Saying Farewell to Silver Dollar City's World Fest and to New Friends Dearbhail Finnegan and Robin Slater

Updated on May 9, 2016

Ends May 1, 2016

Each April/May for the past 18 years or so, the world has gathered in the tiny town of Branson, Missouri. From across the globe people come together and share stories, music, culture, friendship and food with those of us who live nearby and those who travel from across the country. It is a wonderful exchange of ideas, food, culture and music. And it is ending in a few short days.

Dearbhail (pronounced Derval), Robin and Caleb
Dearbhail (pronounced Derval), Robin and Caleb | Source

It was but a year ago when I wrote an article for here on Hubpages about World Fest; a year ago that I first heard Ireland the Show and renowned harpist Dearbhail Finnegan, her husband and accomplished flutist Robin Slater play in person at Silver Dollar City. I had waited ten years to see Ireland The Show and I was entranced by the Irish dancers from Ireland the Show. It was well worth the wait.

But what affected me much more deeply and brought me back this year, the final year of World Fest was not the dancers, for they are not here. It was not the singers from the show, for they are absent as well. It matters not, for what brought me back once more was the wonderful husband and wife team of Robin and Dearbhail. Their obvious love of the music, for one another and for the people of the area drew me back this year and as I sat and enjoyed the show they performed for us on this Friday afternoon in April, it was with great happiness and a profound sadness both for the music enjoyed live and the fact that never again will I hear them in person.

Silver Dollar City is cancelling World Fest after this year.

After I wrote my little hub last year, I received a fair amount of traffic from viewers and a handful of comments. Then near Christmas I received a notification that I had another comment. Once I opened it and saw who it was from I grew excited. It was from none other than Dearbhail herself. She had taken the time to find my hub, read it and send a comment to me. I was shocked and pleased that the very performer I wrote about took the time to contact me!

She appreciated what I wrote and asked us to visit them once more this year in order to introduce ourselves. How often does one get such a request from a performer? Never in this ol' country boy's experience.

And so we found ourselves seated in an outdoor theater at SDC on a lovely afternoon, anticipating another wonderful concert filled with harp strings, clear notes from the flute and a bit of humor mixed in for good measure.

We were not disappointed.

World Fest and Ireland banners
World Fest and Ireland banners | Source

Dearbhail has performed in Branson for some 18 years at World Fest; her husband of 16 years Robin has performed alongside her every year since their marriage. She has performed before President Clinton at the 50th Anniversary of NATO; before the House of Commons in London; and for Presidents of Ireland Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese as well as current United States President Barrack Obama. She is considered to be Harp Royalty and is an accomplished composer, teacher, director and performer whose works appeared in film in Nim's Winter Tale.

Lest we take she and her husband for granted here in little ol' Branson, be it known her next performance following World Fest is quite literally in a castle. Yes, they will appear in Cabra Castle late in May. We should count ourselves fortunate indeed to listen to such an accomplished pair as they and it is beyond my comprehension why SDC would end such a festival which includes talents such as theirs.

Playing to a packed house
Playing to a packed house | Source

Robin Slater, husband in this duet of life, is an exceptional flutist and artist in his own right. Together their instruments carry one to another time, another place; one where the woes and worries of the day are left far behind, forgotten. Their music alternatively lifts one to soaring heights before pulling at the heartstrings with a mournful tune the next moment.

And then there are the jokes.

Yes, their performance would not be complete without the good humor and prattle of Robin, often speared by Dearbhail with a well timed barb all in the name of fun. Some of the jokes are bad, and Robin is the first to let you know it won't get any better; but they are funny and told with an impish smile across his face. Dearbhail appears at times put out with his jokes and responds with a riposte muttered just loud enough for the crowd to hear and laugh along with. There is a great joy in attending one of their shows and I count myself fortunate to have heard them live and in person.

After their show (which ended far too soon), I hung back and watched as the crowd moved past their table of music for sale and listened as the audience spoke with them, and they with their fans. There was an honesty to them as they listened carefully to the people, laughed with them and took pictures together. It was evident this was exactly where they desired to be in this moment in time: together and performing before the standing room only crowd on this sunny Spring day in April at Silver Dollar City.

As the crowd dispersed, I took my turn at the table to purchase two of their CD's and introduce myself. I let them know that Dearbhail had responded to my article here on Hubpages in December and that they had asked me to stop by. They were delighted to meet me and my youngest son Caleb, allowing pictures to be taken, small talk to commence and autographs signed. They were, in short, exactly as I pictured them to be: open, honest and endearing. They are the type of people I could easily call friends. And so, after meeting these new friends I am bound to say farewell, to bid adieu this royal couple and wish them well on their travels through the world. Perhaps we will meet once more, but if SDC does indeed end this World Festival, I am at a loss as to where this might be. Perhaps, someday, my wife and I will travel to Ireland, the land of my ancestors. Perhaps we will visit Scotland and see where the MacCubbin branch of my family tree lived in years past. Or we might even visit Antrim, Ireland where me who knows how many times Great Grandparents Clarence and Mary Bell Patterson lived in the late 1600's and their son Robert was born in Londonberry in the early 1700's 'ere he left to come to that new world America. We could even visit that haven for Irish history and culture, Belfast where Jane Huggins, another of my ancestors was born. What I fervently hope is that we meet our new friends once more and it would be wonderful if it were in that incredible world called Ireland where we could listen to the music of our past in the present in friendship. Until that time, I have this to say to Dearbhail and Robin:

Go n-eiri an bothar leat.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face, 
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        Chris knight 

        23 months ago

        I can't understand y SDC wants to close the world fest.I think that it sucks because I've always wanted to go see it but never had the money to go and now they want to shut it down. Like so many others that haven't been there will never get to there is a whole younger generation that will never get to enjoy the wonder of world fest

      • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

        Mr Archer 

        2 years ago from Missouri

        My dearest Robin, again I am stunned to have one of the persons I write about take the time to find, read and comment! Thank you! This was a wonderful moment in my life and one my son will remember for the rest of his life. I hope we do meet once more but until then, please remain safe and the two of you enjoy life. Thank you.

        Woolsey, the times they are a-changin'. I hired a person into my office last year and she worked for SDC for many years. She too is saddened by the direction the park is going and together we lament the loss of the simple family values, the care that was prevalent before and the focus on money, money, money that seems to be the driving factor in the park today. We too have the season pass (and have for more years than I can recall) and as far as I am concerned this will be our final year also. Too much has changed and not for the better. Thank you and safe travels.

      • Woolsey profile image


        2 years ago

        Yeah, regarding the end of World Fest... I got this message from management, "All things must come to an end new beginnings are on the horizon." and that "be assured you will enjoy the new entertainment we have in store for our friends."

        Well, in Scots-Irish terminology... that's pure SHITE! I am not going to enjoy ANYTHING... if Robin and Dearbhail aren't there to perform their Irish harp and silver flute! Believe it or not... management even cracked down on allowing me to visit Guest Relations and leave complimentary comments. So, if the SDC management does not want to hear appreciative compliments, I will join the ranks of other disgruntled guests. Usually, after each visit to the park, I would write a lengthy statement thanking Silver Dollar City for an enjoyable experience... while lauding the wonderful performance of Robin Slater, Dearbhail Finnegan, Ecuador Manta, and other longtime performers. (Never, on any occasion, over the last 30 years, have I made one negative statement about SDC... until now.) However, the last time I stopped to leave encouraging / positive feedback, the staff would not let me write my own comments. One of the Silver Dollar City reps said, "No, you can't do that any more. You tell us what the incident was... and we will write it for you!"   I thought, "CRAP! It will be a cold day in Hades before I am prevented from speaking for myself!"   I went ahead and told the lady what I wanted to say, and it was ALL good... Not only did she misspell Robin and Dearbhail's name, but she only wrote a tiny part of what I was telling her! She would listen to a portion of my appreciative statement before replying, "What you really want to say is..." and then she would paraphrase my feedback in four or five words!   The lady let me know she was annoyed that I was there taking her time. However, if I had been allowed to fill out the form myself, the employee would have been free to attend to other visitor issues. There was no other explanation than censorship and feedback control. But why control encouraging feedback endorsing groups that management decided to dump? Obvious! Always before they thanked me again and again for leaving POSITIVE statements of appreciation in comparison to the negative rants of other grumpy guests. However, this time... the attitude had TOTALLY changed! I was a pariah! Well, I'll tell you one thing... Silver Dollar City has lost A LOT of its appeal for me this year! I will finish my 2016 season pass simply because I already have it purchased. However, I am thinking long and hard whether I will ever return, after being a loyal patron for the last 30 years! Dropping World Fest was a turning point for me. Silver Dollar City has aborted cultural diversity for buffoonery! So, bring in the clowns!  

      • profile image

        Robin Slater 

        2 years ago

        Thank you for such a nice article, both Dearbhail and I are very glad to have met you and appreciate you taking the time to write this. Hoping we will all meet again sometime!

      • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

        Mr Archer 

        2 years ago from Missouri

        It was a very nice surprise! Branson has it good locations and its not so good: SDC has the same. We enjoy it but sometimes the crowd is just a bit too much. As we have aged we find the shows much more to our taste and are now fighting a different crowd for seats. The young like the rides, the not so young the shows. I am at a crossroads as I still enjoy both (to a degree). Take care Shanmarie, and thanks for stopping by!

      • shanmarie profile image

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Aww, that's always a pleasant surprise to have someone admired respond in kindness. Although I have never been to Branson, I have always thought I want to go.

      • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

        Mr Archer 

        2 years ago from Missouri

        Sounds good to me! To paraphrase the Soup Nazi...

        No sharks for me!!

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        2 years ago from Central Florida

        Most of them are on the east coast in the Atlantic. New Smyrna Beach, which is popular in my neck of the woods, is touted as the shark capial of the world. You're going to be in the Gulf, so you should be okay.

      • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

        Mr Archer 

        2 years ago from Missouri

        Thanks Cheyenne. It was really cool to see that for sure. And I hope that SDC sees the error of their ways and continues this wonderful tradition. Take care and I'm counting the days to our trip to Florida this summer! You'll let me know if there are any shark swarms along the coast, won't you?

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        2 years ago from Central Florida

        How wonderful to have the subject of one of your many entertaining hubs reach out to you! I know you're sad to see the World Fest come to an end. Perhaps you and your amazing new friends can stay in touch.


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