Because Dollywood is such a unique experience, you will enjoy fond memories from every trip. Memories last forever, but do you know what else you can enjoy forever? A leather belt made by Dollywood craftsmen.
In Craftsman’s Valley, I found a gem of a shop: Smoky Creek Leather and Hat company. I have been visiting Dollywood for more than 10 years now, and one of my favorite park purchases is a leather belt. They come in many sizes—and these are not ordinary belts like you find at department stores. What initially attracted me to this item is that they have belts to fit every shape and size. Recently, I stopped in, and they had a belt for sale that was more than 100 inches long. Even when I weighed nearly 500 lbs., the largest belt I ever needed was less than 70 inches.
As a larger person, I have destroyed many belts in my life. Normal belts you buy are generally not made to last a lifetime—even in the best of circumstances. They give, stretch out and fall apart with even moderate wear (much less the things I put my belts through being a theme park fan who is unfazed by rain, sleet and snow).
I found my first Dollywood belt about six years ago. I stopped in the leather shop and saw a rack of very long leather belts. I was excited to find my size belts available, so I asked the host about them. I learned that the belts Dollywood sells have a lifetime warranty not to stretch much or break. If a belt becomes unusable, Dollywood replaces it free of charge. Also, if you need the belt resized, they will do that free of charge.
Having worn out a plethora of belts in my life, I scoffed. Even so, I was hopeful. The belt seemed to be excellent quality. This was the first time I met Glenn Donly, the master leather craftsman at the time (he retired last year). He did all the work using hand tools and would chat with you about leather goods. I watched in awe as he cut the belt, added holes and then handed me my belt.
Around the time I bought this belt, I started a new medical weight loss program. I had even less confidence in this program than the belt. But fast forward a year, and the belt and the weight loss journey had both worked better than I ever expected. I again stopped by to see Glenn to have my belt resized. As he carefully took the buckle end off, cut the belt and made new holes, he held out a piece of leather that had been removed and asked, “Do you want to keep the bragging rights?”
This experience has stuck with me. “The bragging rights.” I am not generally one to brag, but seeing the inches removed from my belt that day (and more times since then) is a really encouraging experience. My achievement is quantified in a well-worn but still just as tough as the day I bought it, piece of leather.
Dollywood has some great shopping. Be sure to check out Craftsman’s Valley. You may go home with some memories and products you’ll enjoy for years to come.