AS THE MASTER OF CEREMONIES AT DOLLY PARTON’S STAMPEDE, NEW BOSTON NATIVE TAYLOR GRANBERRY LIVES OUT HER DREAMS IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE OF 1,100 EVERY SINGLE NIGHT
by SUZY TURNER
Amid the sound of horses stampeding and the roar of the audience’s excitement, a stunning brunette dressed in rhinestones rides into the arena on her black Fresian horse named “Nico.” Next, a sonorous voice with the perfect mixture of country twang and southern charm, announces, “Howdy, folks! Good evening, and welcome to Dolly Parton’s Stampede. My name is Taylor Granberry, and I’ll be your host for tonight’s incredible event!”
Born and raised in New Boston, Texas, Taylor always found support and encouragement through her parents, Sheila and Randall Granberry. They taught Taylor and her brother, Ty, to always put their faith first. They knew that in doing so, there was no way their children would falter; they would always come out on top.
The queen of interests from the time she was old enough to walk, you name it, Taylor probably tried it at some point. She began dance lessons with Gayle Burrow at All Stars Dance Center when she was 3 years old. She took lessons there for seven years then moved to Dance, Etc. to finish out the next eight years with Janet Willis. She also played sports and became involved in band. “Being in band helped my love for music evolve into what it is today. It helped me understand the storytelling of the song I was dancing to, or later on, singing to. It also helped me learn how to appropriately and respectfully work with a group of people for one common goal.” Taylor then began taking voice lessons from Launa Hayes and continued for six years. “From there, my creative life started to snow ball. I became involved in One Act Play and won a few awards doing that. The stage had stolen my heart in every way.”
Taylor graduated from high school in 2010 and received a Mass Communication degree with an emphasis in PR and Advertising and a minor in Marketing from Texas A&M University-Texarkana. While she was growing up, Taylor’s family often made trips to Branson, Missouri. “Branson began to feel like a second home to me,” she explains. “The first thing at the top of my list, every time we visited, was to see the shows! And every time we went, I realized that sitting in the audience wasn’t enough. I would always tell my family that I was going to be in a show one day!” Fortunately, that feeling never went away for Taylor. This girl had big plans, and she intended to fulfill them. After graduating college in December 2013, Taylor moved to Branson all by herself, never feeling overly brave or afraid. “I knew that I was exactly where God intended me to be,” Taylor says. “I had no direction, and I knew zero people, but what I did know was that I was about to live out my dream!”
The day Taylor moved to Branson, her grandmother was driving down Branson’s famed Highway 76 and happened to see the Stampede marquee advertising auditions. She told Taylor about seeing the sign, and after being snowed in for three days, Taylor attended the open audition. “There were around 25 girls there. Intimidated was an understatement! I had no idea what to expect,” she says. “They explained that there would be a dance portion first which made me feel so good because dance is what I had done my whole life! If they liked you, they would ask you to stay and ride a horse. My first thought when hearing that announcement was, ‘Oh no!’ but it still didn’t scare me.” Taylor danced the short dance in front of the production manager and his assistant and immediately sat down to talk with them about her past performance experience. Panicking because riding a horse was definitely not on the list, Taylor decided not to divulge that information. The manager asked, “So, you can kick your face, but can you ride a horse?” With her version of quick thinking, Taylor spouted off confidently, “I’m from Texas!” Since most people assume that being from Texas means growing up riding horses, Taylor thought she was being sneaky ... until she was asked to stay for the riding portion of the audition. Luckily, she survived assuring him that she was coachable! An hour later, she received the phone call that she was hired as a dancer and that she would eventually be trained to ride horses. “I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy and accomplishment. To this day, that manager still says I’m one of his favorite auditions because I just wouldn’t tell him that I couldn’t ride a horse.”
The first year, while dancing for the show and helping out backstage, Taylor was put through horsemanship training. After nine months, she really got the hang of it, thanks to being taught the fundamentals by her patient and understanding managers. “I was the epitome of a rhinestone cowgirl. I could look the part, and that was about it at that time!” she admits. During the spring of 2015,
Taylor was cast by another theater
in Branson to be in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” After that summer run, the Stampede called her back, this time to be a full-time rider and dancer in the show. Although it was a big stepping stone for Taylor to become a main rider and it took a lot of hard work, she admits that it all paid off in the end. Taylor finished out the 2015 season and during 2016, Silver Dollar City hired her to play the Virgin Mary in their show, “The Living Nativity.” Solely hired for her voice, Taylor couldn’t pass it up. She explains, “Luckily, Dolly’s was very understanding because they knew where my true passion was, and they asked me to stay on part-time with them while working full-time at SDC for the Christmas season.” As 2017 started, Taylor stepped away from the Stampede for a bit. After much prayer, she auditioned at Six Flags Over Texas and was hired as a swing for Miss Ruby’s Wild West Cabaret. Although she wasn’t sure why she was being called to be in that show, she knew she had to so she packed her bags and moved back home to Texas. “That show was a growing experience for me as a performer. I was back on stage singing and dancing and playing a different character every day,” she says. “It built a confidence that I forgot I had. I was still searching a little bit for what was next because I knew, deep down, that I really wanted to be back in Branson.”
While working at Six Flags, Taylor received a call from the manager that originally auditioned her at Dolly’s, asking if she was interested in coming back. She politely declined the invitation because she thought she had peaked there as a performer since she had filled every position in the show. He stopped in his tracks and presented her with another, huge opportunity; he asked her to become the Master of Ceremonies. Taylor was pretty much in shock by his offer because to her knowledge, men had always filled that role; however, he informed her that one other woman filled that position 10 years ago. “With a lot of prayer and calls to my parents and closest friends, I decided to give it a go. The least they could say was ‘no’, right?” she jokes.
Taylor moved back to Branson and started the rehearsal process again, spending many hours rehearsing with the corporate director and her managers. Studying day in and day out, Taylor was determined she could do this. After a five-month audition process, in the end, she beat out two men. “I like to say that the first woman that hosted the show shattered the glass ceiling, and I’m busting out the windows!” she exclaims. “Since I signed on officially as a core master of ceremonies, I have gotten to settle into my character a little more. It has been such a fun experience so far. My heart and soul goes into that show every single night. I’ll never stop working toward getting better. Before I enter the arena before every single show, I sit on ‘Nico,’ and pray that God will sing through me and talk through me because I know I can’t do it alone. He gets the credit every step of the way.”
Since Taylor’s long-term goal has always been to originate a role in a show, she feels like she is getting closer to realizing that dream. She also thinks it would be really neat to move up in the company and land on the corporate creative side of things once she retires from performing. “We shall see what the future holds for me. I’ll leave that all in God’s hands. For now, I’m enjoying the ride. Pun intended.”