“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!” This was the song ringing through my mind on a recent visit to Dollywood. It was a treat to be there during the week they are closed between Harvest Festival and Smoky Mountain Christmas to see all the preparations being made to add that holiday sparkle to Christmas-fy every corner of the park.
I visited with Danielle DeNatale (whose last name appropriately means “of Christmas” in Italian). She is Dollywood’s Visual Coordinator. “That is just a fancy way of saying decorator,” laughed Danielle. In her fourth Christmas at Dollywood, she coordinates all of the seasonal décor that will adorn the store windows, store interiors and the outside of many of the restaurants. While much of the big decorations are put in place by the Special Events team, Danielle focuses on the smaller details.
Her work ensures the continuity of the festival atmosphere no matter where you are in the park. When you’re selecting a souvenir mug at the Emporium or walking through the doors of the Grist Mill, you’re greeted with trimmings Danielle has designed. She and other Dollywood hosts collectively put in hundreds of hours of work to get the park ready for Christmas. They work at least 10 to 12 hours every day that week to get the job done.
I found it very interesting that all these boxes you see pictured are full of seasonal décor. It seems there’s nearly as much adornments as merchandise! I love the cohesive feeling Dollywood carries and the décor (even in retail shops) is so well-done. I’ll probably notice these details even more now that I saw the effort it takes behind the scenes.
The bulk of their work is done during this flip week between Harvest and Christmas, but at the end of August and early September, a few Christmas trees start popping up in shops (with Harvest— not Christmas—decorations, of course). Danielle noted that they usually start working on Christmas as early as July, but with the chaos of 2020, it was different this year. She didn’t start making the dozens of bows that she needs until the end of October, for example.
This year, following on the success of the “color zones” that helped define the different themed areas of the park during the Harvest Festival, each section of the park during Smoky Mountain Christmas will feature different colors. For example, Danielle pointed out that Showstreet would be bright and colorful with jewel tones and Jukebox Junction will have the retro colors of turquoise and red in lighting and various fixtures. Check out this fun window display she created!
As you visit during “the most wonderful time of the year,” take note of how each little area of Dollywood is decked out for the festivities. The store windows, the displays within each store, the wreaths and trimmings all position Dollywood a joyful place to explore during the Christmas season.