Stephenson County, Illinois — Two busses filled with travelers from northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin enjoyed a busy 5-day excursion to Branson Missouri November 16-20, and I was pleased to be one of the Farm Bureau hosts along with Ann Marie Cain from the Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau. The Tri-State Travel tour was filled with great food and entertainment and I really enjoyed the company of everyone, especially our group on bus 1. The trip was made even better with my wife Andrea along as we made our first trek to this popular Midwest destination. Day one took us to St. Louis for a wonderful stay at the Drury Inn & Suites downtown (with an incredible complimentary happy hour with bountiful food and drink). We started out on day two with a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, which was a fascinating look inside the beverage giant and its sprawling complex. We then traveled on to Branson and our home for the next three nights at the Grand Country Resort. Our evening buffet there was sensational, and the Grand Jubilee variety show that night in the resort complex was extremely entertaining.
Day three was filled with shows including Maxine’s Christmas Story at the Andy Williams’ Moon River Theatre, Daniel O’Donnell at the Lawrence Welk Theatre, and the incredible Miracle of Christmas show at the Sight and Sound Theatre. We had a fabulous dinner at Florentina’s Ristorante Italiano, and the breakfast buffet at the resort all three days was terrific. Our final full day in Branson featured the Doug Gabriel Show, a guided tour of the area, the Showboat Belle Dinner Cruise, and a tram tour of the Shepherd of the Hills Christmas lights. We hit the road for home on the 20th and got back into Freeport at 6:30 p.m., giving me one hour to run Andrea home and race back to the office for our SCFB board meeting (thanks Marlie for having things ready to go).
I’ve known for many years about the tourist attraction that Branson is, but the scope of it all was even more than I had anticipated. We were on the tail end of the tourist season with many shows ending while we were there, as the area goes dormant until spring when things come alive again. The buzz is that the tourism economy there is poised for a reinventing of itself with several theatres having closed and others seeing smaller crowds, as other popular entertainment venues like Nashville and Pigeon Forge have impacted the Branson traffic. It will be interesting to see what the coming years bring for this unique destination.
Annual meeting highlights
Around 80 were in attendance for the annual meetings of the Stephenson County Farm Bureau and Stephenson Service Company on November 21, as we marked the end of the fiscal year for both organizations. We were pleased to recognize Melissa Wolfe as the COUNTRY Financial Agent of the Year for here membership recruiting efforts, and we presented our Teacher of the Year award to Orangeville 2nd grade teacher Nicole Trampel for her outstanding efforts in sharing ag’s story in her classroom. Elected to three-year terms on the SCFB board of directors were Wendell DeVries, Chris Dornink, Tom Flack, Andrew Garnhart, and Dennis Groezinger, and Josh Endress was elected to a 1-year term as Young Leaders rep on the board. Becca Moest was recognized for her four years of service on the board representing the Young Leaders, and President Steve Fricke shared highlights from the past year. Stephenson County Farm Bureau is blessed to be in excellent financial health and working harder than ever to provide meaningful and relevant programs and services for our members and the community.
Andrea and I hosted a crowd of 37 at our home for Thanksgiving, and a great time was truly had by all. Several of us started the day with a neighborhood 5K run/walk, resplendent in our T-shirts reading “Huffing for the Stuffing”, and the gang enjoyed a bountiful meal that could have easily fed a couple dozen more. Our older son Mike and his wife Cassie, along with Claire, Cora and Clay, stayed through Sunday afternoon and we had a wonderful time. The balmy weather allowed Mike and I to get in 18 holes of disc golf at Krape Park for three straight days, and we’ll look forward to seeing them again for Christmas.
The next destination
We learned last week that our younger son David, along with his wife Andrea and 3-year-old daughter Sofia, will be heading to Kingston Jamaica in November 2019 for his next post with the U.S. Foreign Service. This will be a much shorter and climatically pleasant trip for us to make, though he jokingly noted that the new winter clothes that they just bought will end up being stowed away. We’re looking forward to learning more about the next stage of his journey as plans develop.
Congratulations to the Panthers!
The Lena-Winslow Panthers football team completed their perfect season on November 24 as they claimed the IHSA Class 1A football title with an exciting 21-20 victory over a tough Tuscola team. Many people felt that the title game was actually the week before when L-W held off Forreston 12-8 in an epic battle, but it was great to see the Panthers seal the deal. Our area schools can hold their heads high as the athletic, academic and other talents of our students continue to shine brightly!
Bruce Johnson is the manager of the Stephenson County Farm Bureau