In 1960 when Silver Dollar City opened, the Hershned family brought a group of talented craftsman from the surrounding area together to show their trades. Today, some of the people are 2nd and even 3rd generation, like June Ward who makes candy with her daughter and grand daughter. June though, is a star in her own right, she served as a stand in for Ella May in the hit show Beverly Hillbillies. This past week I was in Silver Dollar City with a group of travel writers when the NATJA convention visited Branson.
Watching craftsmen and women create bread, candy and make knives and watch a glassblower create beautiful globes was wonderful. Woodcarver Pam Gresham had beautiful fireplace mantels that had a German flavor to them. She had recently completed a carousal horse that had already sold. Pam said she started carving after seeing the geometric patterns in her husbands carving books.
For those that love old iron, Aly Cry works belts and pulleys that run his duplicating machine creating a miniature machinery workshop that is hands free!
There were many things to see that brought back thoughts of the farm and rural way of life at Silver Dollar City. Perhaps the most iconic is the landscape that included a barn and the very farm machinery that sitting around serving as art that contributed in good part to that feeling. The land itself with its hills and the trees that were just coming into bloom played a big part in reminding me that this winter really was coming to an end and that spring was really on the horizon.
The day we were there, it rained, but taking shelter among the rooflines and ducking into buildings to watch the blacksmith heat his iron, the baker fill the air with the scent of delectable cinnamon rolls and trying on a fun hat in the leather shop made me forget the rain and enjoy the day.
While I love all the sites and sounds of Silver Dollar City, my favorite part of the day was when we walked by a cabin that had originally belonged to a friend of the Hershned family. Lovely bluegrass music was drifting out of the cabin and we were able to find a seat in the filled room. A man was playing a beautiful wooden instrument called a hammer dulcimer along with a few other musicians and it was magical. Toes were tapping, hands were moving and those in rocking chairs were swaying.
While this was an example of the more traditional music that we heard, I saw something at Silver Dollar City like I’ve never seen before. Musician Michael Close created an instrument called the Earth Harp and he was performing the day we visited. This harp has strings that stretched to the back of the building. He said, “This instrument ties music to architecture” and I would have to agree. He has set up and played this amazing music all over the world. The melody was quite haunting he combined it with a fiddle and other instruments with a singer that had a Celtic type of voice that made this sound amazing. Michael Close also created a huge drum sphere that moved while he and another drummer worked their magic on it, but perhaps one of the most interesting instruments that he made of all was a coat that when he hit it created drum noises. That performance was a musical dance.
Silver Dollar City is steeped in tradition, but they also have room for more modern takes like the Earth Harp to keep things current and unique so that each visit won’t be the same. For more information about the park, log onto https://www.silverdollarcity.com.