The Real Story About Sparky and His Name

Some Ozarks folklore says that early Branson settlers greeted the first downtown trolley around 1903 (NOTE: We cannot verify this story or the authenticity of this photo).

If you’re a fan of Sparky, you may have come up with your own theories about how the Downtown Branson trolley got his name. Some theories we’ve heard involve electricity or maybe even an Ozarks tall tale that coincides with the founding of Branson … and we like to play along with these fanciful explanations.

But for historical posterity, we thought we’d give you the real story.

The Historic Downtown Branson Discover Trolley

The Historic Downtown Branson Discovery Trolley, Circa 2009

The Trolley’s First Years

The Historic Downtown Branson Discovery Trolley first came on the scene in 2007, just as the Branson Landing and the new Branson Convention Center were opening. It was the first public transportation system in Branson and operated within a “Community Improvement District” in downtown. The trolley was free for riders and paid for by a 1-cent sales tax collected by businesses in the district.

Initially, the trolley route had 7 stops and covered a few blocks of Historic Downtown Branson around Main Street and Commercial Street, as well as the north and south ends of Branson Landing. During these first years, the trolley was painted green and known only by its name on legal documents: The Historic Downtown Branson Discovery Trolley.

The trolley routes were later expanded to include more businesses on Main Street, Pacific Street and the Lakeside RV Park. Today, there are 13 stops throughout downtown and several trolleys that operate in a continuous loop.

The Winning Classroom, 3rd Grade Room #408 taught by Mrs. Amy Vejraska

Finally, A Name

Then in 2010, the trolley board of directors decided that the trolley needed a proper name. Not just a “proper” name, but a proper name. Something that could be used by the board when marketing the transportation system … something memorable.

A contest was held where Branson elementary students were asked to suggest names for the trolley. Students came up with suggestions that were unique, marketable and also linked to Branson’s rich history.

The winning submission was “Sparky,” submitted by Branson 3rd Grader Ben Walworth. Ben’s classroom, taught by Mrs. Amy Vejraska, received $500 for classroom supplies; her students got to ride the trolley and also enjoy a McDonald’s party, provided by Branson Grayline.

Some early Sparky concepts by Digital Lunchbox

Then, Some Personality

Then in 2011, the trolley board asked Branson-based video production company Digital Lunchbox to bring Sparky to life. The project involved creating a mascot that could be used in video, print and online promotional efforts. Drawing on inspiration from the animation style used in Pixar films, Digital Lunchbox created the character we know today as Sparky.

Sparky was then animated as a CGI character that could be inserted into videos, used online and in social media posts.

The company went on to win two Gold and two Silver ADDYS in 2012 from the American Advertising Federation for the Sparky character and subsequent videos.

Sparky the Branson Trolley

Putting it all Together

The real trolleys got a maroon paint job to match their animated counterpart. A website,, was built to serve as Sparky’s home on the Internet, and social media channels were created to help Sparky spread the message about Downtown Branson:

And the rest, as they say, is Branson history.