“Fly by the seat of your pants.” That’s at least one way of summing up the 2011 season at Dollywood. It’s been a busy year in this Smoky Mountain Theme Park.
To kick the season off, Dolly Parton showed up in March dressed in her aviator’s finest. After singing a few songs and pumping the crowds up, Dolly officially opened the Barnstormer ride, a high flying attraction that has you defying gravity in some exciting, and somewhat terrifying ways. The new ride is located in the new Owens Farm area near the entrance to the Mountain Slidewinder.
Barnstormer added to an already stellar lineup of thrill rides like Mystery Mine, the award winning Thunderhead, and the Tennessee Tornado. In 2012, Dollywood plans on adding to the excitement with its biggest project ever, Wild Eagle. This massive ride is the first of its kind in the United States and to date, the most expensive project in Dollywood history, costing $20-million. Wild Eagle is a wing-rider roller coaster that gives riders the feeling they are actually flying. At it’s top height, this roller coaster is 21-stories high and is high enough that you can see it from the Dollywood parking lot.
While rides are becoming a more important part of the Dollywood experience, the shows and festivals remain an integral part of “the memories worth repeating.” The Festival of Nations returned in 2011 with the addition this year of “Samaia: the Legend of the Caucasus.” Shows representing Argentina and Ireland also joined the lineup. Summer was filled with “A Gazillion Bubbles” during KidsFest, and hundreds of shows played out on the stages during the return of the “Bluegrass and Barbecue Festival” and later during the ever popular “Southern Gospel and Harvest Festival.”
After a relatively short run, “Sha-Kon-O-Hey” ended its run on October 19th. According to Dollywood spokesperson Pete Owens, the show closed early to allow for setup of a new Christmas show. “On a broader sense, you will be seeing exciting new productions in the next 24 months replacing both Sha-Kon-O-Hey! And Dreamland Drive-In,” said Owens. The show’s end came just a few weeks before it took home a Brass Ring award for Best Overall Production for shows in its budget range. The award is presented by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. The Gemtones roving musical group took home the Best Atmosphere/Street Performance Brass Ring.
The last big event for 2011 kicked off at the first of November. “A Smoky Mountain Christmas” remains one of the park’s most popular events. This year “Dollywood’s Christmas on Ice” joined the fun. The show gives audiences a spectacular ice performance along with a live vocal group working hard to put you in the holiday mood. “The Polar Express 4-D experience”, “Christmas in the Smokies” and “Carol of the Trees” all had another run during “A Smoky Mountain Christmas.”
Dollywood ends its season on Friday, December 30th and will re-open in March 24, 2012. Dollywood’s Splash Country opens May 19, 2012. Purchasing a season pass now will get you in on the last few days of the 2011 season and all of the 2012 season.