Branson, Missouri - It had the complete opposite effect on me that it wanted to. - My Family Travels

I hate Branson, Missouri. The combination of Dolly Parton worshipers, and eager families ready to spend oodles of money on light-up souvenirs, and tickets to Shoji, really makes me recoil at the fact that my family decided to spend a week there one summer.

At first, I was excited. Excited to see my extended family (my mother’s parents, brothers, and their kids), the shows, and the theme parks. The hotel we stayed in was nice; it was a condo-style room that allowed our entire family to stay right next to each other.

We went to see Broadway shows, and The Twelve Irish Tenors, and the Dixie Stampede (by the queen herself, Ms. Dolly Parton). At first these shows were bearable, but as the week went on I couldn’t help but realize how ridiculously extravagant everything was. I think the moment it went over the top was when I was sitting in the gargantuan Dixie Stampede auditorium, separated onto the “Union” side, staring at a whole chicken I couldn’t quite bring myself to eat sans utensils, watching the entire room watch Dolly Parton sing the national anthem on a big screen. There were cowboys riding around on horses under the screen, and American flags were watermarked behind her face.

It was all about patriotism – but suddenly I realized: Is this what the United States has fallen to? Is this what our great country is really about? The room was separated into Union and Confederate, for Pete’s sake! Every person in the auditorium was given an entire chicken to eat (along with a corn cob, a potato, pork, vegetable soup, and more). Every person, including my two seven-year-old cousins, who wouldn’t be able to eat an entire chicken even if they hadn’t eaten in a week. The amount of waste that accumulates from that show per week must be astronomical.

After we left that show all I could think about was how much money was being spent in Branson every day. Even if it sounds cliché, all of that money and food and time spent on fueling the Dixie Stampede spectators could have been spent on people in other places of the world, who need that food to survive. The amount of food thrown away could have instead helped keep families alive.

That trip honestly changed me. It changed the way I view my spending, the way I look at life, and how my actions impact others around me. It really created a passion in me; I now plan to spend my life working to lessen the gap between the needy and the extravagant. So, even though I say I hate Branson, I guess I have to give the city credit for disgusting me into realizing I need to do everything I can to help people who need help.

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