At the outset the Ole Seagull would thank all who wished him well in his retirement. In fact, he is as retired as he will ever be in this world. Thanks to a combination of his own personal failings and circumstances beyond his control, more than likely that retirement will, until he can physically and mentally do so no longer, always involve an active work component. In that regard, he is truly blessed because he is not only able to work, but has the wonderful opportunity of telling Branson’s story and giving people information that will, hopefully, encourage them to factor Branson into their travel decisions and help them plan for and have a great experience when they come to Branson.
His column, on the other hand, has never been a factor in the fiscal aspects of his retirement plan. To him, although he’s sure there are others who see it differently, it has always been a labor of “love” and community service designed to do one thing, give people an opinion that, whether they agreed with it or not, would at least encourage them to think about the column’s topic and what if any further research, action, or involvement on their part was appropriate.
He stopped writing a weekly column because of the pressure of getting a column out each Saturday. Writing does not come as naturally to the Ole Seagull as it does to some, with his columns averaging about four to five hours writing time. That took a pretty good piece out of each Saturday with some of his last columns taking as long as six to eight hours to write.
The paper has been kind enough to give an Ole Seagull the title of “Columnist Emeritus,” an honorary title which, in the Ole Seagull’s case means, “old, but not dead.” More importantly, it permits him to write a column occasionally while relieving him of the responsibility and stress of having to write a column every week. Right now, his goal is to write about 18 “fresh” columns a year, give or take a couple either way, and add enough of his seasonal, tribute, or “oldie” columns from the past to come up with a column about every two weeks. If all goes as planned, with the obvious exception of this one, they will be published on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month.
That said let’s get to it. The question the Ole Seagull has been asked the most is, “Do you think the Branson Airport is going to make it?” His prayer is that it will but like just about everyone else, he just doesn’t know. A lot depends on what Southwest and Frontier do with their scheduling and the willingness of the investors to hang in there until the passenger counts they need are generated. It is said that the “magic number” is 250,000. “Do you believe that the airport will try to get some sort of additional taxpayer funding?” Does Santa Claus have reindeer?
The next most asked question is, “How is Branson doing this year?” Well that depends on what the focus is. If it’s the city’s finances, the Ole Seagull’s gut reaction is that across the board, the city of Branson’s finances are close to last year, but made tighter because of TIF payments, court ordered payments to some of Branson’s theatres, and operational subsidies paid for everything from the Branson Convention Center to the Branson Airport. “Do you believe that the taxpayers are paying some of these costs?” Does Cliff Drive have speed bumps?
“What about Branson Tourism?” For what it’s worth, the Ole Seagull believes we are about the same as last year to down a “tad” and that the Christmas Season, perhaps more so this year than in the past, will be the deciding point for many businesses. “Is attendance at shows down?” Across the board, the Ole Seagull believes that the answer is ‘Yes,’ but some shows are doing better than others.
Now that he’s answered a few for you, would you answer one for him? “Should we change the name of ‘Ozark Mountain Christmas,’ upon which we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising to attract visitors to Branson each Christmas, to “Ozark Mountain Holidays” or some other politically correct name?” “Seagull, is that a rhetorical question?” As Buck Trent would say, “Oh, Yeah.”