Willie Nelson with Ralph Emery

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Relaxing in his tour bus before Wednesday’s concert, Willie Nelson said he was happy to be back in Branson.”The people here were very nice and they liked our show,” said Nelson, who performed during the 1992 season. “Branson has changed a little bit since then. They used to have only five or six roads back then, and it was kind of hard to get around.”

Nelson gave an afternoon audience a special treat when he sat on the front of the stage with country music deejay Ralph Emery. The interview was the first of a new weekly series RFD-TV will air on Mondays.

Nelson, with his trademark braids hanging to his waist, talked about his FarmAid benefits.

“Call your representatives and say we need a good farm bill,” he said. “We need to grow alternative fuels to keep us from having to go around the world looking for oil.”

About 2,000 people in the theater erupted into applause. Nelson also thanked the men and women serving in the Middle East. “They have really been put in a hard spot over there, and the quicker we bring them back, the better,” he said.

Also in the audience were several dozen members of the FFA, who had been invited to the concert.

Katie Fisher of Strafford said she appreciated Nelson’s efforts to help farmers.

“Without agriculture, we wouldn’t have anything at all,” she said.

RFD-TV The Theatre is on the west end of the strip in what was formerly the Ray Stevens Theatre. RFD-TV is a television network dedicated to rural America and agriculture. RFD-TV founder and president Patrick Gottsch purchased the 2,000-seat theater last summer.

The network was launched from its headquarters in Omaha, Neb., in December 2000. Gottsch is a former farmer who wanted to provide coverage that was missing for rural residents, he said. The initials stand for Rural Free Delivery, an old name for mail delivery in farming areas.

The theater will produce concerts with well-known talent including Loretta Lynn and Lorrie Morgan in April. They also offer a twice-daily variety show and will operate from March through December, Gottsch said.

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