As much as I’d like for you to believe that we pack up and go home after Dollywood’s Harvest Festival ends, and then (like magic) we return and flip a switch to turn it into Christmas… that’s not true.
In actuality, we have about 200 hosts who work around the clock for six days to flip the park: out with the thousands of pumpkins and fall décor and in with the millions of holiday lights and Christmas trimmings!
To be efficient, small teams have very specific roles. Several teams are tasked with removing all the harvest pieces. Remember that ginormous pumpkin tree? And, the 35 craft booths? How about the 12,000-plus pumpkins and gourds? The very first day the park was closed for the seasonal transition, we filled 15 dump truck loads!
Because not everything goes in the trash, there’s a team tasked with cleaning, repairing, and doing inventory on all the Funkins (artificial pumpkins) we can re-use next year. We filled 20 pallets with 650 Funkins.
And that’s just the harvest part! While all this is coming down, several more teams are loading in all the elements for Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana. The Special Events team describes this transition week as a well-choreographed dance. It’s funny to see pumpkins and Christmas trees side-by-side during the process.
For Christmas, we have a team who focuses on holiday lights, a team who only hangs garland and bows, and a live tree team who cuts the bases and fits the trees into stands. There is a team who marks the parade route and makes sure Parade of Many Colors is ready to go. Another team focuses on Holly Jolly Junction, while yet another prepares Santa Land for opening.
This year, teams have busy for months with all the new elements we’re adding as we introduce Glacier Ridge. The lights in this area (same footprint as Great Pumpkin LumiNights—Timber Canyon, Wilderness Pass, and the top of Craftsman’s Valley) are unlike lights in other areas of the park. Not only do they have a cooler tone, they are considered “intelligent.” I don’t want to give away too much. You MUST come see it for yourself, but I will tell you that the lights are programmable. From where you enter the “arctic passage,” to the 50-ft. Christmas tree light show, to Dollywood’s version of the northern lights, you will be mesmerized by the immersive experience.
It’s a LOT of work, to say the least. Our teams may not get much sleep during the transition week, but our reward is seeing our guests smile. And, I’m pretty sure we’re going to see a bunch of smiles this year for our biggest Christmas expansion EVER!