Branson, MO —
Branson, Mo., is more than just shows and shopping — much more. It also harbors hidden treasures for those who take time to look for them. My favorite hidden treasure is the Rose O’Neill Museum and Bonniebrook.
I discovered Bonniebrook when I was researching my recently-released book, “More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Missouri Women” (warning: shameless plug coming up — available at Best of Books, $14.95). I first encountered O’Neill as a one-liner in a list of prominent people from Missouri — “Rose O’Neill: creator of the Kewpie Doll.”
Fortunately, I did a little more digging and discovered that Rose was an accomplished artist, the first published woman cartoonist, an author, supporter of women’s rights and a generous supporter of other artists and writers.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1874 and transplanted to Nebraska, Rose left for New York City when she was 19. While she was there her family moved to the Ozarks. When Rose visited she fell in love with the rolling hills and wild tangle of trees and from then on, her heart was in the hills. She built a spacious three-story home — Bonniebrook — for her family and any down-on-their-luck artists who happened to need a place to stay. She traveled extensively, drew illustrations for many popular magazines, wrote several books and had her art displayed at the prestigious Beaux Arts Salons in Paris.
Drawings of Kewpies first made their appearances in 1909. They became wildly popular and people paid Rose to use them in ads for everything from Jello to railroads. Children began clamoring for Kewpie dolls they could hold. Rose did the first model for the dolls in 1912 — making Kewpie 100 this year.
The museum at Bonniebrook features a timeline of Rose’s life and accomplishments, a variety of Kewpie dolls and a large number of Rose’s illustrations and cartoons. An extensive gift shop offers Kewpies, Kewpie-themed items, postcards, posters and books about Rose O’Neill, her life and her work. There are also children’s books with stories she wrote about the Kewpies and their associates — Kewpiedoodle, the dog, Scootles, a real baby who often visited Kewpieville and many others.
Docents who guide tours of the home tell visitors about life there. A favorite room is Rose’s studio at the very top of the house. Two of Rose’s sculptures stand on the lawn and a little creek runs by the home. A path along the creek leads to the little cemetery where Rose and other O’Neill family members are buried. Rose requested the spot so the “when the creek floods, the waters will wash my feet.”
The Bonniebrook Gallery, Museum and Homestead is nine miles north of Branson, just east of U.S. Highway 65. The complex is open from April 1 to Nov. 30, Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is an admission charge. For more information, go to www.roseoneill.org or phone 417-561-1509.
I was just in Branson last week and was particularly interested in their recovery from the Feb. 29 tornado. The only damage we saw was along Highway 76 — Country Music Boulevard. It looked like the tornado had skipped down the road. Fenced-off, damaged properties stood next to buildings with no discernable damage. The cleanup is proceeding rapidly and while there are some motels which are not open, things looked surprisingly good.
All the theaters, with the exception of two, remained open or have re-opened. The Branson Variety Theater is scheduled to reopen in September. The Americana, home of Three Red Neck Tenors and Todd Oliver and Friends will open sometime in mid-May.
There are plenty of hotel/motel rooms available in town and enough restaurants to serve almost any kind of cuisine you want — although barbecue and fried chicken are major staples in the area. There was no damage to Silver Dollar City or any of the other attractions they own — the Branson Belle Showboat, White Water, Ride the Ducks and others. For more information, go to www.explorebranson.com or call 800-296-0463 for free visitor information.
On this trip, Jack and I stayed at the Chateau on the Lake. This is not a hidden treasure. It stands out like the Eiffel Tower on the lakeshore. An amazing resort and conference facility, it features a striking 10-story atrium, a casual restaurant, fine-dining restaurant and bakery with ice cream and breakfast items. There are two pools — one indoor, the other out — lighted tennis courts, a fitness center and a beautiful spa.
Crawdaddies Kids’ Club is a supervised children’s program and the Sassafras Movie Theater shows family-friendly flicks. The Chateau Marina is a full-service facility with all sorts of water craft for rent. Guests at the Chateau can use paddleboats, sea kayaks and canoes at no charge. The Chateau website is www.ChateauOnTheLake.com; call them at 888-333-5253.
Branson is just more than 200 miles from Edmond. The shortest route is not the fastest. Even though it seems out of the way, the fastest route — just under five hours — is up I-44 to Springfield and south to Branson. However you get there — it’s a great destination.
ELAINE WARNER is an Edmond resident.