Thursday, March 29, 2012

Azaleas are early in Muskogee, Oklahoma!

Muskogee Azalea Festival
The annual Muskogee Azalea Festival is one of the finest events of its kind in the world. It runs from April 1st - April 30th, but this year the blooms have arrived early!

According to the Friends of Honor Heights Park, the azaleas are now in bloom and my well be gone by the time of the annual Azalea Festival Parade on April 14th!

Carriage in Honor Heights Park
The warm spring and lack of a late freeze has the thousands of blooming plants, trees and shrubs at Honor Heights Park out early and now through the weekend of April 7th & 8th is probably going to be the best time to go and see them. That according to a statement provided today by those who help care for the park.

Predicting the timing of the blooms always involves a bit of watch and wait, but they normally come out in the first week of April and peak in the second or third. This year, however, the flowers are all coming in early and so if you hope to see them, you should make plans to go immediately!

For more information on this year's festival, please visit:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Maclay Gardens are in Bloom inTallahassee, Florida

Maclay Gardens in Tallahassee
The most beautiful corner of Florida's capital city is now in bloom, thanks to warm weather and an early spring!
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park spreads across hundreds of acres of hills, forests and water off Thomasville Road in Tallahassee. It is a stunning place year-round, but spring is the season when all eyes turn to the beautiful gardens that give the park its name.

Park officials report that the azaleas and dogwoods both began to bloom in late February and, as they are all across North Florida, the trees and shrubs are alive with flowers and color right now.

Path at Maclay Gardens
Maclay Gardens originated in 1923 when the land was bought by Alfred B. Maclay, a key figure in the New York financial markets. He and his wife, Louise Fleishman Maclay, named their Florida place Killearn Plantation and Gardens and set about creating a wonderland of blooming trees and plants, flowers, water features, open greens and winding paths. Over the next 21 years, the Maclays developed the gardens and even hosted the Duke and Duchess of Windsor there.

Stunning Beauty at Maclay Gardens
Mr. Maclay died in 1944, but Mrs. Maclay continued to work on the development of the gardens until 1953 when she donated the entire property to the State of Florida. Originally called Killearn Gardens State Park, the stunning site was renamed Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park during the 1970s and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

The entire park now covers 873 acres, with the ornamental gardens and related historic structures comprising 28 full acres.

The Maclay House itself will be open to the public through April 30th. The park entrance fee is $6 per vehicle ($4 if the driver is the only occupant) or $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists, etc. There is a separate $6 per adult fee to see the gardens ($3 for children ages 2-12).

To learn more about Maclay Gardens and to see additional pictures, please visit

Friday, March 16, 2012

Callaway Gardens Azaleas are nearing full bloom!

Azaleas in bloom at Callaway Gardens
I just received notice this morning from the staff at Callaway Gardens that the azaleas and other spring flowers are nearing full bloom and that NOW is the time to go see them!
The Gardens team reports that the azaleas will be in full bloom from now over the next two weeks. The Overlook Azalea Garden and Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl both look incredible and spring has definitely arrived at Pine Mountain!

The Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl covers 40 acres and features more than 3,400 hybrid azaleas along with 2,000 other blooming plants and shrubs. The setting is stunning, with a pavilion, gazebo, flowing stream, walking paths and arched bridge. The garden was gunded by Ely Callaway, Jr., who funded it with a donation of $3 million and named it in honor of his ancestors, Ely Reeves Callaway and Fuller Earle Callaway.

Woods in bloom at Callaway Gardens
The Overlook Azalea Garden, meanwhile, features 700 varieties of cultivated azaleas and has been called "one of the most beautiful places on Earth."

The blooms only last about two weeks so from now through the end of March is the time to go.

In addition to the azaleas, the staff reports that dogwoods, native azaleas, silverbells, sweetshrub, red buckeye and early spring wildflowers are in bloom throughout the gardens.

Callaway Gardens are located in Pine Mountain, Georgia, not far from Warm Springs and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Little White House. The gardens are open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Special event admission from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. is $25 per adult; $12.50 per child age 6 to 12; children 5 and younger are admitted for free. Callaway Gardens Annual Passholders are admitted for free. Military (active and retired with valid ID) are admitted for half-price during Celebrate Spring! From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the facilities will close but the Gardens will remain accessible for half-price admission.

You can learn more at and see additional photos from a couple of years ago at

Here are some other great points of interest in area:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

150th Anniversary of the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas

Elkhorn Tavern at Pea Ridge National Military Park
This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. The battle was fought in Northwest Arkansas on March 7-8, 1862.

One of the most important battles of the Civil War and one of the largest engagements west of the Mississippi River, Pea Ridge is regarded by many as the battle that saved Missouri for the Union. Extremely bloody and fought over a vast area, it culminated a campaign by General Samuel Curtis (US) to drive the Missouri State Guard of General Sterling Price (CS) out of its home state.

Confederate Cannon at Pea Ridge
The fight, also called the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern, took place when a Confederate army led by General Earl Van Dorn stormed out of the Boston Mountains and onto the Ozark Plateau of Northwest Arkansas. Using a long and exhausting night march to swing his army around the Federal camps behind Little Sugar Creek, Van Dorn attacked the right flank and rear of the Union army on the morning of March 7, 1862.

Leetown area of Pea Ridge Battlefield
The battle opened near the little community of Leetown in Benton County, Arkansas. One division of the Confederate army attacked through fields and woods in a desperate assault on the Union right flank. General Curtis rushed reenforcements to his men in that sector of the field and intense fighting erupted.

Disaster struck the Confederates making the attack, however, when General Ben McCulloch, who was leading the attack, was killed. General James McIntosh then rose to the command but was killed just fifteen minutes later. Colonel Louis Hebert then took command, but a combination of terrain, smoke, friendly fire and determined Union resistance broke the Confederate apart and he was captured. In just an hour or so, three Confederate division commanders were killed or captured.

View of the Pea Ridge Battlefield from the Mountain
As the fighting neared an end near Leetown, the second Confederate attack came down the Telegraph Road from directly behind the main Union line. This assault was more successful and through an afternoon of heavy fighting drove the Federals from the area around Elkhorn Tavern and back into the middle of the battlefield. Had darkness not ended the drive, Van Dorn might well have won the Battle of Pea Ridge.

Union cannon at Pea Ridge Battlefield
It did not happen that way. In his rush to get his army into battle, General Van Dorn had failed to properly see to his logistics and supply train and darkness found his army without food and almost out of ammunition. When the fighting resumed the next morning, he was not prepared to meet the now reorganized Union army.

After blasting the Confederate positions with artillery fire on the morning of March 8, 1862, General Curtis moved his army forward and drove Van Dorn from the field.

The site of the battle is now preserved as Pea Ridge National Military Park, one of America's finest national park areas. Driving and walking tours take visitors to all key areas of the battlefield and the mountains in the park offer outstanding views of the entire field.

To learn more, please visit

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Branson Tornado Damage and Closings - Saturday Afternoon (3/3/2012)

Branson's Titanic Museum Attraction
Great news from Branson's popular Titanic Museum Attraction. Electricity has been restored and they are once again open and operating!  They report that the only damage they received was to their electronic sign and that the museum and exhibits are just fine.

I will continue to provide updates as more information is made available, but please be assured that most of the popular Branson area will be up and operating for the Spring season. Of the more than 200 hotels in Branson, 12-15 sustained damage. And of the more than 100 attractions and shows, five or six sustained damage.

Most of Branson's hotels and shows are open or are preparing to open for the spring season. If you have any questions about where you are planning to stay, just call ahead.

Here is the latest information I've been able to assemble:
  • Country 76 has reopened for the entire length of the "Branson Strip."
  • Branson Landing reports that the majority of its retailers and restaurants will reopen for business today.
  • Bass Pro Shops and Belks at Branson Landing remain open for business.
  • Branson Airport was not damaged.
  • Titanic Museum Attraction is closed until electricity can be restored.
  • Silver Dollar City reports no damage.
  • Sight and Sound Theater reports no damage.
  • Showboat Branson Belle reports no damage.
  • White Water reports no damage.
  • The Wilderness reports no damage.
  • Tanger Outlet Mall reports no damage. 
  • 76 Express is closed for repairs.
  • Angle Inn is closed for repairs.
  • Best Western Center Pointe Inn is closed for repairs
  • Blue Bayou Hotel is closed for repairs.
  • Branson Express Inn is closed for repairs.
  • Caprice Motor Inn is closed for repairs.
  • Dollar Save Motel is closed for repairs.
  • Grand Plaza is temporarily closed until electricity can be restored.
  • Guest House is close for repairs.
  • Hall of Fame Motel is closed for repairs.
  • Hillbilly Inn is closed for repairs.
  • Hilton Convention Center Hotel is closed for repairs.
  • Holiday Inn Express is closed for repairs.
  • Kimberling Inn in Kimberling City is closed for repairs.
  • Leisure Country Inn is closed for repairs.
  • Melody Lane Motel is closed for repairs.
  • Music Lane Motel is closed for repairs.
  • Ozark Mountain Inn is closed for repairs.
  • Ramada Inn is closed for repairs. 
  • Ramada Limited closed for repairs.
  • Ria Motor Inn is closed for repairs.
  • Riverboat Inn is closed for repairs.
  • Silver Fountain Inn is closed for repairs.
  • Green Gables Inn has reopened.
  • Rosebud Inn has reopened.
  • The Branson Variety Theater is closed pending repairs. This impacts the following shows: Twelve Irish Tenors, Hooray for Hollywood and Four Seasons/Beach Boys Tribute.
  • The Baldknobbers opening night is postponed until Thursday, March 8 at 8 p.m. Phones and box office are still open.
  • The Americana Theatre is closed pending repairs.
  • Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater was damaged and is closed. The Legends in Concert and Brett Family Morning Show have been cancelled for the time being.
  • Hot Hits Theater is closed for repairs.
  • The Icon Theater is closed for repairs.
  • Owens Theater is closed for repairs.
  • Adventure Helicopter Tours is closed for repairs.
  • The Track #4 for Track Family Fun Parks is closed for repairs
  • The Branson Auto Museum is closed pending repairs.
  • The Branson Veterans Museum is closed pending repairs.
  • Dinasour Musem is closed for repairs.
  • Lost Treasure Mini Golf is closed for repairs.
  • Splash Country is closed for repairs.
  • Branson Mall is closed pending repairs.
  • The Branson Bridal Show scheduled for Saturday has been moved to the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center on Highway 76.
  • Dancing with the Stars of Branson has been rescheduled for March 7th. It has been moved to the White House Theater. The VIP party begins at 5:30 p.m. and the show at 7 p.m.
  • Wal-Mart on Highway 76 is closed for repairs.
  • The following restaurants are closed: Branson Landing Restaurants, The Burger Shack on 76, Candlestick Inn, Charlie's Steak, Ribs and Ale, Level 2/Clear at Hilton Convention Center, Mazzio's Pizza, Montana Mike's on 76, Shoney's on 76, Taco Bell on 76, Time-Out Sports Bar, Ahoy's Restaurant (KimberlingCity), Cakes & Cream, Dairy Queen, Ell Charro, Elenita's on 76, Great Wall, Hong Kong Buffet, Jimmy John's, Maggie Moo's, McDonald's on Highway 76, Mexican and Chinese Cuisine, Midtown Cafe at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theatre, Pancho Villa, Papa John's, Starvin Marvins on Highway 76, Subway on Highway 76, TCBY.
  • The following businesses are closed: Branson Mall, Branson Heights Shopping Center, Dalton's Express, Gourmet Coffee Downtown, H&J Gifts, House of Ink, Jubilee Foods, NASCAR Fan Zone, Nature Sunshine, Old Time Photo, Oozles, Ozarkland, Pit Stop, Port of Kimberling Marina, Quilts & Quilts, Same Day Auto, Vista Tee, Wal-Mart on 76, Weezies Upscale Resale, 76 Tire and Auto.
 I will provide the next update this evening or sooner if important information becomes available.  You can read more about Branson anytime at

If you want to see photos or video of the damaged areas, KY3 in Springfield has excellent online coverage at