To me, summer in East Tennessee meant a lot of things as I was growing up: hot days, cooler nights, frozen lemonade, the lake and best of all, my family’s yearly trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Every year we would set aside a weekend in July to enjoy Pigeon Forge and make some memories. Of course, no trip to the Smokies is ever complete without a stop at Dollywood! The park has been a long-time favorite for my family, and working here is a dream come true. It just so happens that the Dollywood part of our annual summer excursion to the Smokies just got a little bit sweeter with the new Summer Celebration additions at the park.
Summer and fireworks go hand-in-hand, but this year, Dollywood is taking the nighttime fireworks show to new heights, literally. Taking place nightly from June 25-July 31, Dollywood’s Sweet Summer Nights is a multi-sensory drone light show that creates a symphony of light in the sky above the Pigeon Forge park. Intel Drone Light Shows is heading up the tech side of this spectacular nighttime experience, launching hundreds of drones each evening for the event. The sensational show uses up to 400 drones to animate the spectacular Dollywood-exclusive story. Story is a literal term here. The drones, along with the fireworks display, are choreographed to music, creating a visual and audial event of epic proportions.
That’s not the only part of the Sweet Summer Nights experience! Before the drone and fireworks show, a DJ and energetic dancers will bring fun to the streets of Wildwood Grove for two dance parties that ensure every member of the family is on their feet. As the party nears its finale, the celebration takes to the sky and the drones launch into the air for an unforgettable end to an unforgettable day.
These are the nighttime elements of Summer Celebration, I haven’t even mentioned the daytime additions. Two new shows will be debuting along with the festival to add to our guest offerings. Good Vibes begins June 25 at the Back Porch Theater and treats guests to a musical journey through the rhythms of classic and contemporary tunes. It’s all about celebrating positivity, counting blessings and simply enjoying life and happiness.
The Valley Theater is now home to Forever Country, an energetic look at the changing landscape of country music in the late 80s, 90s and early 2000s. Guests can expect to hear popular hits from artists like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain, as well as a nod to several popular dance songs, including Dolly’s “Romeo” and Brooks and Dunn’s “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”
A personal favorite of mine and a must-do for families with little kids is making its return for the season. Storytime at Dollywood is back as Imagination Playhouse showcases three favorite books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. “Coat of Many Colors” and “Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon” feature sing-along songs that kids of all ages will enjoy. Everyone’s favorite, “The Little Engine That Could,” also comes to the stage with a delightful reminder of what can happen with just a little bit of determination. Thanks to Penguin Books, guests can enjoy several decorative and interactive photo opportunities for children and their families in the lobby of the theater before each show. Trust me, this is the perfect experience for kids visiting Dollywood.
A group of special entertainment guests return to Dollywood this summer as well, when the park hosts the Tennessee Air National Guard’s Band of the South (concert band), Blue Groove (jazz band) and Full Throttle (rock group) on Saturday, July 3 and Sunday, July 4. Look for the groups at DP’s Celebrity Theater and Showstreet Palace Theater as they inspire patriotism by fostering a deep appreciation of the rich history and legacy of the Air Force. One of the group’s missions is to increase the public’s understanding of the importance of air power, the missions and programs of the Air Force and Air National Guard, and the bravery, sacrifice and dedication of Airmen across the globe.
In my opinion the best thing about visiting during this celebration is the later closing time. Once the sun sets, our trademark attractions, like Wild Eagle, Lightning Rod and Thunderhead, provide a unique experience for those who climb aboard. These rides thrill thousands of guests each day, but at night, a whole new level of excitement is added as you race through the foothills with no idea which way the track will turn next!
As the name implies, Dollywood’s Summer Celebration is a celebration of family, fun and laughter at a place everyone loves. This year’s trip up to Pigeon Forge will be the first time my family has visited the park since I started working here, and all of my newfound Dollywood knowledge is practically bursting out the seams ready to be shared with anyone who will listen. I have been waiting patiently for these new shows and experiences for some time now, and I hope you and your family enjoy them as much as mine. For all the planners out there, you can find more information about Dollywood’s 2021 season, operating calendars and more at Dollywood.com or download the Dollywood app.