Someone had described Branson Missouri as being 'the Christian Las Vegas.' With that in mind, I had very low expectations. I'm happy to report that it isn't that bad at all, though I have been avoiding the strip of constant traffic and congested junk shops full of crap.
I'm here for our Sly Family Reunion, a tradition started when I was about four and has continued every two years ever since. Our family is large and ever growing. We live all over the country.
Why Branson, you ask? It's (relatively) central to where everyone lives (Phoenix, many parts of Texas, Michigan, Virginia Beach, Wisconsin...I could go on...). My Dad and I flew here, but several of my cousins drove.
Of the traditions that we've held over the years, the 'white elephant gift exchange' has been the highlight every time. Every adult that wants to participate brings a 'gift' purchased for around $5. Gifts need to be brought wrapped and put in the middle of a big table. There were 24 contributions this year, and we each drew a number from a hat to determine what order we choose a gift. When it's your turn, you can either 1)choose a gift from the table and open it up for all to see or 2)opt for a gift someone else has already chosen and take it from them. The second option has the stipulation that gifts can only change hands twice- once a third person claims it, it's no longer available.
Some of my relatives use it as an excuse to empty out their closets. I contributed a coon-skin cap that I found in the "Hillbilly Nut Shop" down the road. I don't even remember who first got that cap, but it was a hot commodity. There were a lot of fart or burp themed gifts this year- someone ended up with a keychain that made the sounds of various sounds of burps. My Uncle got a coin bank in the shape of a butt, and when you put a quarter in it makes a fart sound. We're talking high humor here.
I had drawn the last number, and knowing that the last unwrapped gift was brought by my Dad, I opted to take a book of 'brain teaser puzzles' that my aunt got. She then chose to take some windchimes from her sister, and her sister took the burping keychain from her niece. My poor niece decided to choose the remaining gift, the one that my Dad had provided. The room was silent as she unwrapped it, and then burst into laughter: it was a (very large) pair of mens underwear, sewn closed at the bottom with handles on the top, labeled as a 'hillbilly briefcase.'
If you're interested in acquiring your own hillbilly briefcase, you can get one at the Hillbilly Nut Shop up the street. It's bound to impress!