Christ of the Ozarks

The Christ of the Ozarks with Nativity Scene at its base can only be seen in this configuration at this time of year.

At this time of year I’m usually at my most relaxed, fresh off a 7-day anniversary cruise. It’s hard to believe what all has occurred in our world since last year at this time when I was in Hawaii (with my wife, of course) for our 35th anniversary.

Harvey, and now COVID-19, wreaked havoc on our annual cruise plans two out of the last four years.

In the year of Harvey, after having to cancel our cruise, we went to San Antonio. That was where we spent the bulk of our honeymoon.

This year, after delaying, and then finally giving up any hope of going on a cruise, we settled on pot luck.

I picked a Southwest Airlines’ destination to which we had never visited. My wife made all the plans from there.

We ended up flying to Little Rock, renting a car, and driving northwest to Eureka Springs, which is close to the Missouri border in the heart of the Ozarks, very near Branson, MO. If one ever goes to Eureka Springs with the aid of Southwest Airlines, I’d suggest flying into Memphis or Tulsa. I think the drive is a little shorter, albeit less scenic.

This trip was sort of like a cruise in that our little cottage (aka – one-quarter of a larger cottage) was about the size of our usual balcony cabin on a cruise ship. However, I have yet to ever use the heater on a cruise!

I’m not big into shopping for days on end, but I can see how a lot of women could be attracted to the hundreds of quaint shops in Eureka Springs. In fact, my sister-in-law has enjoyed annual trips there (or to that area) with friends for many years. She asked my wife to greet one of the artists there, and we happened to run into her. Apparently they struck up a friendship many years ago.

As noted before in this space, one of the things I love about having a December anniversary is wherever we go it’s decked out in Christmas decorations.

Eureka Springs didn’t disappoint in that area.

It is the slow season for them, which was nice. I can’t imagine navigating the narrow, winding streets, with no traffic lights, in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

After doing the things probably every first timer does in Eureka Springs (i.e. – shop and eat), we headed to the site of The Great Passion Play (the last week of Jesus’ life rendered by a cast of 170 in a large-scale dramatic production).

There are no performances this time of year due to the weather, but we got to see the 4,000-seat amphitheater, the 7-story Christ of the Ozarks (built in 1966), and the Christmas light display. We also took what they call the Holy Land Tour, which is a way for them to produce a little cash flow in the off-season.

Prior to going on the nearly two-hour tour, I struck up a conversation with an older gentleman in the gift shop.

The conversation was an interesting one, with the man at one point commenting that he wished the “second coming” was around the corner, basically because he thinks the world needs that about now.

When we got on the bus, that man was our driver. He is also the manager of the entire compound, and has been for 20-plus years.

While on the Holy Land tour I couldn’t help but feel a little bad thinking about all the things I couldn’t do this year due to COVID-19.

Imagining eating the “last supper” of our trip on the floor, as Jesus and his disciples did in the original Last Supper, really put things in perspective. The thought of wandering in the desert for 40 years for worshipping a golden calf, versus having to binge watch Netflix during our initial lockdown, or on non-event weekends in Aransas County, further proved I need to quit feeling sorry for myself.

The last stop on the tour was The Great Passion Play amphitheater.

I asked our driver/manager/tour guide how far in advance one has to buy a ticket to ensure a place in the amphitheater.

His face sort of dropped, responding, “You can just walk right up. We used to fill it regularly, but now if we get 1,000 people at a show it’s a good day.”

He went on to share that COVID-19 restrictions didn’t hurt their attendance because they were already at 25% capacity.

That saddened me a bit, knowing many folks in past years had to secure their tickets well in advance of the show, which is held May through October.

The manager said something about the reason attendance to The Great Passion Play has dropped so much in recent years, and I totally understood what he was saying.

“Son, our world has changed so much,” he said.

“Amen,” I said to myself.

Giving it more thought, I could picture entire families, including mom, dad and kids, attending The Great Passion Play in the past. I can’t see that happening today. I understood what he was saying.

Final thought

During the entire time in Arkansas my wife was nursing a bum left arm, injured while working out the week before we left on our three-day trip.

She was lucky though. When in our cozy (part of a) cottage, I didn’t have to worry about the fact our tiny freezer couldn’t hold a fraction of the bag of ice purchased for her nightly ice packs … and my ice tea.

I just placed in on the back porch, and it stayed frozen for two-plus days.

Here’s hoping that next year we can safely go on a cruise, once again, this time for our 37th anniversary.

Until next week, have a good week.

Mike Probst can be reached at

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