There is one short week – six days actually – that allows all the Dollywood “elves” to transform the park from fall harvest decor to a twinkling one-of-a-kind Smoky Mountain Christmas experience.
I’ve gotten the inside scoop on just how this amazing transformation takes place in such a short amount of time and how much work is involved in this award-winning festival, thanks to the knowledge and statistics provided by Dollywood’s Attractions Supervisor Matt Young and Special Events Manager Kris Houser.
Ok, we all know Christmas is a big deal for a lot of reasons, but at Dollywood, a Smoky Mountain Christmas is an even bigger deal when you look at all that goes into this yuletide spectacular. The Dollywood team begins planning for the Christmas season 12-18 months in advance, and 30 hosts (what Dollywood calls its employees!) work part-time and full-time to install the festival’s four million Christmas lights. The team is meticulous, working hard to ensure the lights all face the same way, placing a staple in between each and every light. When you visit, be sure and notice how straight the lines on the buildings are! There are also 275 Christmas trees and three feature trees (large live trees) that will be displayed during the 2017 season. All of these are covered in lights as well and an untold count of perfectly placed decorations, which take 80 hosts a week to install.
I have to say I’m a bit of a light geek who gets sidetracked in the lighting section of the local hardware store, so I was curious to know more about those captivating lights. I found out that they begin installing lights in July, which explains why I saw lights during my summer visit. Dollywood uses both LED and incandescent lights; the area of the park determines what type of light is used based on theming. The LED lights are reused, and the incandescent lights are taken down and recycled. Dollywood stores their four million lights and decorations at the Dollywood warehouse.
Of course, everyone wants to know: what happens when a bulb goes out among those four million lights? Well, the Dollywood lighting team is right on top of that with three full-time hosts working during the Christmas season with the sole focus being lighting repair. If a light goes out, this repair team will have it fixed early the next morning before guests arrive. The lighting at Dollywood is truly amazing. Just as amazing is the lighting team’s ability to string all those lights, and like magic, hide all those power cords. I asked but there was no secret revealed here – simply stated “just a lot of patience.”
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas is an unforgettable experience and has been a tradition of my family for many years. I am told that 2017’s Christmas season will bring new lighting features in the park’s Rivertown area. And the Parade of Many Colors, which displaysabout a quarter of a million lights, will run last year’s parade route – in reverse! One last scoop: bring your camera. You’re sure to find the perfect spot for the family Christmas card photo.
I hope you see you there this year – I’ll be the one captivated by the lights.