Horsing Around: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Dolly Parton’s Stampede

Included in Dolly Parton’s portfolio of brands is Dolly Parton’s Stampede. Because I am a Dollywood Insider, I want to be sure you know about all the incredible Pigeon Forge properties. Today, I’m giving you a peek behind the curtain of the world’s most-visited dinner theater!

Established on the heart of Pigeon Forge’s Parkway lies one of the most popular and spectacular dinner shows around: Dolly Parton’s Stampede. A team of more than 20 professional riders (supported by a team of sound and light techs, animal handlers and backstage crew) put on an award-winning show that will astonish and mesmerize you time and again. In fact, guests love Stampede so much that the majority of Stampede’s guests are return customers. So, what is it that keeps guests coming back?

The show, which runs for just less than two hours, is spearheaded by a whole stable of horses (32 to be exact), who work on rotation to bring you a stunning display of daring feats, dazzling horsemanship and a time of laughs and gasps—up to five times a day—all year round. And that’s before we even get started on a delicious four course feast!

Insider Tip

If you are lucky, you may be able to meet Dolly before the show! No, not that Dolly, but Dolly the horse. Stop by the stables prior to the show to see the horses that are featured in the show.

Having met with the show’s MC, Jay Teter, he described the balance between performers and horses as this, “Our horses are the stars of the show. Our riders and performers, our cast, are simply tools to shape and create a show-stopping experience.”

Tech Lead, Leroy Revis agrees wholeheartedly, “It is about a suspension of disbelief – we strive to have a crowd so enamored and engaged with the show that they forget the world.”

And who couldn’t use a dose of that right about now? Like Dollywood, Stampede shut down in March, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but is now open for business again and has been since early July.

Insider Tip

To join the Stampede team is a hard-fought feat! Every summer Stampede producers host an open audition. Some of the hopefuls have experience with animal care, some are farm hands, some are experienced riders and some even come from a performing arts or circus background.

Now that doors are open again, the riders, tech team, animals, and horses are back and putting on shows seven days a week. During the three months of shutdown, the animals were all sent out to pasture—literally! And, now that doors are open, the horses are rotated out of the show, usually six to eight at a time, every couple of days. Animal care is a vital part of the success of the show and it is real hands-on work. Each performer is responsible for horses for an hour and half prior to the show. It is their job to muck out, assist, and feed the horses before each performance. Some trick riders may find their hands full caring from up to three horses on any given day.

I’ll wrap up by saying (again) that the animals, especially the horses, continue to be the stars of Stampede, and that they’re able to shine in the spotlight each night thanks to the army of performers, backstage crew, and servers. Everyday kindness, care and love are poured into the show, which in turn makes memorable moments that will last a lifetime.

By | 2020-09-14T16:23:33+00:00 September 4th, 2020|Area Entertainment, Dolly Parton|0 Comments

About the Author:

Phoebe Male (Dollywood Insider 2019-2021) is a food and travel writer from Cincinnati, Ohio. Having moved to the US from England five years ago, Phoebe made it her mission to get the best out of the Midwest from her new hometown. She has been documenting her love of local produce and places of interest, as well as tips on travel, at her blog Milk With No Sugar. Her love of good food is what first brought her to Tennessee, and she and her husband Justin love to spend long weekends in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg exploring the trails with their dog Moo. Phoebe expects her first child in the fall of 2019. She can't wait to share her experiences at Dollywood and Dollywood's Splash Country with you and her growing family.
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