Back in January, I had the unique opportunity to chat with Brooke East, a Dollywood performer, stage manager and entertainment host who oversaw a brand-new character callback during the annual audition process. During our time together, Brooke let me know that she was really looking for fresh new talent for the different festivals that Dollywood offers, but especially for some special character opportunities during Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration.
“The park is hoping to make 2022 a landmark year for character connection,” Brooke teased at the time, and now that we’re enjoying Dollywood’s summer festival, I see exactly what she meant with two brand new unique park experiences that really showcase what Brooke was looking for.
The first is Hydro Live Junction, which takes place throughout the day outside the Pines Theater. To the casual observer, the “out of service” fire hydrant just looks like a piece of scenery that fits into Jukebox Junction. Music starts playing on a distant radio, and you notice a group of friends hanging around the fire hydrant, chatting about summer. When their friend approaches to try to fix the hydrant, water springs forth and, suddenly a flash mob appears right in the streets!
This group dances and entertains for about ten minutes, and then they ask Dollywood guests to join them in playing with beach balls and water games around the hydrant. This was such a fun addition to the area, and I’m almost certain I saw one of these new dancers during their audition back in January. This flash mob runs throughout the day, and even though it’s supposedly random, you can check out your Dollywood show schedule for the exact time to expect the gang to make their dancing debut each day.
My favorite new character interaction ironically takes place in one of Dollywood’s most original buildings. I have been a Dollywood Season Passholder since I was 4 years old, and I remember visiting the replica of Dolly’s Tennessee Mountain Home and being in awe of the small home where Dolly’s parents raised all 12 of their children. I recently visited the park with Dollywood newcomers, and I knew we had to make a stop to show them the house.
I could hardly contain my surprise, when walking into the iconic home, to see “Dolly” and “her mother,” showcasing scenes from Dolly’s childhood in the home! Behind the glass windows, they recreated the stories of Dolly receiving her coat of many colors, writing her very first song based on her favorite toy, and helping her mother make stone soup.
The house has undergone a few updates to accommodate the new recreations of Dolly’s childhood, but it maintains the charm it’s had for more than 35 years at the park. If you look closely, you can see replicas of paper dolls on the wall that Dolly and her sisters would have played with and the calendar is set to January 19, 1946, the day Dolly joined the family.
Because these two new character experiences run throughout the day, both can easily fit into your Dollywood day. And don’t worry: your favorite Dollywood characters are still roaming the park, ready to welcome you to Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration. Both Francis and Miss Lillian are dressed in their summer best while Flit, Flutter and Benjamin Bear are back in their homes in Wildwood Grove to greet you during your visit.