For the past 19 years the Hopkins Band has travelled to Branson Mo, to take the stage and play for the masses and this year was no different.
Jimmy and 45 other band members loaded the bus on Wednesday evening and along with Mr. Wolf and 4 parent chapereons began the 10 hour trek. The bus was one of those big touring buses however packed to the gills with teenagers and snacks there was not a lot of extra space. The bus had two main rules 1. once you are given a number you are that number for the entire trip no matter where you are sitting, this makes roll call much easier 2. No using the bathroom for #2, not at anytime ...period.
The trip down was much what you you;d expect, the bus has to stop every 2 and a half hours on overnight travel so the drivers can change spots. The 2;30 am stop was interesting as the kids were all told if you go into the store we are just using the bathroom no buying anything, yea right, then all came out with 24 oz Monster energy drinks, at 2:30 in the morning!!! We arrived in Branson at 7:00 on Thursday morning wide awake and ready to go! It was freezing cold, no one slept and everyone had a great time (the kids, that is).
First thing was breakfast at the local McDonald's cleaning up and then we were off to the Imax Theatre to watch a 90 minute feature film on the National Parks. The show was really interesting however only half of the crew was awake for it :)
Then we were off to lunch at Mel's Hard Luck Diner, which is a Branson landmark. The food is really good and all the wait staff are washed up has been country singers who sing current top ten hits and try to get you to buy their old albums, hence the hard luck diner.
After lunch we headed over to the Table Rock Lake Dam and Trout hatchery. We watch a very graphic movie on trout reproduction and were also sent out with buckets of fish food and we fed the thousand of trout they are raising, it was pretty cool. Finally we were off to check into the hotel, rest up a bit and the band changed into their band outfits and we were off to dinner. The restaurant was an Italian place and it was the worst restaurant of the trip, there were several kids who found long strands of black hair in their meals, yuk.
The first performance was at the Clay Cooper Theatre and the band opened for there Haygoods Show. The band played really we'll and Mr. Wolf was super jazzed at how well they did. The Haygoods show was a 4 bothers and one sister family group that were unbelievably good, they all played several instruments, had a great sound and light show and we all really enjoyed the show. The Haygoods came out to the lobby after the show and signed auto graphs and talks with the kids about the rigors of performing and show biz in general.
Finally at 10:30 it was lights out.. Every night we, as chapereons, would knock on our respective doors take a visual head count remind the kids of the next days events and the shut the door and place a piece of tape over the door so we would know if anyone open the door during the night. It is a brilliant way to keep the kids in the room and it worked every night!
Wake up call was at 7:30 and breakfast was mandatory and the kids did a good job of following the protocol. They were able to go back to their rooms or do whatever they wanted and we loaded the bus at 10:45 and headed off to the Branson Music Mall for an early lunch then we were off to the Omaha Middle School, which is in Arkansas, to perform for the school. This is a small school who will be starting a band program next year so most of these kids have never played an instrument before and they all were very interested in what the band was all about. The kids were able to talk with each other and share stories, it was pretty impressive to see all these kids talking and getting along.
Then we loaded up the bus and headed off to Branson Landing, which is a tourist trap kind of place full of shops and trinkets.
From there we headed off to the Golden Corral for all you can eat fried food!!! The evening ended with us going to a go-cart track and the kids had a ball. It was a super nice night the weather was great. Mr. Wolf had food catered into he hotel because you can never feed these kids enough, holy crap do they eat, boys and girls both! Lights out was at 11;00 and the same drill with he tape.
7:00 wake up call and we were out the door at 8:30 for a fun day at Silver Dollar City, a theme park based off the largest Mine in North America. Seems that people would come to work the mine and then restaurants and shops started to open up and the hotels would give people change in the form of a silver dollar and when people would ask "hey where did you get that" they would say at Silver Dollar City and bingo, a theme park was born.
Saturday nights performance was just the Jazz band. Jimmy plays sax in the band and is the ring leader and drummer for the Jazz Band. The Jazz Combo as they like to be referred as, sounded awesome and they all got to hear a professional recording of their set. The show they opened for was the Hughes family "it" show. Suffice it to say the show was really good the family is very talented and there a 5 brothers whom are all married and between then they have 43 kids. The message of the show was very different for some of the audience and the kids were a bit in shock. The "it" referred to the families views on family, love, life and their Savior Jesus Christ. Mr. Wolf did a very good job getting the kids to understand what the message really meant and that it was a reflection of the Hughes Family and by no means did that mean the kids individual beliefs were not equally important.
Each of the performances that the band opened for gave the kids a trophy and thanked them for coming and doing a great job. Mr. Wolf would go on stage to accept the trophy and of course thank the people for having us and how important it is for kids to see this level of a performance.
Except on the night of the Hughes performance Mr. Wolf was dealing with an issues so the Hughes family called on Jimmy to come up onto the stage. It was not pretty. Never give Jimmy a live mic on an open stage. He was trying to be funny and was fake crying about how much the trophy meant to him. But he did thank them for having us so I guess all is well that ends well!
We headed off to and end of the trip pizza party and lights out at 12;30-Yikes
Wake up call at 7:30 and then we loaded the bus and headed back north. We got to the school at 8:15 unloaded the bus, everyone gave hugs and high 5's and headed home for some much needed sleep!
It was an amazing trip of life long friendship and memories. The only issue, getting through the rest of the week with almost no sleep....