Female MC loves her job at Dolly Parton’s Stampede
Women have been breaking glass ceilings in state and federal government this fall, but Taylor Granberry broke hers last year astride a Friesian named Nico. Granberry is only the second woman ever to be master of ceremonies at Dolly Parton's Stampede in Branson.
"I was in Dallas, doing another show, and they called and told me they were interested in me trying out to be the MC," Granberry remembers. "My answer was, 'Are you sure?' Because I had no idea a girl could do it!
Dolly Parton’s Stampede
WHEN — 5:30 & 8 p.m. daily with morning shows & matinees on select dates, through Jan. 5
WHERE — Dolly Parton’s Stampede, 1525 W. 76 Country Blvd. in Branson
COST —$24.99 & up for kids; $44.99 & up for adults
INFO — 417-336-3000 or dpstampede.com
"With a lot of prayer and a call to my parents, I decided to go through the process."
In the five-month audition, Granberry had to learn two shows -- totaling about 120 pages of script -- then she acted as master of ceremonies for 14 main shows and 72 of last year's Christmas shows, competing against two men for the role -- "to see if I could hold my own," she says. In January, she was officially signed to the job.
"I am the first person the audience sees, so that can be a lot of pressure," says Granberry, who is 26. "Every single day before I go into the arena, as I'm sitting in the doorway on Nico, I always ask God to sing through me and talk through me. I can't do it by myself.
"Nico," she adds, "is a spectacle in himself, a gorgeous black Friesian, and only the MC rides him."
It's a far cry from where Granberry started -- faking it.
"I was actually a dancer. I started when I was 3," she explains. "The stage became my love right off the bat; I love being the center of attention on it, for all the right reasons. I came to Branson at a very early age, and I told my grandmother I was going to be on stage in Branson one day."
Granberry danced her way through Texas A&M in Texarkana and moved to Branson in February 2014, a month after she graduated.
"I left everything -- my whole family was still in Texas, but they were super supportive of my goals," she remembers. The show, then called Dixie Stampede, "had auditions three days after I moved to Branson; my grandmother saw the posting for the auditions, so it came full circle! I thought, 'I don't ride horses, but hey, practice is practice!' About 25 girls showed up, and the first round of auditions was dancing. I thought, 'I know how to do this'!
"My boss still says it's one of his favorite auditions: He said, 'You can kick your face, but can you ride a horse?' And I said, 'Well, I'm from Texas.' He asked me to stay and ride a horse around the arena, and I obviously didn't know what I was doing! They offered me the job about two hours later, and I went in to work 30 minutes after he called me. He told me, 'You're a good dancer, and we will teach you how to ride. It's just going to take a while.'"
Granberry learned enough to go off to another job in Dallas before she was invited back as MC.
"Now I'm more comfortable in front of 1,100 people than I am one on one," she says with a laugh. "It's where I'm happiest. I truly love what I do, and people tell me it shows, and I'm so flattered to get that compliment."
This time of year, Granberry's job is to introduce all the Christmas spectacles that are part of Dolly Parton's Stampede.
"It is quite a production," she says. "We have a beautiful, beautiful Christmas show, and our Nativity is one to be reckoned with -- live camels and donkeys and sheep and goats.
"And I love feeding off the energy I get from the audience every day," she adds. "You just can't beat it!"