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The ShowMen onstage 
The Americana part starts as soon as you enter the village. The opening ceremony begins with a salute to the Red, White and Blue. Watching the procession of veterans, led by an elderly gentleman who was a Korean War veteran, march across the square and raise Old Glory, I felt close to tears of pride in these men and women who had risked all to protect our freedom. 

The ShowMen, a talented song and dance group, did several patriotic numbers then the band played the national anthem and most of us sang along with the singer to the old familiar words with such a deep meaning. Later during the performance we all cheered when a singer looking and sounding a lot like Lee Greenwood sang God Bless the U.S.A.


Wilderness Church 
You don't have to wander far before you spot the "Ozark Mountain" personality of the park. There's a real log cabin built in 1843 by the Levi Casey family and then home to the McHaffie family, for which it's named. It was carefully disassembled then moved and reassembled at Silver Dollar City in 1960, where it serves as the centerpiece of McHaffie's Homestead. It sits on Homestead Ridge surrounded by an one room schoolhouse and a farmyard filled with typical barnyard animals. The front porch is often filled with the happy voices of the Homestead Pickers as they play and sing much as Ozark Mountain families did for homemade entertainment in the "good ole days." There's Aunt Judy who can tell a tall mountain tale with the best of them. Naturally, every little hamlet had a country church. Homestead Ridge is no exception. Wilderness Church is a 1849 log chapel moved from Bear Creek near Branson.

Interesting story about the church. When it was moved to Silver Dollar City, there was a huge sycamore tree on the site where the church needed to go. Mary Herschend, one of the park owners, was "green" when green wasn't cool. She didn't want to see the beautiful tree destroyed. Instead, it was hand carved into the church's pulpit by Lester Vining, and is still gracing the old church today.  The church, with its old fashioned charm,  is a popular place for weddings.

Granny making soap 
What we call "crafters" today, were just makers of everyday items in the 19th century. Silver Dollar City is filled with about 100 resident craftsmen. These talented artisans create those items once used by all and treasured today as decorations or art pieces. There are woodcarvers, glassblowers, soap makers, blacksmiths, potters, basket makers, leather crafters, candle makers, knife makers and more. 

On my visit there, while I spoke with the soap maker at Granny's Lye Soap, a young couple came to the booth with a toddler in a stroller. The little boy's legs were red and irritated with a bad case of eczema. "Granny" was able to provide them with a lye soap that should soothe the child's skin. She, like so many of the artisans at Silver Dollar City, are not costumed teens hired to put on a show for guests and working just because they need a job. Many are real life mountain people who have had these crafts passed down to them by their families.

A  potter works her wheel 
Others have honed their skills in creating objects once needed by all but now prized as collector items. Ray Johnson is one such artisan. For him, knife making began as a hobby when he was in his 20s. Since 1988, Ray has been the resident knife maker at Silver Dollar City. One of our party who collects rare knives was able to find just what she had been searching for in one of Ray's hand-hammered knife. When asked about his job, Ray stated, “I’m the luckiest man alive, because I’m doing just what I want to do, and making a living at it.”

There are so many other interesting crafters. Could you imagine living anyplace where there was no mechanic? Well, the blacksmith was the mechanic of his era. Silver Dollar City had a blacksmith shop manned by Wayne Rice who learned to operate a  forge during high school. Yes, it's worth a trip to Silver Dollar City just to find all the old crafts still alive and well.
Debbie prepares to give a cooking lesson 

Dining is another place where Silver Dollar City differs from most theme parks. They offer choices of many varieties of food. Molly's Mill Restaurant  serves home cooking that emphases old time favorites like fried chicken or beef and noodles. They are heavy on fresh vegetables and include a salad bar with the buffet. Deserts usually offer cobblers that make your mouth water just looking at them.

Buckshot Annie's will prepare your meal right before your eyes in a old time iron skillet. Your choices are a Harvest Skillet  or Family Feud Succotash. Again you will be eating lots of veggies.

You can find pizza, barbeque, sandwiches or you can opt for the usual hot dog and burgers. You can find pretty much any style of food you are looking for at Silver Dollar City. There are twelve restaurants spread throught the 100 acre park.

If you are really serious about your food, you can even take a culinary lesson from a chef. I attended their Midwest Living's Best Ever Grilled Burgers class taught by Debbie Dance Uhrig, Silver Dollar City’s Master Craftsman of Culinary Arts. Debbie is also a culinary journalist and really knows her stuff.  I learned a few things I never knew about cooking the simple All American hamburger.

The most unique attraction at Silver Dollar City is Marvel Cave. This was where it all started back in 1894, when Canadian entrepreneur William Henry Lynch and his daughters, Miriam and Genevieve, opened the cave for tours. The ancient cave had been part of geography of these hills since the dawn of time. Early Osage Indians called it "the Devil's Den" and refused to enter the opening that emitted strange sounds from underground.

Early settlers believed the cave to contain marble. A group of Union Civil War veterans formed a mining company in the 1880s but instead of marble found the cave was made of limestone. They did succeed in mining bat guano which was used in gunpowder and fertilizer.

One of the fun rides at Silver Dollar City 
When Hugo and Mary Herschend acquired the lease on the cave in 1950, they improved access to the cave and began searching for some pleasant activities for visitors to do while waiting their turn to enter Marvel Cave. Their answer came when they spoke to an old time traveling salesman named Charlie Sullivan who told them of his days visiting when the cave was being mined and there was a town there called Marmaros. They decided to recreate the old town and Silver Dollar City was born.  

Of course, Silver Dollar City has all the top rides too. Their Outlaw Run, won the Golden Ticket Award for "Best New Ride worldwide" and ranks #7 worldwide for a wood roller coster. It is the only wood coaster to twist upside down three times, has the world’s steepest first drop for a wood roller coaster, 162 feet, and is the second fastest wood coaster in the world, reaching an unbelievable 68 miles per hour.

All together, Silver Dollar City has over 30 rides ranging for the most adrenalin pumping to those for tiny toddlers. The Frisco Silver Dollar Line Steam Train is one that appeals to all ages and is a great way to get an overview of the park. I loved the ride and thought the "train robbers" we encountered were a bonus entertainment.

Carri Nation prepares to shut the saloon down /td>
Entertainment is big at Silver Dollar City too. One of the highlights of its history is when the Bevely Hillbillies filmed five episodes at the park. span>

Shows and festivals flourish. There are six festivals from April through December; Southern Gospel Picnic, National Harvest & Cowboy Festival, World Fest, Bluegrass and BBQ, Old time Christmas and the one I attended, Stat Spangled Summer.

Throughout the park there are 12 stage venues featuring entertainment of all kinds. There was a world class group called Flying Ace All Stars featuring Olympic athletes and future hopefuls performing unbelievable stunts. Dancers and magicians and music ranging from Cajun to bluegrass.

Then there are the shows. My favorite was the Return of Carrie Nation. Carri Nation storms the "wild and wicked" Silver Dollar Saloon to dole out her form of vigilante sobriety. It's hilarious.

You can also choose to take in a show at Silver Dollar City's 4,000 seat Echo Hollow Amphitheater.

Perhaps Brad Thomas, General manager of attractions, sums up why Silver Dollar City is so special. "We are setting out to celebrate all the qualities that make America the most remarkable nation on earth. We are adding a big season long celebration, creating an all-American destination for families who want to experience a wealth of patriotism, passion and pride for our country."

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