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Family Sued by Branson Attraction for TripAdvisor Review Receives 'Outpouring of Support'

BRANSON, Mo. (SNL)  - When Emily Winchester describes her life on a small Kansas farm, it sounds idyllic.

The 35-year-old cares for a menagerie of animals: goats, cows, chickens and ducks. She bakes bread. She sells fresh produce at a farmers market.

However, an ongoing lawsuit has introduced new anxieties to life on the farm, Winchester said.

She, her father Randy Winchester, and their family farm are being sued by a Bigfoot-themed Branson attraction over an online review.

"It's been a really big stress on myself and my family," Emily Winchester said.

The Winchesters visited Bigfoot on the Strip in early March. Randy Winchester left a three-star review on TripAdvisor - which he later changed to one star after he said he was repeatedly contacted by a man, who identified himself as an owner of the attraction, to complain about the review and threaten litigation.

Emily Winchester opened up about the emotional toll the lawsuit has taken, following reports by the News-Leader and other media outlets. She posted a statement on Facebook and spoke to the News-Leader by phone.

Emily Winchester said she is worried about her father.

Randy Winchester, 60, was trampled by a bull in mid-March, she said. He suffered a concussion and other injuries.

"I think the stress of protecting both me and the farm from this silliness has slowed his healing," Emily Winchester said.

She's also confused as to why she and the family business, Dancing Cow Farms, were named in the lawsuit. Emily Winchester said she didn't even know that her father had written a review of Bigfoot on the Strip until she began getting calls and emails complaining about the review.

"We kind of don't know how we got here," she said.

In her social media post, Emily Winchester reflected on the lawsuit and the subsequent media attention.

"It saddens me that some people are first learning about Dancing Cow Farms through this story. It seems to lessen the years of hard work we have put in developing relationships with our community and our very loyal customers," Winchester wrote.

However, the public attention has also come with an "outpouring of support" for her family and farm, Winchester said.

"We have a very supportive community here," said Emily Winchester, of Wellsville, Kansas. "We live in a very small town where everyone knows everything."

She promised to continue serving "our amazing customers, friends, and family for as long as we are able."

A D.C.-based legal expert interviewed by the News-Leader had previously said that suing a customer over a review can draw much more negative attention to the business than the review itself.

A look at popular online rating sites, including Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google reviews, shows that Bigfoot on the Strip has received a handful of one-star reviews in the past week.

Some of the negative reviews specifically reference a lawsuit Bigfoot on the Strip filed against a customer.

TripAdvisor has temporarily stopped publishing new reviews for the Branson attraction, citing "a recent event that has attracted media attention and has caused an influx of review submissions that do not describe a first-hand experience."

In the lawsuit, Bigfoot on the Strip called Randy Winchester's review "false and defamatory."

The attraction is suing for libel, negligence and tortious interference. The suit specifically takes issue with Winchester's statements about the price of a tour of Bigfoot Farms, the amount of time he spent feeding cows and the number of cows he saw.

Both Dancing Cow Farms and Bigfoot Farms have herds of Scottish Highland cattle.

Bigfoot on the Strip also denies calling Emily Winchester on her cellphone repeatedly or calling Randy Winchester's home phone on a Saturday evening, as he alleged in the review.

Bigfoot on the Strip is asking the court to order the Winchesters to remove all statements published about the attraction from its listing on TripAdvisor. The attraction is also asking for the Winchesters to pay at least $25,000 and attorney's fees and costs.

Bigfoot on the Strip is owned by Darrell Henley, Emma Hamilton and Matt Cook, according to court documents. The business is being represented by attorney Bryan Fisher of Neale & Newman law firm in Springfield.

Reached by the News-Leader on Monday, Fisher declined to answer questions about the ongoing litigation and whether Bigfoot on the Strip has filed similar suits against other customers.

The full review can be found on the Springfield News Leader's website.


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