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Growing Costs, Shrinking Sales Force Shepherd of the Hills to Close

The theater will still operate tours of Old Matt's Cabin and other ventures, but the play will end it's 54-year run on Oct. 19.
BRANSON, Mo. -- Daily tour trolleys carry sparse loads of visitors to the historic cabin and homestead that that inspired a book, movie, play and tourist attraction on the western edge of the Branson strip. But crowds no longer visit the Shepherd of the Hills Theater in droves to see the reenactment of the Harold Bell Wright story.

Declining ticket sales coupled with rising insurance and operating costs mean the theater can no longer sustain itself. In Tuesday's press release announcing the closure, the theater called the production a "labor of love."

Sharena Naugher, the marketing director for the theater and daughter of the owner, Gary Snadon, said the theater would continue running six shows a week until the end of the fall season on Oct. 19.

Snadon has been battling cancer, and traveling back-and-forth to Texas. Naugher said her father's health problems were a large factor in the decision to close.

"It kind of seemed like the time," she said, holding back tears. "And I think everyone here is just heartbroken over it."

Naugher said she grew up coming to see the show every summer before her father bought the property. She began handling group sales and working behind the scenes at the show.

Other workers, like Terry Sanders, began their career as actors, using the show to enhance their performing career. Sanders began working at the show more than 10 years ago.

He now works eight different jobs in Branson, but fondly recalls his time playing Doc Caughlin and Ollie Stewart.

"Whenever you have someone new, who's so excited to be in the business" he remarked, "you can take them under your wing and you can see them motivated and encouraged to do better, and really shine out there, you want to make sure you give them the best job that you can. It's a great catalyst."


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