into a large room with cubicles to hold each couple. She tried her best to sign us up. It would be about $34,000 as an initial investment, which could result in 2-3 week vacations yearly in various properties around the country. It works on a point system; the less fancy, more remote resorts are a little cheaper points-wise.
I explained it wasn’t for us. We’re lucky to have a cabin near the Jacks Fork in Shannon County. We occasionally travel to see family and friends. Molly understood – no pressure to buy in.
Then the final pitch came. Maybe you’d like to try a one-year trial for a week or two vacation at a few of the resorts?
Cathy took the bait. It seemed like a good deal to her, so we’re going to try their vacation deal for a year. I’ve learned to go along with what makes her happy.
What most amazes me is how recreation increasingly has been monetized. Bass Pro is a master at selling all kinds of stuff, so why not vacation rentals?
Just down the ridge from our cabin in a remote land trust, Bass Pro owns something like 200 acres. That will probably become a resort in the future. It’s next to the old Bunker Hill state teachers’ camp, which recently became a non-profit resort open to all six months a year so. At the end of the state highway the LAD Foundation has a thousand or so acres of timberland. It’s open to hikers and others, but you’ve got to walk in.
While the nearby river remains protected as part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, it’s not easy for the average person to access. Maybe that makes things like vacation clubs and a vacation account more attractive… for those who plan more than a few days in advance and can afford a week or more trip.
“It’s all about inflation and precious memories,” Gregg had told us earlier in his sales performance. “You never know what’s around the corner.” Disneyland without the roller coasters?