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Tony Orlando Prepares for Final "Yellow Ribbon" Show to Honor Vets

It's Veterans Day and no one celebrates the way they do in Branson. Tony Orlando will host his final "Yellow Ribbon" show for veterans today. He talks with KOLR10 News about the 20 year tradition.
It's Veterans Day and no one celebrates the way they do in Branson.
Tony Orlando joined KOLR10's Nathan Vickers in our Branson studio to talk about what Veterans Day means to him.

Nathan:Hello, hello. We're in the Branson studio with a special guest...Mr. Tony Orlando celebrating 20 years in Branson, Missouri. Tony thanks for joining us today.

Tony: It's an honor to be here. Thank you for having your studio in Branson. This is terrific.

Nathan: Talk about connections and traditions and one big tradition you've had is this veterans show...veterans celebration that you do every year.

Tony: Very proud of that

Nathan: Now, this started in 1993, tell me about how it got started.

Tony: Well, I come to Branson and I realize the soil is very fertile in the Ozarks for what I consider to be what makes America great. They believe in traditional family style life, they believe in good value systems, they believe in God, our country, and patriotism. It was post Desert Storm, and the yellow ribbon was a big deal during Desert Storm...as it has been throughout...since our POW's came home. I just felt it was time. I had this beautiful theater, Yellow Ribbon Theater, to pay tribute to our veterans. So I said to the owner of that theater, who's from Springfield, do you mind if I do a, every November 11th, a Christmas and a veterans show, but the veterans show should be for free. And he says to me...if you talk to the Herschend's, who own Silver Dollar City, there is no Christmas. They close up shop in October. And I said, we have to change that. So we started our veterans show. I had 600...600 veterans come in for free. We don't ask any questions. If you say you're a veteran, we believe you, and your family. So they came in, and we had a waiting list of 5,000 for the next year. And since then, after 20 years of doing our November 11th veterans show, and having the whole community join in, all of Branson join in, since that day we started that, it has become the largest gathering of veterans in America during the week of November 11th. We've had in our audience, all of our POW's, we've had congressional medal of honor recipients, we've had three presidents visit us, we've had John McCain and Ross Perot, we've had Bob Hope, who kicked it all off by turning on the lights at the grand palace 20 years ago and kicking off our veterans season and our Christmas season. So it's been a joy, a love, and I'm proud of this community and how they've allowed me, and themselves to give back to those who fight for our freedom.

Nathan: The celebration itself and the week leading up to it has just exploded and become a huge deal. Tens of thousands of veterans and their families in the area for this week. What is it about Branson that makes it such a good city for veterans today?

Tony: I think there's a genuineness about...you know a veteran can spot someone who's shucking and jiving them from a mile away. If a veteran thought this town wasn't sincere, or I wasn't sincere, or any of the performers weren't, and they didn't really feel it and there was some kind of marketing device or some kind of a publicity device, it wouldn't work. If you do it for free, and you're not getting paid, like in my theater, 20 years I've never asked a veteran to pay for anything...say "You can come in, it doesn't cost you" You know what my dream is? My dream is that some day, this area shows the rest of the country that on November 11th, everything is free. Every amusement park, every theater, every movie, every restaurant, for one day, we just tell the rest of the country, we're going to say thanks, we're going to sacrifice our paychecks for one day because they're ready to sacrifice their lives for us and that some day will happen.

Nathan: Tony, thanks for coming by today. We're at the Branson studio with Tony Orlando, look for his show, Monday at what time?

Tony: Shows at 2:00 pm, the veterans show. It's free, so call the Welk Resort Theater, and later that night we have Santa and Me, a celebration of the Great American Christmas, and that goes all the way until the 28th of the month.

Nathan: That's 2:00, following the 11am Veterans Day parade in downtown Branson.

Tony: Merry Christmas. 

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