Our Founders

The Herschend family and 17 hosts grew a small cave tour operation in Branson, Missouri, into a family business known today as Herschend. The 70-year history that brought us to where we are today is a tale rooted in love, grit, faith, and ingenuity.

It all started in the early 1950s when Hugo Herschend, a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman from Chicago, and his wife, Mary, a librarian, took their sons Jack and Pete on a road trip to Branson, Missouri. It didn’t take long for the family to fall in love with the region's natural beauty, geological wonders, and the kind hearts that called it home. On one of their many visits, they met the Lynch Sisters, who owned and operated Marvel Cave, a small cave tour in the Ozark Mountain Foothills. Hugo and Mary were so enthralled that they acquired a 99-year lease to operate the cave as a summer family business. Sadly, Hugo passed away soon after, but Mary and her sons were determined to fulfill their dream of sharing the cave's wonders with the world – so they sold the family home and moved to Branson to pursue the cave business full-time. 

With Mary, Jack, and Pete at the helm, Marvel Cave quickly became a “must-see” destination. Long lines for tours began to form, so to keep guests entertained, the Herschends built an 1880s-themed village above the cave – complete with entertainers, craftspeople, and wholesome family activities. One of the villages’ unique experiences was giving real silver dollars as change – which is how it became known as Silver Dollar City®.

Over the next four decades, Jack and Pete Herschend, with help from passionate hosts, continued to build the park and the family business by hand. As the company grew, the brothers became known across the industry for their humility, commitment, generosity, and fun-loving spirit. Even after Jack and Pete retired and passed the reins to the next generation of leaders, their love values and servant leadership style remain the heartbeat of Herschend – shaping our culture, illuminating our path forward, and inspiring all.

Today, Herschend is home to a collection of more than two dozen award-winning attractions and experiences across North America, including iconic award-winning destinations such as Dollywood® Parks & Resorts, Silver Dollar City Attractions®, Adventure Aquarium®, Callaway Resort & Gardens®, Kentucky Kingdom®, Newport Aquarium®, The Vancouver Aquarium® and Wild Adventures®. In addition to its premier themed attractions, Herschend is proud to steward the World-Famous Harlem Globetrotters® legacy and provide immersive content and experiences through our Herschend Entertainment Studios® and Pink Adventure Tours® brands.

Although each brand is unique, they are all connected by the Herschend family values and a shared purpose of Bringing Families Closer Together By Creating Memories Worth Repeating®.

Herschend is independently operated with a majority-independent board of directors chaired by the family’s third-generation owner, Chris Herschend.

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Jack Herschend

For most of the company's first 50 years, Jack served as Chairman, President and CEO. Jack's intensity and deep caring for people shaped the company culture into what it is today. Jack attended Northwestern University and served as a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps before returning home to focus on the family business. He has a deep passion for personal service and giving and has actively served several Christian ministries including including Lives Under Construction Boys Ranch, Kids Across America and the National Institute of Marriage. In 1992, Jack founded The Gift of Green which has planted nearly 200,000 trees to counter deforestation due to development in the Missouri Ozarks.

Jack and his wife, Sherry, whom he met at Silver Dollar City, have been married since 1954. They live in Branson surrounded by their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.


Pete Herschend

Pete has devoted his professional life to the family business, serving Herschend as Executive Vice President (Marketing) and Vice-Chairman. His innovative spirit and unselfish persistence contributed greatly to our businesses and communities and set a clear standard for today’s leaders. Pete earned his business degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and is active in numerous church, community and educational organizations, most notably serving three terms on the Missouri State Board of Education including two terms as board President.

Peter met JoDee at Silver Dollar City and they were married 52 years before JoDee's passing in 2018. They enjoyed their 5 children and 15 grandchildren. Today, Peter is married to Jan (Urbec) Herschend.

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