Wow! Good to Go just finished our annual “Willamae Branson Trip” and what a hoot it was! We spent a couple days visiting Branson in which we laughed, ate, saw some shows, laughed a bunch more, ate even more and saw even more shows! As I reflected on the genuine friendship, kindness and helpfulness of the 54 travelers that joined us, I paused several moments thinking how thankful I am.
Let me fill in the blanks, just in case you’ve never been on a Branson Christmas trip with Willamae. Our tours depart the Grove Senior Center where the good folks there allow our travelers to park their vehicles for the trip duration. We then take off for Branson Miz-er-y, a three-hour trek to a favorite, group-friendly destination located in the Ozarks. Long-time travelers know the drill and after some homemade goodies, then it’s time to deck the halls or in this case, the bus, with tinsel, garlands and Christmas ornaments. This year’s theme was “Willamae’s Star Gazin’ Christmas in Branson” so we made our own big stars for decorations. The Good to Go Gang was laughing, taping, and working on the stars. It’s fun to make new memories with new friends, and of course, remember stories from years past. I’m thankful for a great group of travelers we call “friends” but really are more like our travel family.
Eating our first of several meals immediately on arrival, I was thankful to see how quickly the handful of new travelers were engaged in conversation and made to feel welcome by those who’ve taken the Willamae Branson Christmas trip year after year after year. I’m also thankful that we have so much fun, travelers want to go… year after year after year!
As we watched the Pierce Arrow show, I was reminded how fortunate we are to have the talented musicians, singers and comedians… without resorting to off-color jokes, innuendos and inappropriate 4-letter words. Good, clean wholesome entertainment that had our gang clapping, laughing and singing along. We all got a bit nostalgic at the Andy William’s Christmas Show as they showed video of their 60 years(!) in show business. We were impressed with the seemingly ageless Lennon Sisters, and Merrill Osmond, all of whom are still wonderful entertainers. Age is so much about one’s spirit and not the birthdays. I love bringing out the “kid” in people. We had quite an age range on the trip. Knowing the entertainment and trip choices would be appropriate for everyone is another thing for which I am thankful.
I’m thankful for good friends in the travel business from all over the United States and on this particular trip, we got to see a good friend and have some fun. Laura Hollingsworth with First Partners out of South Dakota were also on a Branson trip. We were pleasantly surprised to see her come running over to say hello before the show “Wonderland” at the King’s Theater. Willamae had entertained in South Dakota for their travel club several years back and, well, it’s kinda hard to miss Willamae when she’s around! During the show, the much-older-sister Julia and I went out to their bus and since friend Gina Casey had bought us some brand-spankin’ new decorations, we used our leftover decorations to decorate their bus. Swearing their bus driver to secrecy (for awhile, at least), we got to giggle and enjoy watching their travelers return to a festive atmosphere onboard their motorcoach. I’m thankful we were able to, in such a seemingly simple gesture, “make their day”.
And Laura made our day, too. She called and said they were wondering what they could do to repay our kindness. The Good to Go Gang beamed with pride when it was revealed that Laura’s bus had decided to “pay it forward” and use those decorations to adorn another bus before heading back to South Dakota. I’m thankful when people take the time to brighten the lives of others.
As we head into the final four weeks of the holiday season, culminating in the celebration of Christmas and ringing in the New Year, I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been blessed with, the many friends I’ve made along the way, and a great group of travelers … the Good to Go Gang.