Branson to have new cause for 'Celebration'

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BRANSON, Mo. -- This city soon will have another theme park option -- this one showcasing life in 20th century America.

Celebration City, a $40 million, 112-acre theme park set to open on the former site of Branson USA in spring 2003, will highlight some of the century's most colorful and entertaining eras, according to Mel Bilbo, chief executive officer and president of Silver Dollar City Corp.

"The premise is to celebrate America every day by presenting themed entertainment to include more than two dozen rides, games, restaurants and shows, then culminating at night with an outdoor laser production show."

Bilbo said he isn't ready to reveal all the design plans for the property, but said Celebration City will carry on the Silver Dollar City tradition of "theming on a grand scale" while bringing the past to life.

The park will touch upon the major developments of the century, including the onset of electricity, the development of the automobile and the creation of "spectacular high technology."

And roller coasters.

Bilbo said the park will include a wooden roller coaster more than 10 stories tall.

"Coaster aficionados will tell you there is nothing that compares to the clickety-clack of the wooden track and the thrill of the ride," he said.

The roller coaster will be part of Electric Park, which will re-create amusement parks that operated at night in the 1920s and 1930s, according to Mike Woody, Silver Dollar City's director of sales.

Another themed area is Route 66, which will have ties to the 1920s to 1950s, re-creating restaurants and attractions found along the highway.

(The real Route 66, incidentally, a forerunner of transcontinental interstates, passes through Springfield, Mo., north of Branson).

According to Woody, Celebration City will serve as a sister park to Silver Dollar City.

"Visitors will be able to begin the day in the 19th century at Silver Dollar City and end it in the 20th at Celebration City," he said.

The second park will freshen the product for the public, agents and tour operators, he said.

"Silver Dollar City does business with at least 315 tour operators," Woody said, adding that operators and agents will continue to be important sources of business for Celebration City.

A group sales department, led by Susan Weimar, sales manager for tour and travel, will ensure the segment is courted in support of the new park, Woody said. Weimar can be reached at (800) 618-9283, Ext. 7413.

Operators will be extended net rates for 15 or more paying passengers as they are now, Woody said, and agents also will continue to get special FIT rates for single ticket sales.

When the new park opens, discounted multipark tickets that now include the Silver Dollar City White Water park will be expanded to include Celebration City, Woody said.

At this time, visitors can enter either Silver Dollar City or White Water for four days within a seven-day time frame.

Silver Dollar City's regular admission is $37 plus tax for visitors ages 12 and older and $27 plus tax for children ages 4 to 11.

Celebration City's regular admission for the same age categories will be $27 plus tax and $22 plus tax, respectively.

Tentative operating hours for Celebration City will be 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., Woody said.

Meanwhile, Bob Montgomery, general manager of Celebration City, said the park will help define the next phase of tourism for the Branson area -- families traveling with kids.

Celebration City should "provide another reason for people to travel to the area -- or to return," Bilbo said.

Last year, Silver Dollar City hosted 2.2 million visitors and may match or slightly exceed that total in 2002, Woody said.

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