One of my favorite movies is the 1983 cult comedy classic, “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” where the Griswold family hits the road in a Wagon Queen Family Truckster and go on a cross-country expedition to Walley World.
My entire life, I have laughed at the unfortunate luck the Griswold family experienced — some self-inflicted — as they make their way toward “America’s Favorite Family Fun Park,” from eating sandwiches their Aunt Edna’s dog peed on, crashing in the middle of the desert, not being able to use their credit card because it was reported stolen and their aunt dying in the backseat of the car. And, my favorite part, finally reaching their theme park destination only to discover it would be closed for two weeks due to cleaning and repairs.
For those who read my last column before my vacation last week, I wrote about how excited I was to spend a week in Branson, Missouri, and specifically, Silver Dollar City.
Excited I was. We ordered our season passes months ago. We spent weeks skimming over the website, checking out which rides we wanted to go on and what park treats we wanted to taste.
Our drive to Branson was, much to our satisfaction, uneventful. The traffic was smooth and easy, allowing us to arrive in less driving time than expected.
Our first full day was wonderful. We walked casually about the park, knowing we would have plenty of time to spend there the rest of the week, admiring and taking pictures of their fall decorations. The decor was truly incredible. Everywhere we turned, there were hundreds of carved pumpkins. In some areas, there were giant pumpkins stacked and carved to look like a spider, owl and cat. There was even an impressive three-story tall pumpkin greeter.
We got to go on a few rides. My 4-year-old son even rode his first “adult” roller coaster and handled it like a champ.
As we strolled throughout the park, we made a mental checklist of different rides and areas in the park we wanted to try out during the week. But, it was a list made in vain.
The very next day, we learned Silver Dollar City was closed for a week to decorate for Christmas.
I couldn’t believe it. I pulled a Clark W. Griswold.
I felt so foolish. I never considered looking at the park calendar. I worked at Walt Disney World for about a year and I became spoiled by the way their business operates. Once Halloween is over, Disney has employees who work through the night to change over decorations without skipping a beat. It’s like magic if you’ve ever been there during that transition time to experience it as a guest. After working someplace that operates like a well-oiled machine, it just never occurred to me that other places might have to close for a while to put up their decorations.
When the rest of my family found out what happened, they found it to be quite hilarious. One of my brothers even photoshopped one of our pictures at the park entrance with the words, “Meet the Griswolds” above our heads.
I wasn’t so upset to the point of buying a BB gun and forcing my way past security into the park, but I was far from happy. I didn’t see how this was funny. As I cried like a spoiled child on the hotel bed, something clicked and I began to laugh at myself.
Here I was, on vacation in a city with countless activities being offered, and I was complaining about one park. There are people in the world who would love to just be able to go on a vacation to anywhere at all. I felt selfish and ridiculous. I wiped away my tears and began to do the only thing I could do: devise a Plan B.
My family still had a wonderful time in Branson. We attended the Dolly Parton Stampede, rode the Branson Scenic Railway, tried wine and moonshine tastings, visited the Titanic Museum and even enjoyed just driving through the region and admiring the beautiful Ozark Mountain scenery.
Our trip gave us memories we could never buy. And, we have a pretty funny story to go along with it.
My husband wants to feel like we got our money’s worth from the season passes we purchased, so we are actually returning to Branson for a short weekend trip. Now that Silver Dollar City’s Christmas decorations are out in full force, we will get to experience that aspect as well, which I’m pretty excited about.
Because of our goof, we are getting to do something we had no intentions of beforehand. It didn’t turn out so bad after all. And yes, we have checked the park calendar, at least three times now, to make sure it will be open when we return. It will be.
Catherine Kirk is managing editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.