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!
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.
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.