The Harvest Festival is in full swing at Dollywood! A Dollywood Harvest includes three very different experiences each day to please every person in your family: Great Pumpkin LumiNights, visiting craftsmen and artisans from around the country, and the Southern Gospel Jubilee. Personally, I get pretty excited about the Southern Gospel Jubilee. Did you know there will be more than 625 individual performances, making it the biggest Southern gospel event in America?!
I visited the Southern Gospel Jubilee on Oct. 2 and had a wonderful time. The very first thing I did when I arrived was pick up the This Week at Dollywood experience guide (the brochure that includes the map and show schedule). I was able to plan my morning according to the schedule.
The crowd was small on the Tuesday morning I visited, and the fall weather was perfect. The glorious smells of the fried onions and peppers in Market Square had my mouth watering the whole time! I had the opportunity to watch Soul’s Harbor at The Back Porch Theater and Lindsey Graham at The Valley Theater. And, I was able to enjoy much of the park in between concerts. The autumn decorations are beautiful at every turn. There are also many craftsmen around the theaters to visit in between concerts. Because of the smaller weekday crowd, I was also able to jump on a couple of my favorite rides with no wait before heading home.
There are five theaters that host concerts each day during the Southern Gospel Jubilee. DP’s Celebrity Theater, Showstreet Palace Theater (both located on Showstreet) and The Pines Theater (in Jukebox Junction) are large and air-conditioned. For your convenience a FREE show voucher is required for each of these indoor gospel performances. Read more about the voucher system here. I spoke with a host who told me that on weekdays, the vouchers have not been hard to get. The weekends may be busier.
The Back Porch Theater and The Valley Theater are both open-air theaters. The Back Porch Theater is located in Rivertown Junction and The Valley Theater is located at the bottom of Craftsman’s Valley. You don’t need a voucher for shows in these venues.
If you want to do a day of just gospel concerts, the location of the theaters could not make it easier. All of the theaters are located in close proximity and there are very few hills to navigate to get to them all. The theaters are also located close to some wonderful food options! For a full sit-down meal in between concerts in an air-conditioned (or heated, if you’re coming during a cold time of year) space, try the home cooking at Aunt Granny’s Restaurant just beside the Back Porch Theater or the Front Porch Café located just in front of DP’s Celebrity Theater. Red’s Drive-In is just across from The Pines Theater and offers amazing burgers and milkshakes! And don’t forget Miss Lillian’s beside The Valley Theater. There are also wonderful snack foods all along the way including kettle corn, funnel cakes, and candy apple cider—a specialty drink for the Harvest Festival!
The gospel performers change on a regular basis, so if you are a Season Passholder you could go several different days and see different concerts each day! That is what I would personally recommend! However, if you have a favorite group or groups that you don’t want to miss, check out the schedule of the featured performers.
Having the biggest Southern gospel festival is very fitting for Dolly Parton, who got her start singing in church with her family. The festival continues through Nov. 3. It’s a not-to-miss tradition for fall at Dollywood and I hope you take the time to take in a performance or two!