We’re two weeks (and some change) from opening for the 2021 season. The buzz of excitement is evident in Dollywood offices and as you walk around the park. Today, we invited the media in for a sneak peek of our plans for the year. We were so grateful to have had a strong finish to 2020, and there’s lots of hope and promise for 2021. I wanted to tell you, too, so you will be eager to count down the days with me!
COVID-19 changed the way we entertain our guests. When it comes to shows, we learned lots of lessons we’ll carry into this year. Obviously, we won’t be able to host Festival of Nations due to the on-going travel restrictions, but we still wanted our guests to have new performances to enjoy. From day one, we’ll offer Harmonies of the Heart which will feature some of Dolly’s family members. We’ll also offer The Tones, which is a modern twist on the group formerly known as the Gem Tones. And you can look for A Brighter Day at Back Porch Theater. (Learn more about these entertainment offerings and more in THIS BLOG).
As we move into our Flower & Food Festival (April 23 – June 7), we’ll introduce the Melodies of Spring concert series which showcases contemporary Christian artists, Southern gospel groups and other inspiring acts. Look for more than 25 bands to perform throughout the festival! Among those scheduled to appear, you can expect Matthew West, Big Daddy Weave, The Martins, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, The New Respects, and The Harlem Gospel Travelers. Our Entertainment Team is still working through all the details. The full schedule will be available soon! Until then, enjoy this teaser video.
While all of our attractions get lots of love and attention in the off-season, four of our most popular coasters had track work done that will improve the ride experience. We’re really excited for Lightning Rod to debut its hybrid track structure when the park opens. For months, the manufacturer has been working on this project that includes both a wood stack “Topper Track” and a steel “Ibox” track.
While in town, the same team is also working on Blazing Fury for us. We plan to keep this ride for a long time, so trackwork is very important!
Thunderhead is one of the world’s best wooden roller coasters. We have been in the process of re-tracking for the past few off-seasons. We’re about half way there! See if you notice the difference the next time you ride!
Mystery Mine is also getting some new tracking. We took guest feedback about the ride and are installing new track to provide a smoother experience. Because Mystery Mine’s manufacturer is overseas, it takes longer than desired to get new parts. We anticipate this coaster to open a few weeks after Dollywood opens for the season.
On the tour today, we walked the park and took a look at several projects that will be wrapping up in the next two weeks. I want to point out that these are priorities handed to us from guest feedback.
Check out all this elbow room across from Dogs N Taters! This will be converted into more dining space.
Wider walkways have also been a big focus this off-season. We even changed the footprint of our candle shop so the walking path could be larger.
Look for a new covered eating area for Hickory House. You’ll notice that as we’ve added, we’ve been cognizant of traffic flow, so Craftsman’s Valley is going to feel less congested and more open.
Dollywood’s chapel is iconic and we’re trying to take good care of it. It’s getting a facelift this off-season with new footers, new wood, new paint and a new roof.
Dollywood is authentic. We love celebrating our Appalachian heritage. Since last fall, we have invested more than $150,000 in our crafts program. You’ll notice more premium products, but I’m going to guess the first thing you’re going to see is the landscape difference: the old blacksmith shop is gone. (Those with keen eyes will see that the water flume has been rerouted!) The new blacksmith shop has been relocated and upgraded. We’re even going to offer an opportunity to make your own knife! The new shop will be open when the park opens, but the interactive elements will come later as they get moved in and acquainted with their new digs.
We’re particularly excited about Flower & Food Festival this year as we anticipate more people will be ready to travel and experience our umbrella sky, Mosiacultures, interactive photo ops and new chalk art. Our umbrella sky was a big hit last year, and I think chalk art this year will be popular as well. (Quick note about our umbrella sky: crews started installing the infrastructure, but the umbrellas won’t appear until closer to the festival.) Barring rain, our resident chalk artist will be at Dollywood in the Adventures in Imagination area each day of the event from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. There will even be space for you to try your hand at your own art!
Also noteworthy, our Culinary Team is introducing a Dining Day Pass during Flower & Food Festival. For $29.99 ($27.99 for Dollywood Passholders!) you can choose five entrees so you can get a good sampling from the festival menu. We’re starting with Flower & Food and hopeful that the program will grow!
You can count on our Summer Celebration, Harvest Festival and Smoky Mountain Christmas to be fantastic as well. Additional exciting announcements will be made during the course of the year—stay tuned!
Watch this video for more details on what we’ve been up to!