New owners will resume show, renovate Shepherd of the Hills park

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BRANSON, Mo. (KY3) - The new owners of the Shepherd of the Hills property in Branson say the show will go on.

During a news conference Thursday, new owners Jeff Johnson and Steve Faria said they will change the name of the attraction to the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead Adventure Park. The new owners outlined plans to renovate the park with ATV trails, playgrounds and mini-golf added to the popular zipline ride. The park will also continue to feature its Trail of Lights during the Christmas season.

The park has had a couple of starts and stops since 2013. Johnson and Faria said the live pageant will return later this month and run through September.

Johnson says he has personal reasons for continuing the legacy of the Shepherd of the Hills.

"My grandparents moved here in the 1960's. They bought the Shepherd of the Hills Motel. My granddad was in the play. I used to come out here all the time when I was a little kid," Johnson said.

The show's director and long-time employee Keith Thurman says when the Shepherd of the Hills closed in 2013, then reopened, it never fully recovered, despite the owners' best efforts. He says this new attempt to revive the property "just feels different." Thurman says he is hopeful and confident that this effort will continue to legacy of The Shepherd of the Hills.

"It's like a Disney script. It couldn't be any better. Jeff knows this place. He knows why it's here. He knows the reason that there is a Shepherd of the Hills. He knows that we deserve big crowds because we are worth it in every way," Thurman said.

Mike Coffelt has helped share the story of The Shepherd of the Hills for nearly 50 years as a cast member. He says the story and the people who have kept it alive are as much a part of the Ozarks as the rolling hills that surround the theater.

"If it wasn't for them, there wouldn't be none of this," Coffelt said.

He and other longtime employees say they're confident in the future of the place where Branson, as we know it, began.

"If you lose what started it all, then you've lost it," " Coffelt said.

The renovations and new attractions are expected to debut in 2018.