Dolly Parton Explains Her Hopes for a ‘Winter Christmas Wonderland’ at Dollywood

by Maria Hartfield
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America’s sweetheart Dolly Parton is flexing her genius with an event centered around an idyllic Hallmark Christmas movie. Her vision comes to life with Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas running through Jan. 22, 2022 in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

The American singer-songwriter kept her family’s Appalachian Christmas traditions in mind when putting together the family-friendly experience.

“My hope was that people could come as a family and experience what they fantasize Christmas being,” Parton said to PEOPLE.

She continued saying, “We all have our personal Christmases, but we also have that thought of what we see on TV or what we read in books of those great old Christmases. In addition to bringing our own Christmas to life, we wanted to have it like a fairytale. Truly a winter Christmas wonderland.”

Dollywood’s holiday decorations boast more than 100 miles of Christmas lights wrapped around thousands of trees throughout the theme park. Nightly Christmas parades at the amusement park feature synchronized light shows and incredible firework displays. This is in addition to Dollywood’s nine original holiday shows complete with world-class cuisine.

Outside of Smoky Mountain Christmas, some additional Dollywood festivals include the Flower & Food Festival, Summer Celebration, and Harvest Festival.

“Christmas will always be king for us as far as festivals,” said Pete Owens. Owens is VP of Marketing and Public Relations for the park.

Dollywood’s many holiday themes

Holiday-themed sections of the park include Peppermint Valley where The Country Fair typically stands as well as Glacier Ridge, presented by Goo Goo Cluster transformed from its original Timber Canyon, Wildwood Grove, Wilderness Pass, and Upper Craftsman’s Valley.

Additionally, a section aptly named “Northern Lights” demonstrates an impressive synchronized light display.

“It recreates what it would be like to see the northern lights above your head,” Dollywood’s Special Events Supervisor Dalton Mitchell says. “It’s really cool we can bring that experience to an area of the park where people travel through.”

Last, but certainly not least is Dollywood’s iconic Wonderful Christmas! Plaza Tree Show. The breathtaking display features a 50 ft. Christmas tree complete with its very own high-tech light show.

Obviously prepping for such a complex exhibit takes months of planning. In some cases, the lights don’t even come down.

“Installation is a lot of early mornings and overnights,” said Mitchell. “They tuck in Christmas lights out of direct eyesight and just inch that around the park as we go along.”

The park’s main production leads with “Christmas in the Smokies” which has been a family favorite for more than 30 years. Additional holiday events at the park include “Appalachian Christmas with the Smoky Mountain String Band,” “The Candlelight Carolers,” “Christmas in the Smokies,” “Christmas with the Kingdom Heirs,” and “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Dollywood’s entertainment director Paige Bales said, “Many of our guests have made these performances part of their annual holiday traditions for decades. Multiple generations of guests — and even Dollywood performers — have grown up with this show.” Bales was also a former performer at the park.

“The festival is a core attribute of how we’re lifting the park…to new levels,” said Dollywood’s president Eugene Naughton. “What’s different for us is its entertainment, its culinary experiences as well as the on-ground experiences. It puts us in a different place compared to most.”

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