RUNNING THE SHOW: Silver Dollar City Public Relations/Publicity Director Lisa Rau looks in during a busy day. TV, radio and print media are all on her schedule.
Day in the Life with Lisa Rau
Don’t call Lisa Rau a “PR person” – she’s in publicity.
“Publicity sounds more magical,” Rau says as she makes time through the large crowds of people just outside her office.
As director of public relations and publicity for Silver Dollar City, Rau spends her days curating “magic” at the 61-acre park. From the 90,000 pounds of candies made annually and the 62 bands that rotate through the park’s stages during the annual Bluegrass & BBQ festival to the topic of her super, secret morning meeting, Rau spins it all like a seasoned pro to provide the most entertainment, aka the highest dose of magic.
“We’re calling it MM18 – Mountain Mystery 2018,” she says of the meeting. “Only the highest level people know right now; we haven’t even told the employees yet.”
MM18 is SDC’s best and worst kept secret. The new coaster set to debut in 2018 already has graced the cover of Springfield Business Journal as coaster enthusiasts nationwide speculate on its specifics – a fact Rau is all too aware of. The cover page hangs outside her office on the “wall of fame” board.
The MM18 summit continues without Rau. It’s 11 a.m. and she’s snaking her way through the park, toward the Dockside Theater to catch the morning’s first show: Ray Cardwell and Tennessee Moon. Cardwell is Rau’s longtime boyfriend, and she’s nervous about his first gig in the park.
“You can flash him,” she says to freelance photographer Dean Groover.
Groover is on Rau’s heels all day, photographing the acts and stopping in four specific points to take progress shots of MM18. Cardwell has mic issues, and Rau is on her tiptoes from the back row. SDC Senior Publicist Martha Bohner has reassuring words when Rau questions the sound quality. There’s little time to worry, the reigning queen of bluegrass is on stage across the park and the trio hightail it to catch the act. Rhonda Vincent is introducing her daughter when Rau enters and Groover makes his way down the aisle of the packed 800-seat theater for photos.
Fifteen minutes later, Rau is out the door and headed back across the park. It’s slow going as the 27-year SDC veteran knows, and says hi to, just about everyone she passes. She’s making her way up one of the park’s notorious hills when a song catches her ear. An employee sings “I Believe I Can Fly” over the loudspeaker at Fire Spotter, the kids’ ride that lifts plastic hot air balloon baskets high into the sky. Rau turns around immediately and makes her way backward through the line. The employee’s name is Josh, and he’s new from Oklahoma. Rau loves it and encourages him to continue, while the kids cheer him on.
At 12:30 p.m., Rau, Bohner and Groover meet at Reunion Hall to partake in BBQ Fest. A sampling of pulled pork smoked for 18 hours meets fried apples and something called a BBQ Sundae: apples, baked beans, coleslaw and meat layered in a mason jar. Bohner goes over the afternoon’s packed agenda – radio, TV and print media are on the schedule.
With no time to sit, Rau heads to Hazel’s Blown & Cut Glass to meet Shawn Watt. The North American Travel Journalists Association requested the master glassblower make an award for its annual convention. Watt poses for promotional photos before the piece is wrapped and shipped up the hill to Rau’s office. She’s headed that way as well for a few minutes of desk time, but first it’s a 1:45 interview with a TV crew from KOAM, Joplin’s CBS affiliate. They want to talk about the festival for a special travel segment. En route, Rau stoops to pick up a candy wrapper from the path.
“That’s part of the SDC culture,” she says. “Even Pete and Jack (Herschend) pick up trash.”
By 2:15, she’s at her desk surrounded by framed newspaper front pages. She’s not there to check email – she’s been doing that all day through her hot pink iPhone that rarely leaves her hand. She’s here for a few minutes of decompression and to solve a puzzle. With so many journalists in the park for the festival, she’s mapping out which publicist should be where and when. She texts Joshua Clark, entertainment reporter for the Branson Tri-Lakes News: Meet at Hannah’s Ice Cream Factory at 3 p.m. Rau emails a parking pass to a radio crew, and by 2:42 she is on her feet again. Clark and his girlfriend – also a Branson performer – are there to see Vincent sing. There’s a round of mini ice cream cones on Rau, and the group gathers outside in the 75-degree May sun. The hot pink phones buzzes – it’s an attendance update, one of six Rau gets during the day. There are roughly 5,200 people in the park that afternoon, but they’d predicted nearly 7,000. By midsummer, that number easily shoots up to 15,000.
By 3:30, a radio crew from KTTS is making its way across the square for a series of drive time remote spots. Summer Stevens and Cash Williams set up near the water wheel and test the signal strength.
Bohner and Rau will split the next few KTTS interviews, giving Rau time to swing back by the Dockside and check on Cardwell.
“Just about everything in the park has a name,” Rau says as she walks. “When an employee hits 25 years, they get something named after them.”
Outside of Phoebe Snapp Taffy, hangs the sign: “Extraordinary! Sensational! Added Attraction! See Mistress of Oratory Arts Lisa Rau demonstrating 89 astonishing feats of linguistic calibration. Appearing one day only at the Ladies Auxiliary: She’s amazing, she’s entertaining, she’s Lisa.”