The Opening Ceremony of Branson Veterans Homecoming Week took place on Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Americana Theatre.
The concert featured Female Vocalist of the Year C.J. Newsom, whose Classic Country and Comedy show is hosted at the Americana. Newsom opened and closed the show with a mix of country and pop music while also working and entertaining the crowd.
“It’s always an honor when the veterans ask us to perform at their ceremonies,” Newsom told Branson Tri-Lakes News. “It’s so important to Chris (Newsom’s husband and Americana show producer) and I to show our support to our men and women who have served and are serving. We understand that sacrifices had to happen and continue to happen for us to live in freedom. So we love to show our appreciation to them for their services.”
The show included performances from the Hughes Brothers, Dalena Ditto, Barbara Fairchild, Roy Morris, and George Dyer.
The entertainers spent significant time during their shows interacting with the veterans in the crowd, including Newsom who sat next to Army Sergeant (ret.) Tom Hirstein for a personal serenade.
“It was a very enjoyable moment,” Hirstein said.
Hirstein also drew some laughs from the audience as about half a dozen different photographers captured pictures of himself with Newsom, causing her to have to ad-lib her performance.
“The song’s only three minutes long,” Newsom joked as the photographers kept coming.
The Hughes Brothers came out for three acapella performances including “America,” and Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time.” Fairchild performed her No. 1 country hit “The Teddy Bear Song,” before joining her husband Roy Morris.
The ceremony featured a touching moment when 10-year-old Skyler Clark made a special presentation.
Clark, who in 2019 began a project honoring veterans with custom made keychains featuring a fishing hook, brought a miniature cannon to the stage. Clark has given away over 5,500 keychains to veterans this year, but wanted to do something special by giving away the cannon he had built. The audience was asked to determine who should receive the honor, and they voted for the oldest veteran in the room.
Willie Austin “Bill” Carlisle of Healdton, OK, who is almost 97 years old, was the oldest veteran by about six months. Carlisle, a Navy Veteran, served during World War II.
Event organizer Dee Elledge announced they are planning to find bigger venues next year for some of the reunion events, noting one of this year’s gatherings for Vietnam veterans had been filled since July 1, and over 150 veterans had to be turned away from the specific event.
More information about events organized by Elledge can be found at veteransshow.com.
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