Branson, MO, has become one of the nation's top vacation destination--for families with children, retirees, empty nesters.

In fact, anyone seeking a vacation spot with top entertainment, outdoor activities and beautiful scenery. In addition, Branson offers wholesome amusement and safe, picturesque surroundings.

These are among the reasons that more than 6 million visitors make their way to this Midwestern entertainment Mecca each year. Home to over 55,000 theater seats; 22,000 lodging rooms; 300,000 restaurant seats, 200 retail outlets, dozens of attractions and three beautiful, crystal clear lakes. Branson also hosts a multitude of festivals each year, offering special events and activities for all visitors.

These are reasons that Branson is home for an annual event unlike any other in the country, "Branson Salutes America's Farmers."

Beginning in 1997, a local company partnered with Deere & Company to organize the first salute to American agriculture and those that keep the crops growing. The inaugural event was a tremendous success, drawing over 22,000 visitor entries for the grand prize tractor given away at the end of August, 1997.

The event continued to grow during its second and third years, welcoming addition national and local sponsors. The popularity of the month-long event, and the visitors it attracted during its first year, have led to a decision by Deere to continue the event on an annual basis. Branson Event Marketing Group, Inc. (BEMG), Deere and the City of Branson, as well as some of Branson's top entertainers, had sown the seeds for an exciting yearly celebration.

BEMG and Deere are busily planning the fourth annual Branson Salutes America's Farmers for the year 2000. This year's theme will be "Celebrating 2000 Years of Agriculture." National sponsors of past years include AgriTalk Radio, AgDay Television and many more who will take part in this year's salute to the tradition, technology and history of America's largest industry--agriculture.

Activities will kick off this year July 30, with a FFA Benefit Concert, at the Moe Bandy Theatre.

Last year, Bandy established the Moe Bandy-John Deere FFA Scholarship program, raising money through a raffle tickets for a John Deere pedal tractor. AgriTalk, a nationally syndicated agriculture radio talk show, will return to Branson for live broadcasts for the third year, July 31 through Aug. 4, at the Moe Bandy Theatre. Show host, Ken Root, will talk with local celebrities and take phone calls from listeners, before a live audience each morning, from 10 to 11 a.m., with a pre-show from 9 to 10 a.m. Always a lively and entertaining event, there also are prize giveaways daily to the live audience. Admission is free.

National Farmers Union will end the week with a very unique event, the Farmers Share Luncheon, Saturday, Aug. 5. Also scheduled during the week are an FFA Farm Toy Show, at Lodge of the Ozarks, Friday, Aug. 4; Kids Korn Festival, at Shepherd of the Hills, Friday and Saturday, Aug. 4 and 5; and a Kids 'n Kows Festival.

Week 2, Aug. 7 through 12, will be Branson Farm Fair Week, with activities and displays at participating businesses throughout town. A FFA-produced "Old McDonald's Petting Farm" will be the place to be Thursday through Saturday for an up close look at some adorable baby farm animals.

Al Pell, host of television's "AgDay," will return to town for "Breakfast with Al," at the Country Kitchen Restaurant, Friday, Aug. 11. Accompanying Pell this year will be AgDay meteorologist Cindi Berger. There is a $6 charge for the breakfast, which includes the bountiful and scrumptious breakfast buffet, at Country Kitchen, as well as drink and tip.

Pell will moderate a panel discussion during the event. Aug. 14 through 19 will be Speed Week, featuring race cars on display, as well as classic and new John Deere equipment.

During the month be sure to pick up a Farm Salute Tabloid, at any of the sponsors, and get busy "harvesting," at all the "Crop Harvest Game Locations"-a good harvest wins a person an entry in the grand prize drawing Aug. 28 and announced live on AgriTalk. This year's grand prize, in keeping with the Farm Salute tradition, will be spectacular John Deere LT166 Lawn Tractor, with a 42 inch cutting deck and an all-expense paid trip for two to the NASCAR Winston Cup Race, Nov. 5, in Phoenix, AZ.

Additional events are being scheduled and updates will appear regularly on the official event Website, at www.bransonfarmsalute.com.

For information, call 417-332-0655. Special vacation packages are being designed to offer Branson visitors a great value on the special events and the entertainment offered during the Farm Salute. Contact the toll free number, at 800-265-5993, for special pricing for Farm Salute visitors. Make plans to harvest a bumper crop of fun during the fourth annual "Branson Salutes America's Farmers."

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