I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I’m proud of the place I work. Obviously I’m partial, but I really am proud of the place at which I get to say that I “work.” Let me also be honest and say, while it can be hectic with long hours, it’s hard not to enjoy working at Dollywood.
I was asked to give all of you a quick recap of what opening day is like for me as a member of the Public Relations team. Again, there are long hours and it can be quite hectic, but it is one of the days of year I’m most proud about what our team is able to accomplish. There is so much work that happens throughout the park during the off season to get it ready for the first day. When guests start pouring back through the gates, you can feel the excitement because the park comes alive again.
On Friday, March 16, 2018, myself and several of my co-workers arrived at Dollywood around 4:45 a.m. Like I said, long hours. We were lucky enough to have our friends from all three Knoxville TV stations at the park with us to talk about what is coming up this season at Dollywood on their morning newscasts. We also had the Invaders Steel Drum Orchestra and Zebra Stelzentheater (stilt walkers from Germany) on hand to share a little of the great entertainment guests will find during our Festival of Nations.
We had a lot of fun and we were able to share exciting details about the upcoming year with folks in the Knoxville area. As soon as we finished with live shots around 8:30 a.m., we rushed over to begin checking in the other media coming to opening day. We had more than 50 different outlets in attendance for our opening; it’s always fun for us to share the news about the upcoming season with them so they can pass it along to you.
The media event began at 10:30 a.m. and was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Season Passholders lined up early to get wristbands that provided them access to the event. Let’s just say, they were not disappointed. Dolly served as the hostess of the event and put on quite a show. It all started with Ricardo Barazza from PaintJam giving the audience a little taste of what his show will be like this summer. When it was over, a stunning portrait of Dolly emerged.
Guests were treated to performances by Spring Mix artists, including Janie Fricke (representing the country week), Larnelle Harris (inspirational week), and Orleans (classic week). The National Dance Company of Siberia performed a segment of their show, while media also were given the opportunity to ask a few questions of Dolly. The show ended with a magnificent rendition of Peace Train with Dolly singing lead, backup vocals by Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Orleans playing the music. What a combination of talent!
After the event, my duties with the media continued with a special lunch for them at Aunt Granny’s Restaurant presented by Lodge. That facility has been completely transformed and the media were impressed with what they experienced. The food (my favorite part of any day) is phenomenal at Aunt Granny’s.
Following lunch, we worked to prepare for afternoon live shots with stations from Knoxville and the Tri-Cities. They spread out in a couple conference rooms to work on their stories; many of them stayed to report the news about the day, while also trying to catch Dolly live on air as she drove through the parade route in her antique DeWitt. They love Dolly sightings as much as the rest of us! By the time we had everyone packed up and on their way, we left around 7 p.m.
But we were right back at it the next morning, hosting a large group of roller coaster enthusiasts ready to experience the day. But that is another story!