Longtime leaders in Branson tell us about their experiences.
When Johnny Morris, a noted conservationist, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, purchased Big Cedar Lodge in 1987, the original plan was to make the 4,600-acre property a lakeside fishing camp for Bass Pro employees and Tracker Boat customers.
But the scenic majesty of Table Rock Lake, plus Morris’s own memories of a childhood spent outdoors, eventually led to Big Cedar growing into what it is today: one of the nation’s preeminent lakeside retreats.
Recognized as the top resort in the Midwest for four consecutive years by Travel + Leisure, Big Cedar offers fishing, boating, hiking, golf, and spa and wellness opportunities. Inspired by nature, the grounds and facilities are true to this theme at every turn, and outdoor enthusiasts can wander from sun up to sun down exploring all the Ozarks region has to offer. The conservation impact of the pristine property, combined with its attraction of guests from across the United States and around the world, makes Big Cedar one of Branson and Taney County’s most important community assets.
“Johnny Morris founded this resort with a mission to give families a chance to connect with nature by discovering a passion for outdoor activities surrounded by the beauty and serenity of the Ozarks,” says Janet Glaser, PR manager for Big Cedar. “Since our doors opened, we have had the opportunity to serve millions of guests with genuine Ozarks hospitality. We have been able to share in the making of some amazing, lifelong memories and look forward to more to come.”
Central Bank of Branson was chartered on July 29, 1950 as Peoples Bank & Trust Company, with assets that year reaching $1,126,000. With Branson still a few years from being established as a major entertainment hub, the bank truly has grown with the city and surrounding region, it provides innovative services for customers and a foundation of support for the surrounding business community.
In 1961, the bank opened its first drive-in facility in downtown Branson’s “triangle.” In the mid-1980s it relocated to Highway 165 to better serve customers on the west end of Highway 76.
Following its purchase by Central Bancshares in 1988, the bank’s name was changed to Ozark Mountain Bank. A new facility in downtown Branson followed in 1992. Additional locations to maximize customer service have followed since. The bank changed its name to Central Bank of Branson in 2015.
Central Bank of Branson is a Platinum Partner with the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and a Bronze Level partner with the Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce. Community investments are a common aspect for the company and include contributions to the risk mitigation fund for the Branson Airport and to Branson Public Schools for three new scoreboards at district athletic facilities. For the past decade, every student and staff member in the nearby Hollister school district has received a T-shirt in support of its Character Education program courtesy of Central Bank of Branson.
“Central Bank of Branson’s long history is based upon legendary customer service,” says Joe Loth, president and CEO of Central Bank of Branson. “We will carry on with that standard as we serve our customers’ financial needs. In addition, we will continue to invest in our community with our financial resources and our employees with giving of their time.”
The Track is one of Branson’s longest-running entertainment companies, started in 1981 as a partnership between Lee Wescott and Eldridge Fridge. The original business partners were nearly all teachers and coaches from the community. The primary attraction, as you might have guessed from the name, was go-karts, with other games and attractions like arcades and miniature golf, all in the name of “creating unforgettable memories” for families.
Over the years, The Track expanded to three locations on Highway 76. In 2001, 2002 and 2011, respectively, The Track added high-rise go-kart tracks at each location; these daring speedways are named The LumberJack, Wild Woody and Heavy Metal High Rise. Additional food options were added in 2005 and 2006 (popular chains Andy’s Frozen Custard and Pizza World). Today The Track still employs a number of teachers and coaches from local schools, upholding tradition from when the company first opened.
More recently The Track made its largest (literally) contribution to Branson when it opened the Branson Ferris Wheel, which you might know as the former Chicago Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, which was disassembled and reconstructed on Highway 76 in 2016. The $4 million investment, completed in just six months with the help of many community partners, is expected to be one of the city’s most popular—and, standing 150 feet above Highway 76, most visible—attractions.
“The Branson community is known for its Ozark Mountain hospitality,” says Craig Wescott, CEO and owner of The Track Family Fun Parks. “We hope that our passion of creating unforgettable experiences for our crew and guests enhances that community spirit.”