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Branson Area Features

College of the Ozarks

  By: Ladona Weathers

When you visit the Branson area, it doesn’t take long to feel the hardworking spirit that the folks who live and work here embrace. This spirit is the cornerstone of one of the area’s most unique locations, and one you should add to your Branson itinerary.

The College of the Ozarks, located a short drive south of Branson at Point Lookout, is known as “Hard Work U.” Here students work for their education, allowing them to graduate debt-free with a 4-year, Liberal Arts degree. The work done here by students has moved College of the Ozarks into not just a place of higher learning but an attraction visited by thousands annually.

Much of what you can see and do at College of the Ozarks is free of charge. The grounds alone are worth a visit. The Missouri Vietnam Veterans Memorial, honoring the 1,410 servicemen and women from Missouri who gave their lives during the Vietnam War, was built and designed by students. Dedicated in 2015, it serves as Missouri’s official Vietnam memorial.

One of Branson’s best restaurants is located at the Keeter Center on the school’s campus, where you’ll find Dobyns Dining Room. Many restaurants feature “farm to table” fare, but few overlook the farm while seated at your dining table like at Dobyns.

Many of the vegetables used in the dishes are grown right on campus by the students. Pork products are processed on campus and the bread is baked fresh with whole grain meal and flour from the school’s mill. The desserts are also made fresh with ingredients from the college dairy.

Not only are the freshest ingredients used in the culinary creations served at Dobyns Dining Room, but every part of your Dobyns dining experience includes work done by students. After you enjoy a delicious meal, you may want to plan some time to visit other points of interest on campus.

The “Lest We Forget” 9/11 Memorial features a World Trade Center column and stands as a memorial to the 2,996 lives lost on September 11, 2001. Known as “St. Michael’s 37” (in honor of 37 Port Authority officers killed), the column and flanges resemble the body and wings of an angel. It now serves to remember those whose lives were lost in New York City, the Pentagon, and the fields of Pennsylvania.

The Ralph Foster Museum, located on campus, boasts one of the most complete collections of Ozarks history and culture, including the famous Beverly Hillbillies car used in several episodes of the TV show filmed at Silver Dollar City.

Fruitcakes tend to get a bad rap, but the college’s Fruitcake and Jelly Kitchen turns out over 20,000 cakes a year. Visitors are welcome in the kitchen, where a variety of jellies and the college’s delicious apple butter are also made and sold.

Edwards Mill is a fascinating stop for guests of all ages. Here you can see crafts that are not widely practiced much today. The mill is powered by a 12-foot water wheel turned by runoff water from nearby Lake Honor. Student workers grind whole-grain meal and flour. Upstairs is a weaving studio, where students design and produce rugs, shawls, placemats and other items on traditional looms. Downstairs, students weave baskets by hand.

A trip to College of the Ozarks is well worth your vacation time. Not only are many of the points of interest free, but you’ll want to come hungry to enjoy a meal that is truly made fresh just for you.

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